Escape the City with a Road Trip in the Adirondacks

​The Adirondacks are wilder than you think.

When Adirondack Park was created in 1892, the six-million-acre region of upstate New York was barely populated. Trappers, hunters, and loggers moved through the mountains and navigated the rivers and lakes by foot, horse, cart, and boat. 

Tourists from New York City and beyond started arriving in the late 1800s, escaping the heat of the summer, and they fell in love with the fresh air, untouched landscape, and lakefront lodges built just for them.

It was a wild place. It is still is.

There are precious few roads inside Adirondack Park, but stringing them together makes for a scenic — and adventurous — road trip. In the Park, which is a mix of private and state-owned land, there are 3,000 lakes to paddle, 30,000 miles of rivers and streams to float or fish, and over 2,000 miles of marked trails to explore. 

So hop in your car and escape to the Adirondacks for a weekend, a week, or more. While you're there, check out these must-do adventures in the wilds of New York.

The High Peaks

Of any town in the Adirondacks, Lake Placid is arguably the most well-known. Lake Placid is famous for hosting two winter Olympics (1932 and 1980) and sits on the shores of beautiful Mirror Lake. 

It's also the natural home base for those looking to tackle a few of the Adirondack's 46 "High Peaks," so named because they were thought to be over 4,000 feet. Most are, but modern measurements show that a few punch in slightly lower.

Come for the adventure, but don't miss out on the great food, Olympic museum, and cool vibe of Lake Placid.

Adventure by Lucas Gashi

Adventure by Michael Martineau

Adventure by Lucas Gashi

The Central Adirondacks

What the Central Adirondacks lack in sizable towns it more than makes up for with hiking, camping, and paddling. Here you'll find plenty of fire towers to climb (there's even an ADK Fire Tower Challenge), wild rivers to swim in, and Wilderness areas for backpacking. 

The Adirondacks has over 200 lean-tos—three-sided log structures that are open for camping on a first-come, first-served basis. Some are a few miles of hiking from the trailhead, and some are much, much further. String together a backpacking trip, or walk into one for the evening to get an authentic taste of the Adirondacks.

Adventure by Shaun O'Neill

Adventure by Timothy Behuniak

Adventure by Erin Hanczyk

The Western Adirondacks

Within easy driving distance of Syracuse and Utica you'll find Old Forge, a mid-sized hamlet in the western Adirondacks. Filled with tourist-friendly amenities like restaurants, a grocery store, and a general store, Old Forge sits in the middle of plentiful paddling, hiking, and mountain biking opportunities.

Old Forge is also the starting point of the 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail, which stretches all the way to Fort Kent, Maine. Paddle for a day or two...you may just be enticed to plan a thru-paddle of the entire trail.

Adventure by Sara Sheehy

Adventure by Shawn Grenninger

Adventure by Sara Sheehy

Cover photo by Shawn Grenninger

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Sara SheehyAdmin

Writer | Nomad