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11 Reasons the Adirondacks in New York State are the Best Place in the U.S. for Adventure Travel

The Adirondacks is one of the wildest, most beautiful regions not only in New York State or the Northeast but in the entire United States. Several hours north of New York City, the Adirondack Park has six million acres (243,000 square kilometers) of land protected as a "forever wild" forest preserve—bigger than the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Glacier, and the Great Smokies National Parks combined! The Adirondack region features the famous 46 High Peaks, making it a major skiing and hiking destination, as well as a training ground for world-class athletes from Olympic medalists to X-Games shredders. The village of Lake Placid is home to the longest-running Ironman event in the continental United States, taking place in July this year, and was recently announced as host of the 2023 Winter Universiade Games, drawing the best student-athletes from around the world. Check out these 11 reasons to experience adventure travel in the Adirondacks for yourself.

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Whiteface Mountain

Ski the largest vertical drop in the eastern United States

Whiteface Mountain features the greatest vertical in the east and served as the centerpiece of Lake Placid’s two memorable runs hosting the Winter Olympics, in 1932 and 1980. Olympians and world class skiers and snowboarders still train here today, while experienced technical skiers come from around the world to ski the black diamond and double black diamond trails, which offer a diverse range of experiences, from glades to double fall lines to terrain parks.

Viessmann World Cup Luge

Train alongside Olympic athletes at the Olympic Training Center

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the legendary 1980 Winter Olympics, when Lake Placid hosted the “Miracle on Ice” hockey game. Today, the Training Center is still in use, and visitors can take advantage of the same facilities where future Olympic hopefuls train. For instance, the Bobsled Experience is a half-mile ride down the combined bobsled/luge/skeleton track. A great way to visit Olympic sites, including the ski jump facilities, is to purchase the $40 Olympic Sites Passport, which provides admission to the ski jump elevator, the Olympic Museum, a gondola ride up Whiteface Mountain, discounts for the bobsled ride, and more!

An expansive view of the Adirondacks High Peaks

Hike the 46 High Peaks

From late spring through early fall, the Adirondacks are home to some of the best hiking in the world, including the 46 High Peaks in the High Peaks Wilderness Area, where each of the mountains top out above at least 4,000 feet (or 1,219 m). Most of the climbs involve 2,000 to 4,000-feet (600-1,200 m) ascents, and difficulty levels are dependent on weather, terrain, and the hiker’s experience, but for the most part, these are challenging hikes with major rewards—namely, stunning views of the many peaks, lush landscapes, and mountain lakes. 

A man mountain bikes on a dirt path at Whiteface Mountain

Mountain bike down a 2,500-foot (762-meter) vertical trail

Whiteface Mountain remains busy even when the snow has melted, turning into a mountain biking paradise in summer and fall, with 27 trails and a downhill trail with a nearly 2,500-foot (762-meter) vertical! Another world-class skiing and snowboarding mountain, Gore Mountain also offers summer and fall trails with challenging terrain that will deliver heart-pumping runs for experienced mountain bikers. 

Bicyclists riding along a stream in the Lake Placid Ironman
Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images for IRONMAN

Race in the longest-running Ironman event in continental North America

Since 1999, Lake Placid has hosted an ultra-challenging Ironman that attracts racers from all over the world to run and bike on the hilly terrain and experience the Adirondack lake swim. The Lake Placid Ironman, taking place July 26, 2020, offers 40 slots for finishers to the Ironman World Championships in Hawai’i, the only longer-running Ironman in the U.S.

Fly Fishing, West Branch of Ausable River

Fish for trout in the cool, rushing waters of the Ausable River

Beloved by fly fishermen and women, the West Branch of the Ausable River is considered one of the best trout fishing spots in America. From late spring through summer, when the cool waters warm up a bit, anglers wade in to fly fish for brown, rainbow, and brook trout. Sport fishing is also popular in the Adirondacks, as Lake George and Lake Champlain attract trophy fishermen and women to cast for lake trout, smallmouth bass, and other species.

