The Ausable Chasm
The Chasm's website invites travelers to "Step back in time as you walk the nature trails through a primeval Adirondack Forest. Stroll past Rainbow Falls, Elephant's Head, Column Rock, Hyde's Cave, and the eerie quiet of Mystic Gorge. Descend hundreds of feet and walk the natural stone walkways within the Chasm and gaze upon millenniums of geologic history etched in stone." How can you resist? The Chasm is in Plattsburgh, on US Route 9. You can raft, kayak, or use rubber tube to transport yourself through the Chasm during warm months.
Drive the Whiteface Mountain Highway
The best drive is the gorgeous Whiteface Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway, in Wilmington, at the intersection of Routes 86 and 431.
The highway goes 8 miles up Whiteface Mountain, the fifth-highest mountain in the Adirondacks. The last five or so miles are amazing, as you travel through a forest to the alpine-like environment at the summit.
Leave your car in the summit parking lot and take a short hike up a stone staircase to the top, or hop on the mountain's own elevator, which gives you a 360-degree view as you ascend.
Check out the cheesy North Pole on the way up or down if you have children. It's like something off Route 66. Get your postcards stamped with a North Pole postal stamp!
Rondaxe Mountain Hike
One of the most popular hikes in the Old Forge area is the short hike up Rondaxe (or Bald) Mountain, which is just four miles east of the town. You're likely to meet plenty of people on this trail, so don't expect solitude.
From the trailhead, the trail winds through woods with a gradual uphill for about 1/3 of a mile before it reaches a steeper, rockier slope. From atop that slope, the trail follows the rocky ridge, with occasional views to the south of the Fulton Chain of Lakes. There are numerous red DEC trail markers along the trails, so it's hard to get lost. A mile from the trailhead, the trail comes out on the summit of Rondaxe (Bald) Mt, 2300 some feet above sea level. A flight of stairs takes you to the top of the fire tower, which was originally used by rangers; from atop the tower there is a 360-degree view of the Adirondacks. A table with a map can help you identify much of the area.
The view includes much of First, Second, Third, and Fourth Lakes, the town of Inlet, and two tall peaks in the distance: 3700-foot Blue Mountain and 3900-foot Snowy Mountain.
- Hiking and Walking
Climb Mt. Washington (by car)
Hiking Mt. Washington is a great experience, but if you have little time or little legs, driving up is a great adventure, too! Go straight up Route 86 until it becomes the Veterans Memorial Highway and pay your entrance fee (about $5 per person) to drive to the top. At the top, you can walk the half mile to the summit or take a 90 second elevator ride through 270 feet of rock to the summit. Either way offers amazing views of the High Peaks region. On a clear day you can see all the way to Montreal in the north. You will also have gorgeous views of Mirror Lake in Lake Placid, where the Winter Olympics were held twice. You can scramble all around the exposed rocks on the summit, taking photos and viewing the landscape. Helpful rangers are always nearby to answer questions. It's not cheap, but definitely worth the price.
- National/State Park
- Hiking and Walking
Cruise the Lakes
To fully comprehend the rugged beauty and vastness of the lakes of the High Peaks region, you will need to rent a boat and travel through some of the hundreds of miles of lakes and waterways.
One of the best, for seeing a lot in a short time is the Saranac lakes and waterways -- which are technically part of the Saranac River. Pack a cooler with drinks and snacks and glide through miles of awe-inspiring scenery. Travel through the locks, which raise or lower your boat to the level of connecting lakes. Round trip from Lake Flower to Middle Saranac is three to four hours. Middle Saranac Lake features a sprinkling of small islands and some of the loveliest beaches in the area. Anchor your boat near Middle Saranac's south shore and hike the windswept dunes or swim in the warm, shallow waters.
Another great choice for touring the pristine lakes and Great Camps of the area is the Upper St. Regis Lake Boat Launch, where you can set off and spend the afternoon cruising Upper St. Regis, Spitfire and Lower St. Regis Lakes.
