While the Adirondacks are often considered a three-season destination — for sun-drenched summer hiking, vibrant fall foliage and shushing down snow-covered slopes — they’re the OG, year-round getaway destination in the United States. The word vacation even found its way into the popular vernacular back in 1869, when Boston clergyman and outdoor enthusiast William Henry Harrison Murray wrote the first camping guide to the Adirondacks. The book inspired thousands of urbanites to “vacate” their cramped quarters and city pollution for the wilds of upstate New York, leading to a years-long love affair with the region.
Leaving aside jokes about the Northeast’s unofficial “fifth season” — mud season — spring is an excellent time to visit the Adirondacks, or ADKs, as it’s colloquially known. You’ll have fewer crowds to contend with at some of the more popular hiking trails and attractions, and you’ll bear witness to the spectacular sight of nature — all 6.1 million acres of it — waking up after a long sleep.
How to get to the Adirondacks
Small and easy to navigate, Albany International Airport and Burlington International Airport are about 120 miles and 130 miles, respectively, to Long Lake, nearly in the center of the Adirondacks. Rent a car at either airport or if you don’t mind a 3-plus-hour ride, hop aboard the Adirondack Trailways bus. Or climb aboard the just-restored Amtrak Adirondack route, which tracks the scenic route up the Hudson River from as far south as New York City.
It’s hard to overstate the vastness of the Adirondacks. While not technically a National Park — it’s a National Historic Landmark — the Adirondack Park dwarfs all but two National Parks (Alaska’s Wrangell-St. Elias and Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve). Within it, you’ll find 30,000 miles of rivers and streams, 3,000 lakes and ponds, and 2,000 miles of hiking trails, including in the Adirondack High Peaks, the 46 tallest mountains in the park, a legend among hardcore hikers.
Yes, hiking is a classic Adirondack activity, and yes, you should make time to enjoy even a short trail or two — where you might glimpse moose, beavers, snowshoe hares, red foxes and other wildlife. On the easy side, the Mount Arab Trail, near Tupper Lake, is a quick, one-mile trek to a fire tower. Prepare to be floored by the sweeping vistas. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the challenging, 5-mile Lyon Mountain Trail includes a steep climb to the summit. On a clear day, you can see the High Peaks, Lake Champlain, the Green Mountains and even the skyline of Montreal, from the top of its fire tower.
The region has options for other outdoor recreation, including kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, boating, cycling and mountain biking, birding and the best whitewater rafting in the Northeast. Find equipment rentals and the best waterways to try on your own, or take part in June’s Celebrate Paddling ADK, a paddling challenge along 19 miles of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, the longest inland waterway in the United States.
Mountain bikers of all levels will get a kick out of the Harrietstown Pump Track in Saranac Lake. Over a series of manmade features, this looped track allows you to build momentum without pedaling, by pushing down over bumps and pulling up over berms.
For a more relaxed experience, the Uihlein Maple Forest in Lake Placid, managed by Cornell University, one of the country’s premier agricultural colleges, has launched new self-guided tours. Learn about maple syrup production — New York is America’s second-largest producer, after Vermont — plus an innovative program that improves the health of the sugarbush while supporting threatened bird species.
Things to do in the Adirondacks
For sports lovers, the redesigned Lake Placid Olympic Museum honors the legacy of the Winter Games through interactive exhibits, tech displays and North America’s second-largest Winter Olympic artifact collection.
The Adirondack Sky Center, in Tupper Lake, offers the ideal combination of low humidity and light pollution, plus high altitude, for night-sky viewing. On Fridays, join a stargazing session at their Roll-Off Roof Observatory near Little Wolf Beach. Or check their calendar for free lectures and other public programming.
ADKX, aka Adirondack Experience, is a rustic museum on Blue Mountain Lake. The July debut of Artists & Inspiration will showcase the diverse people who have worked in the Adirondacks and whose vision has inspired other artists and artisans.
A number of retail shops have or are set to open around the region. Nature-meets-abstract jewelry maker Earth Girl Designs has moved to a new, expanded location in Tupper Lake. Pure Placid, in Lake Placid, has its roots in aromatherapy, massage and yoga. Pick up house-made bath and body products, diffusers and room sprays, or customize your own scent at the candle bar. And in Westport, The Mill, a former flour mill reimagined into a retail, dining and gathering space, will debut this summer.
Where to eat and drink in the Adirondacks
Food around the Adirondacks is largely American or New American, but often bears a distinct French-Canadian influence. This means you can find everything from Old World-style inns to cafes spotlighting poutine to a doughnut shop…inside a laundromat.
On the genteel side, Lake Placid’s Interlaken Inn & Restaurant reopened in December under new ownership. The restaurant, which serves classics like duck confit, is lovely. But the moody bar, with its pressed-copper ceilings and leather-backed stools, is an ambient spot for a pour.
In Tupper Lake, The Woodshed on Park serves a French-Canadian-inspired menu, alongside craft cocktails and natural wine. Cash-only Anne’s Crepes, in Saranac Lake, features affordable sweet and savory versions of the French favorite. A portion of its gratuities go to the Tri Lakes Humane Society.
Following an epic six-year restoration of a historic mill, War Cannon Spirits has opened a stylish distillery, tasting room, retail shop and restaurant in Crown Point. They also host trivia nights and live music. The Peaks Paintbar, in Lake Placid, is not your grandma’s paint and sip, although you can do both here. Order cocktails and stuffed sandwiches while taking part in a painting lesson taught by a professional artist.
Where to stay in the Adirondacks
Among the newest hotels and campgrounds are the Paint bar Lodge at Schroon Lake, which harks back to those early “vacate” years with rustic rooms, cabins and glamping sites. Your stay gives you access to mini golf, multipurpose sports courts and a private beach with docks and a deck. Newcomb Café and Campground provides a similarly immersed-in-nature experience at a family-owned RV park with onsite eatery.
If you’re more than fluff-it than rough-it, book a suite, cabin or room at design-forward Eastwind Lake Placid. Spacious and soothing, it has a vintage library, private pool and sauna. The nearby Bluebird Hotel is a Scandi-inspired property from New England-based boutique brand Lark Hotels, which is known for its signature fusion of character-filled styling and lots of personalized touches.
The Grand Adirondack Hotel, now under the Marriott Tribute banner, just emerged from a complete renovation, reopening as a sophisticated, airy accommodation with unique architectural details, sunny nooks and club-like seating area. Its views of the mountains and Olympic attractions are hard to beat.
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