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New York state’s hidden gem: The Adirondack Mountains

New York state’s hidden gem: The Adirondack Mountains

The Adirondack Mountains takes ‘getting away from it all’ to a whole new level.

When Matador Network offered me a contract job in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York, I immediately said yes. I’d travelled upstate a handful of times, but the only time I’d seen the Adirondacks was a distant view from the train window on the journey from Montreal back to New York.

Most New Yorkers tend to go upstate once every few months, usually to places like Woodstock in the Catskill Mountains, as the city can get overwhelming. Rob and I usually reside in the Lower East Side of Manhattan where it’s common to hear the conversations of people on the sidewalks, the constant beeping of car horns, and fire truck sirens whizzing past at any time of the day or night. The constant crush of people squeezed in to such a tiny area means that we require a good dose of personal space every so often.

When the two of us ventured north and finally arrived in what seemed like the middle of nowhere, it felt eerily silent in comparison to our busy city life. As we attempted to fall asleep that evening, the only sound was a distant coyote howling into the night.

It turns out that this was the perfect place to do a digital detox. At the end of my trip, I realised that I’d barely even looked at social media, hadn’t sent any emails, and hadn’t even connected to my motel’s WiFi network until a few days in. There had been so many things to do in the Adirondacks that it just didn’t seem necessary to stay plugged in. If there’s one thing I could say about the Adirondack Mountains, it’s that it sure is a wonderful place to switch off entirely.

Coney Mountain, The Adirondacks
Sunset at Mt Coney in the Adirondacks

How to get to the Adirondacks from NYC:

Adirondack state park is around 4-5 hours from New York City. You will need a car to explore it as public transport is nearly non-existent. To get to my motel in Long Lake, I took a train up to Fort Edwards-Glens Falls (the closest Amtrak station) and then rented a car to drive another 1.5 hours into the mountains.

Things to do in the Adirondacks:

Whitewater Rafting, The Adirondacks

Go whitewater rafting

Our first activity was whitewater rafting with Adirondac Rafting Co. down the Indian and Hudson Rivers. I’ll admit I was a tad nervous about whitewater rafting, but it turned out to be loads of fun.

We drifted 17 miles downstream navigating various rapids along the way, with the sun on our backs and the cool splashes of water refreshing us. The rafting trip included a packed lunch, so make sure you specify any dietary requirements when you book. Also remember to take sunscreen with you if you can and reapply at lunch time, as it will be a full day in the sun.

Sunset over Adirondack Lake in New York

See the lakes

There are multitudes of lakes in the Adirondacks, and they are all absolutely beautiful. One time as I was driving near Adirondack Lake, it poured with rain for 5 minutes then as the sun came back out, I noticed that the water on the road had begun to evaporate into a low mist. I pulled into a parking lot (which was actually just a large patch of dirt off the side of the road) at to capture some photos. It was 100% gorgeous.

There are plenty of lake activities to choose from. Canoes are popular and can be borrowed from some motels or rental offices that sit by the lakes.

You can also take a sea plane from the lakes for spectacular views over the mountains. Long Lake has a seaplane booking office opposite the Adirondack Hotel.

Camp Santanoni, The Adirondacks
Camp Santanoni, The Adirondacks
Exploring Camp Santanoni

Hike or cycle to Camp Santanoni

Camp Santanoni is a hidden secret in the Adirondacks! This historic building was once used as a exclusive getaway for the wealthy. Even though maps show a road in, you actually have to park at the Gatelodge (which is now the visitor center) and hike or cycle the 5 mile trail to the camp.

Along the way, you’ll see the remains of the farm complex and cross over honeymoon bridge. Once you get to the main camp, you can explore the historic building. I found it to be quite unbelievable – I don’t really know how to explain it. A giant house or massive vacation home? Basically it was a huge old wooden building with lots of rooms for people to stay in, which sat by a lake in the middle of the woods.

If you walk down to the boathouse, you’ll find canoes to take out on the lake. Remember to take plenty of water and snacks as this will be a full day trip!

Coney Mountain, The Adirondacks
Sunset at Mt Coney in the Adirondacks

Hike up a mountain

I ventured out for a sunset hike to Mt Coney. This is a fairly moderate but short hike – only 0.7 miles to the summit. It was a muddy ascent up to the summit, but the 360 degree views from the top were amazing. Definitely worth going up for sunrise or sunset!

There are honestly a million hikes to choose from in the Adirondacks. The best way to get recommendations is to ask the people working at the reception desk of your hotel as they generally have an excellent knowledge of the area and might even have some brochures on the local trails.

Speculator, New York
The model town in Speculator

Visit the small mountain towns

The small towns in the Adirondacks are adorable, and Speculator is no exception. We parked by the lake and spent the morning exploring Sacandaga Park and River Walk, which is a great spot for families visiting Speculator. The park has a playground and model town, which features miniature display buildings including a general store, post office, church, and ice cream shop.

Behind the tiny town was an elevated wooden boardwalk that took us through some dense forest and marshland. Sometimes you can see turtles and frogs around this spot!

Speculator is just one of the many small towns that are scattered throughout the Adirondacks – pick any town and spend a few hours exploring.

A verandah in Long Lake, New York
A verandah in the town of Long Lake

Other Adirondacks activities:

Even though I managed to go whitewater rafting, explored an adorable small town, ventured out to a hidden camp in the woods, canoed on a lake, and hiked up a mountain, there was so much more I could have done in the Adirondacks. There was still chasms, waterfalls, treetop walks, and about a million hikes to do! Here’s a few more options:

  • Ausable Chasm – The Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks.
  • Waterfalls – Buttermilk Falls is an easy access waterfall near Long Lake, but there are plenty of waterfalls to choose from.
  • Wild Center – Learn about the local flora and fauna at this nature center near Tupper Lake, which features a treetop walk.
  • Zipline Swing & Climb – An adventure center with a zipline and obstacle course through the trees.

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