With elevations ranging from 3,960 to 5,344 feet, the 46 high peaks of the Adirondack Mountains are a magnificent testament to both nature and the adventurous spirit of those who hike them. Many people aspire to become “46ers” and check off climbing every Adirondack Peak from their bucket list. Others simply wish to enjoy a relaxing hike while immersing themselves in nature, drinking in magnificent aerial views and challenging their physical abilities. Whether your plan is to start small on a classic beginner’s peak like Cascade or go the distance on a demanding peak like Mount Marcy, here is a guide to what you can expect on your visit to New York State’s ceiling.
Start small. No matter which peak you choose, you will be afforded magnificent views, interactions with nature and a great work out to boot. If you are, however, new to mountain hiking, the conventional wisdom is to start with the relatively easy Cascade Mountain. The 36th highest of the high peaks, some say the most challenging part of hiking Cascade will be to find parking. Nevertheless, Cascade’s views are extraordinary and well worth the 2.4 mile climb to the top. If you are at an optimum physical fitness level, peaks like Giant and Phelps will offer a bit more of a challenge for beginners and also, a pay-off in higher elevations and kissed-from-heaven views, plus less crowds. No matter which peak you decide to climb, use this list to ascertain difficulty levels, elevations and average hike duration times.
Be prepared. Having more gear may mean dealing with a heavier pack. However, it makes sense to be prepared for any situation you might encounter. Include warm clothing and a wind breaker or rain poncho, even during summer months. A map, along with a compass or GPS navigation device are a must, as is your cell phone. Surprisingly, you will have service on many (though not all) of the peaks. Carry a water filter or other type of purification system so you can carry less water with you, but make sure you know where water sources are along the trail you will be hiking. You will be grateful you remembered your bug spray and net, as well as sunscreen and a change of wool socks. Make sure you bring an ample supply of high protein, easily portable food, a whistle, first aid kit, binoculars, knife and a flashlight with extra batteries. Starting out your trip in good boots that are broken in will help your feet stay comfortable and blister free. And avoid wearing cotton layers next to the skin, as it takes a long time to dry when wet. Opt for performance fabrics instead.
Leave Fido at home. An easy climb may still prove exhausting for dogs and small children, even if you opt for a slow pace with lots of sight-seeing and picnicking breaks. Choose your hiking companions carefully, based upon the type of experience you wish to have. No matter who joins you to the top, make sure you have at least one camera. You will encounter some of the most beautiful scenes found in nature and will want to take tons of pictures.
Reach for the stars. Mount Marcy is the highest peak in all of New York State and an international climbing destination for many travelers. Most hikers take the Van Hoevenberg Trail up the mountain and many make it a two-day trip, opting to set up camp midway. If so, keep your eyes open for the “Camp Here” disk marker pointing to tent sites along the left-hand side of the Trail. Van Hoevenberg starts out flat and easy but don’t be deceived; it becomes progressively rocky and steep at around the Marcy Dam. Those physically fit enough to climb this peak are rewarded with the view from the top. One of the most astonishing you will see anywhere in the world, clear-day views will reveal Mount Royal in Montreal, 65 miles to the north, and the tops of 43 of the other high peaks.
No matter which peak you decide to climb, take a personal inventory of your physical fitness and skill level, as well as those of your companions, before you go. Make sure you communicate your itinerary, including projected start and end times, with someone not joining you on your adventure. And always check with the local forest ranger about on-mountain conditions and emergency protocols before you set out. By being prepared you can free your body and mind of everything except the amazing experience ahead of you and enjoy yourself and your surroundings fully.
Corey Whelan is a freelance writer in New York. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.