Runners run along the lake during the Adirondack Distance FestivalCredit: Nancie Battaglia

Run a marathon around a scenic mountain lake

Sure, you can run a 26-mile (42km) race in major cities around the world, but why not take a break from the hustle and bustle and breathe in the mountain air as you strive for the finish line? The annual Adirondack Distance Festival features shorter races and a marathon that mixes flat and hilly terrain with stretches along the scenic Schroon Lake. Not extreme enough for you? Nearby Tupper Lake hosts the annual Warrior Run, a 5k or 8k obstacle race through mud, fields, and rugged Adirondack terrain. The June 20, 2020 event starts and ends at Raquette River Brewing, giving spectators and contestants a taste of New York’s famed craft brewing scene!

A rock climber scales a rock in the Adirondacks

Rock climb in a remote location!

As you might expect from the wilderness wonderland that is the Adirondacks, there are many, many places that appeal to experienced rock climbers. What’s more, there are plenty of easy-access trails to challenging crags, faces, and verticals. The Silver Lake area of the Park has even earned national attention in rock climbing circles, with the Honeybadger 5.10a climb at the Shangri-La area listed as one of the best sports climbs in the US on several surveys. Besides rock climbing, there’s challenging mountaineering on the Adirondack Slides and in the High Peaks, and in winter, ice climbing for those who like to scale ice-covered walls on the side of a mountain.

Copy of Snowboarding on Whiteface Mountain

Snowboard or Ski Any Style, From Alpine to Freestyle

With four major Alpine ski resorts (Whiteface, Gore, Titus, and West) and seven small Alpine resorts, the Adirondacks offers hundreds of trails, and the region’s frequent snowfalls ensure great fresh powder skiing and snowboarding. The Adirondacks also has three Nordic cross-country ski resorts, with many more trails throughout the Park. Olympic and amateur athletes train on the Alpine and Nordic trails, and the Olympic Training Center and Whiteface host freestyle events, ski jumping, snowboarding competitions, and more.

Copy of Rafting in Ausable Chasm

Experience all the things to do off the slopes and trails!

Fun fact: Americans call their getaways “vacation” rather than “holiday” because wealthy 19th century residents of New York and Boston would “vacate” their cities to come to the Adirondacks Round out your visit with a walk among the treetops on the Wild Center and Wild Walk’s elevated walkway above the forest, kayak or float on a tube through the Ausable Chasm (pictured), known as the Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks, and get a taste of Americana at Lake George, where you can ride a historic steamboat with the Lake George Steamboat Company and camp on an island! The history of the United States runs through the Adirondacks, and there are fascinating attractions like the North Star Underground Railroad Museum, tracing the journey of escaped slaves in the 19th century, and Fort Ticonderoga, a star-shaped fortress built by the French in the 18th Century during the American Revolutionary War. 

exterior of great camp sagamore

Eat, Drink & Stay in the Adirondacks!

There’s so much to do in the Adirondacks, you’ll want to stay awhile. You’ll find an amazing variety of lodging options, from rustic cabins to world-class luxury resorts to historic “Great Camps” lodges (pictured) and everything in between. Towns such as Lake Placid and Tupper Lake have become showcases of New York State’s excellent farm-to-table dining and craft brewing and spirits offerings, not to mention a lively après-ski scene. Those curious about New York State’s growing wine production can sample the region’s bounty on the Adirondack Coast Wine Trail. In other words, you can end a day of adventure with a relaxing spa treatment, a spectacular culinary experience, and a cozy place to spend the night!

getting there

By Train

Amtrak to Westport Station: 1 hour to Tupper Lake or 45 minutes to Lake Placid (by shuttle, taxi or rental car)

By Plane

Albany International Airport, Albany Shaker Rd., Albany, NY 12211: then 2 hours 15 minutes to Lake Placid or 2 hours 30 minutes to Tupper Lake by rental car, or 3 hours 50 minutes by bus to Lake Placid via Trailways.

Adirondacks Regional Airport, 96 Airport Road, Saranac Lake, NY 12983: 30 minutes to Tupper Lake or to Lake Placid by rental car.

By Car
  • From Albany: 2.5 hours
  • From Boston: 5 hours
  • From NYC: 5 hours
  • From Philadelphia: 6 hours
  • From Montreal: 2.5 hours
  • From Toronto: 5.5 hours 
By Bus

Trailways or Greyhound to Saranac Lake for Tupper Lake or to Lake Placid

For more information as well as sample itineraries, visit our Spotlight: Adirondacks page and our partners at Visit Adirondacks.

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