It’s no secret we all love the Adirondacks. Rightfully so. Here, a stunning patchwork of public and private land reveals a unique place where humans and nature coexist. This is especially relevant in the Adirondack Hub. Communities exist, but so does an abundance of wild nature. The allure of these wild spaces is irresistible to many, and this has become increasingly noticeable with the uptick in hikers seen around the entire Adirondacks. When we think about hiking in the Adirondacks, a lot of us subconsciously head right toward the High Peaks. With their unparalleled beauty and challenging terrain, it’s not hard to see why these mountains are the pinnacle of hiking in this region. That being said, don’t let the smaller mountains escape your itineraries. These mountains and hikes may not have the same elevation as the High Peaks, but we promise you, they are entirely worth every step.

The Adirondack Hub is packed full of hiking opportunities for whatever your goal is. Looking to just take a relaxing stroll through the forest? We’ve got you covered. Fire towers? We have those, too! Wilderness Areas with miles and miles of trails? There are actually three designated Wilderness Areas in the Hub. If you’re ready to start exploring areas outside the High Peaks this season, there is no better place to start than here!

A male hiker at Boreas Ponds, with trees and mountains in the background.

Relaxing and scenic

Not every hike needs to be 20 miles long or gain thousands of feet in elevation. That level of hike might not interest you, and that’s totally fine. Nestled in the town of Newcomb, the Adirondack Interpretive Center has 3.6 miles of trails that gently wind through a variety of habitats, showcasing old-growth hemlock stands, wetlands, lakes, streams, mountain views, and so much more. This nature center is a perfect place for kids and adults to take a break to learn more about the natural world, all while adding a few steps to those step-counters on our smartphones.

Looking upward at the tops of Hemlock trees.

Down the road is the recently opened Boreas Ponds Tract. A moderate walk down a gravel road will take hikers to a lovely opening on the shore of the Boreas Ponds, where one can really appreciate the natural beauty and ruggedness of the towering High Peaks. Another accessible option is the Roosevelt Truck Trail, which runs over the brook and through the woods between Route 28N and Blue Ridge Road. You have the option of parking on either side and with a Motorized Access Permit for People with Disabilities (MAPPWD) permit from the Department of Environmental Conservation, visitors can access accessible camping sites with picnic tables and privies. (Note: high clearance, 4-wheel drive vehicles are HIGHLY recommended for this.) For the most part, the Roosevelt Truck Trail is mellow and offers a scenic snapshot of a boreal forest. Plus, the birding here is excellent!

For a beginner mountain, hikers should consider Mount Severance, conveniently located near the necessities: gas, food, and lodging. This mountain is a great “bang for your buck” hike at just over 1-mile long. 

The view from the Goodnow Mountain fire tower cabin at the mountain ranges beyond.

Outdoor museums

The system of fire towers that once stood large across all of New York State has mostly been re-imagined. In the early-to-mid 1900s, large forest fires swept through the Adirondacks, leading to the creation of a network of fire towers and observers who carefully watched over the land to alert officials if a fire were to spark. The 1990 fire season officially marked the end of this tradition, but today some towers still stand as monuments to a rich history and as out-of-doors museums. There are three towers in the Adirondack Hub: Goodnow, Vanderwhacker, and Mount Adams. All can be hiked to, but have varying levels of difficulty. Goodnow is the “easiest” of the three, clocking in at just under 4-miles round trip. It is a mountain, so there is elevation gain, but that gain is moderate compared to the other two. Vanderwhacker is closer to 5.5-miles round trip, but gains around 700 more feet in elevation and is considerably more challenging, especially after the first mile. Right in the shadows of the tallest mountains in New York, Mount Adams is around the same distance as Vanderwhacker, but its rugged trail gains slightly more elevation. All three towers afford breathtaking views of the High Peaks from a distance, giving you a more holistic panorama.

A woman smiles inside the fire tower cabin at Mount Adams, with mountains filling the background.

Into the wild(erness)

Truly, the Wilderness Areas in the Adirondacks make this 6-million-acre corner of the world special. The High Peaks Wilderness Area is great, but so is the Hoffman Notch Wilderness and Pharaoh Lake Wilderness. Hoffman Notch Wilderness in its entity is 38,488 acres, but only features 15-miles worth of trails. This is wilderness at its finest! For those looking for solitude, this is the place. The hike to Big Pond is one of the best for a “quick” ramble.

Larger in acreage than Hoffman Notch, the Pharaoh Lake Wilderness is a whopping 46,283 acres and has over 70 miles of trails. Visitors have a lot to choose from here. One of the great mountains within the Wilderness boundary is Treadway, with its sweeping vista over the wilderness and over into Vermont. The easiest way to access this mountain is through the Putnam Pond DEC Campground, which may require a day-use fee in summer. Pharaoh Lake, Pharaoh MountainGrizzle Ocean, and Crane Pond are also popular destinations within the Wilderness. And all are incredibly scenic.

A purple iris with Pharaoh Lake and the Pharaoh Lake Wilderness beyond.

Happy little hikers

These hikes just scratch the surface. There is so much more to discover in the Adirondack Hub! The communities here all embrace the wildness outside their doors. We hope that wherever you choose to hike, you opt to Love Your ADK and practice responsible hiking. The big mountains are great, but don’t forget to give these smaller hikes love, too.