Best Hikes if You Want to be Alone in Adirondack Park
Adirondack Park is gigantic. Huge. Massive. The park’s boundaries encompass 9,375 square miles, larger than the neighboring states of Rhode Island, Delaware, Connecticut, New Jersey, and New Hampshire. As you drive toward any of the hundreds of trailheads, you can feel the forest encroaching on the fields and houses along the roads. You sense that, at any point, you could stop your car, step out into the woods, and within feet completely leave civilization behind.
The new edition of Five-Star Trails: Adirondacks by Tim Starmer highlights 46 of the best hikes within the vast park, including treks where you’re unlikely to bump into one of the park’s 6-10 million annual tourists.
Stewart and Indian Lakes
Distance: 4.6-mile out-and-back
Highlights: Two secluded lakes
This easy hike is a great destination for people who wish to explore two remote, picturesque lakes for fishing or picnicking. Located in the Shaker Mountain Wild Forest, the trail uses old logging roads, so the grades are mostly gentle and easily accessible to hikers of all experience levels.
The trail itself is emblazoned by yellow trail markers and very easy to follow. You catch glimpses of Stewart Lake as you approach 1.3 miles, where there is a fork in the trail. The main trail continues to the right toward Indian Lake, while the left fork takes you through a stand of pine and hemlock to a boggy area that surrounds Stewart Lake. The marshland prevents you from gaining direct access to the lake but makes for good wildlife viewing.
Back along the trail at 2 miles, you pass a thick carpet of club moss and begin the descent to Indian Lake, where the trail ends at the shore. A path to the left follows the shoreline toward a rock that juts out into the lake and provides additional vantage points. The remote setting promises a wonderful opportunity to view a variety of wildlife.
Tongue Mountain Range
Difficulty: Very difficult
Distance: 12.6-mile loop
Highlights: Multiple peaks with panoramic views, lakeside hiking, waterfall
There are multiple ways to explore the Tongue Mountain Range, but this loop combines some of the best features into an extended day hike. Multiple peaks offer innumerable panoramic views of Lake George, as well as some pleasant hiking along old Civilian Conservation Corps horse trails following the lakeshore. There are few sources of water along the ridgeline, so bring your own supply to drink. Timber rattlesnakes are one of the few venomous species of snakes found in New York and are seldom seen, even in areas where they are known to live. Areas along Lake George are one of these places, and though it is unlikely you will encounter one, it is still advisable to take precaution.
There is a 20-foot-high cascading waterfall at about .05 mile on the trail—follow the barely discernable path on your right to the steep banks overlooking them. Follow the blue-marked trail at the fork at 2 miles onto a trail that resembles a roller coaster as you navigate up and down the numerous peaks and valleys that make up the dragon spine-like ridge.
The most view-worthy stop along the traverse is at French Point Mountain, 4.3 miles into your trip. Catch your breath and take in the beauty of the roughly 200 verdant islands dotting the deep blue of Lake George.
You reach the final intersection along the trail at 7.6 miles, where you continue on the blue-marked trail and come across numerous points to stop and soak your feet or swim in the lake.
Distance: 9.7-mile out-and-back
Highlights: Scenic pond, beautiful vistas
Cat Mountain is a beautiful little peak that offers excellent views. To add a bit more adventure to the hike, you can boat in from Cranberry Lake to Janacks Landing and bypass roughly 5 miles of the round-trip hike.
The hike begins along an abandoned logging road, allowing for easy hiking the first 2 miles. You can encounter sections of knee-deep water when there is flooding due to beaver activity—use a hiking stick (typically found at the trail register) to act as a probe in questionable spots.
You reach the western shores of Glasby Pond at 3.8 miles. The steep cliffs of Cat Mountain provide a striking view across the pristine waters. The trail from here grows steadily steeper as you head away from the pond to the summit, where you’ll find a solar-powered weather station and the remnants of an old fire tower. Enjoy beautiful views on this portion of the cliff, or search for better ones by dipping into the coppice of evergreens behind you.