Backpacking in the Adirondacks of New York

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The vast Adirondack Mountains of New York are a popular destination for backpacking and outdoor adventure seekers. Located in northeastern New York, the Adirondacks are home to vast wilderness areas, rugged peaks, and crystal-clear lakes. The region’s natural beauty and abundance of outdoor activities make it an ideal destination for those who love the great outdoors. Whether you’re an experienced hiker or a beginner, the Adirondacks offer something for everyone. From hiking and camping to fishing and boating, there are countless ways to explore the region and experience its beauty. With its picturesque views and abundant wildlife, the Adirondacks are sure to provide a memorable adventure for all who visit. This article will detail some of the best backpacking trails in the Adirondacks, and some of the key things that you should keep in mind when hiking in this part of New York state.

High Peaks Wilderness Area

The High Peaks region of the Adirondack Mountains in New York state is a popular destination for hiking, with a number of trails ranging in difficulty. Some of the more well-known trails in the area include:

  1. Mount Marcy: This is the highest peak in New York, standing at an elevation of 5,344 feet. The primary trail to the summit is about 7.4 miles one way and is considered to be difficult. The trail to the summit of Mount Marcy features nearly 3,200 feet of elevation gain.
  2. Algonquin Peak: Standing at an elevation of 5,114 feet, Algonquin Peak is the second highest peak in New York. The trail to the summit is about 4.3 miles one-way and is considered to be moderate to difficult with nearly 3,000 feet of elevation gain on trail.
  3. Giant Mountain: This peak stands at an elevation of 4,627 feet and is located in the eastern High Peaks region. The trail to the summit is about 3.6 miles one way and is considered to be moderate to difficult, offering elevation gain of over 3,300 feet.
  4. Cascade Mountain: Located near Lake Placid, this peak stands at an elevation of 4,098 feet. The trail to the summit is about 2.4 miles one way and is considered to be moderate in difficulty, offering nearly 2,000 feet in elevation gain.

It’s important to note that these trails can be strenuous and require proper planning and preparation, including bringing enough water, food, and appropriate clothing and gear. It’s also important to follow Leave No Trace principles and practice good trail etiquette to help preserve the natural beauty of this delicate area. Additionally the summits of these mountains feature fragile alpine ecosystems, and therefore it’s critical to remain on the trail/rocks when hiking in these areas. Bear canisters are required for hikers in the eastern portion of the High Peaks, however it’s good practice to use them when backpacking throughout the Adirondacks. You can rent bear canisters at most outdoor gear outfitters in the area.

It is popular for people who frequently hike in the Adirondack’s High Peaks to attempt to earn the Adirondack 46er designation. The Adirondack 46ers are a group of hikers who have climbed all 46 of the high peaks in the Adirondack Mountains. These peaks all have an elevation of at least 4,000 feet. Hiking all 46 of these peaks is considered a notable accomplishment, and many people have enjoyed the challenge of completing the 46er hikes. The Adirondack Mountain Club maintains a list of all of the people who have completed the 46er hike, and they hold an annual meeting and awards ceremony for new 46ers. If you’re interested in learning more regarding hiking and backpacking in the High Peaks of the Adirondacks we’d recommend checking picking up a guide book and official maps of the region.

Northville-Placid Trail

The Northville-Placid Trail (NPT) is a 138.6-mile long hiking trail that runs through the Adirondack Park in New York state. The trail begins in Northville, a small town in the southern part of the Adirondack region, and ends in the village of Lake Placid, which is located in the northeastern part of the region.

The NPT is a wilderness trail that passes through some of the most remote and beautiful areas of the Adirondacks. It follows old logging roads, crosses streams and rivers, and traverses close by to a number of mountain ranges, including the Siamese Ponds Wilderness and the High Peaks Wilderness. Along the way, hikers will have the opportunity to see a variety of wildlife, including moose, bear, and a wide range of bird species.

The NPT is a challenging trail, with steep inclines and rough terrain. This trail is less frequently traveled than other parts of the Adirondacks, like the High Peaks. It is recommended for experienced hikers in good physical condition, as it can take up to two weeks to complete the entire trail. There are a number of backcountry campsites along the way, as well as a few lean-tos, which provide shelter for hikers. Backpackers attempting a thru-hike of the Northville-Placid Trail will have the opportunity to resupply in several small towns along the trail, including Long Lake.

If you’re planning to hike the NPT, it’s important to be prepared and to take appropriate precautions. Make sure to bring enough food, water, and other supplies, and be prepared for any weather conditions that you may encounter. You should have a lot of experience backpacking and hiking in these areas before attempting an end-to-end hike of the NPT. It’s also a good idea to let someone know your itinerary, in case you need assistance during your hike, or better yet bring a friend along with you.

Cranberry Lake 50

In the northwestern corner of the Adirondack park lies Cranberry Lake, a large and picturesque body of water that has little development aside from the small towns of Wanakena and Cranberry Lake that reside alongside it. A backpacking trail that’s become more popular over the last decade or so is the Cranberry Lake 50, which is a roughly 50-mile loop trail that encircles Cranberry Lake. This trail is generally speaking easier than many of the other backpacking trails in the Adirondacks, primarily due to the small and gradual elevation change experienced over the course of the trail. The waterfront camping opportunities along the Cranberry lake 50 are second to none!

The Cranberry Lake 50 is a fantastic backpacking trail for someone who is newer to backpacking or maybe seeking a change of pace from mountain hikes. The trail passes through a remote area of New York dotted with pine trees and wildlife. The southern portion of the loop passes near High Falls, and this area allows hikers the opportunity to camp alongside the waterfall and fall asleep to the sound rushing water in one of several designated campsites. Another notable campsite in this area is Janack’s landing, where you can camp alongside the lake itself. We’d recommend purchasing the National Geographic map covering this part of the state for more details on specific campsite locations and the area in general.

Another notable landmark along the Cranberry Lake 50 is Cat Mountain, which can be summited via a short spur trail. The summit of Cat Mountain offers incredible views of the surrounding wilderness. One note when hiking in this area, it is known to get extremely muddy particularly during the spring months and even flooded on some portions of the trail, so it’s recommended to make sure that your footwear is up to task and that you bring some extra socks when backpacking here. For more information onbackpacking the Cranberry Lake 50 we’d recommend checking out their official website.

No matter which trail you choose, be sure to come prepared. The Adirondack Mountains can be a challenging environment, so it’s important to bring the right gear and supplies. Some essentials for backpacking in the Adirondacks include a good backpack, hiking boots, waterproof clothing, a map and compass, a first aid kit, and plenty of food and water. It’s also a good idea to let someone know where you’re going and when you plan to be back, in case of an emergency.

In addition to the beautiful scenery, the Adirondack Mountains also offer many opportunities for outdoor activities such as fishing, camping, and birdwatching. The Adirondacks are home to a wide variety of wildlife, including black bears, moose, and bald eagles. So, keep your eyes open and be on the lookout for these and other amazing creatures throughout your travels of this unique destination.

If you are planning a backpacking trip to the Adirondack Mountains, be sure to do your research and plan ahead. Choose a trail that is appropriate for your skill level and be sure to come prepared with the right gear and supplies. And most importantly, have fun and enjoy the beauty and adventure that backpacking the Adirondacks have to offer.

Looking for info on other hiking and backpacking opportunities? Check out our guides on Vermont’s Long Trail or the Devil’s Path of the Catskills in New York.