Don't have your own boat? We've been really happy renting from Swiss Marine on Lake Flower (7 Duprey Street, 518-891-2130), where we've picked up a good condition 18-foot, 75-horsepower for $50 an hour or $300 a day plus fuel.
- Sailing and Boating
The Adirondack Museum
If your travels take you to the town of Blue Mountain Lake, about an hour's drive from the High Peaks Region, make a stop at the Adirondack Museum. This is one of the finest regional museums in the country, with 20 buildings on 32 acres that house exhibits on the history of the region. It's easy to spend severasl hours here, wandering the indoor and the outdoor exhibits, getting a sandwich from the carfe when you're hungry and resting on the benches and swings, when tired. The train exhibits are fascinating and give a glimpse of how the very wealthy used to travel in their own ultra-luxurious private coaches (out of Grand Central Station, no less) to their private camps in this wilderness area. The boat exhibit is amazing, especially the famous Idem-class sailboat, of which only about 6 were ever built. The only ones still in operation sail in Sunday regattas on Upper St. Regis Lake during August.
Drive the High Peaks Scenic Byway
The High Peaks Scenic Byway climbs Route 73 through narrow passes flanked by towering mountains, sparkling streams, waterfalls, and gemlike lakes. The open valley of the Ausable River provides expansive views of the surrounding High Peaks of the Adirondacks. Stop for a bite in the hamlets of Keene or Keene Valley, or pick a trailhead and start hiking!
Mt. St. Regis
Hike Mount St. Regis, which is only about 2,500 feet in altitude, but a 6.6 miles roundtrip walk that will end in a scramble to the bald summit and gorgeous views of the high peak region and Saranac canoe route.
- Mountain Climbing
Tour of the Town of Lake Placid
Lake Placid is the best known village in the High Peaks region, and is now an all-seasons resort town. Although there are the tourist traps, the town's surroundings (sort of an alpine decor) and the ski jumps (which you can ride to the top for the truly scary views!) are worthwhile experiences.
Keep in mind that both the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics were held here, and you can learn about both these events at the Lake Placid Winter Olympic Museum.
Canoe the Lakes: The Seven Carries Route
For a day-trip, a wonderful route is the Seven Carries. This is a 9-mile route withseven carries — all are short; the longest is just over a half-mile in length.
The Seven Carries route requires two cars to set up a shuttle: One at the south end of the paddle near the Lake Clear Fish Hatchery, the other either at the public access at the south end of Upper St. Regis Lake or at the public launch at Paul Smith's College on Lower St. Regis Lake.
Traditionally, the Seven Carries started on Little Green Pond; where there was a wagon that long ago ran from Saranac Inn. But you may start on Little Clear Pond, although it can be windy and wavy, but the towering "king's trees" are beautiful!
The other shortest carry takes you into Upper St. Regis Lake, home of the Idem, a beautiful sailboat designed around the turn of the century exclusively for racing on this lake. On Upper St. Regis Lake, you can either go into the southernmost bay to conclude the trip or paddle north and east toward Spitfire Lake, Lower St. Regis Lake, and eventually, Paul Smith's College. St. Regis Mountain is prominently visible from much of this route!
Go Wild at the Tupper Lake Wild Center
The Wild Place is a brand new museum where the "wild world" of the Adirondacks is featured. It's literally been open only a few weeks as of this tip (July 2006) and is a great place to visit. Every day the Wild Center staff offer special and different guided hikes on the Museum's campus trails and there are feeding and activity schedules for the animals. The Daily Explorer available at the front desk shows each day's schedules, printed that morning. Trails lead to walkways and overlooks on the Racquette River, and over the Museum's Blue Pond. There are trails through a succession forest, and all trails are interpreted, with labels updated based on changes taking place in the natural world. The main exhibit hall follows the course of an Adirondack river from a marsh to its source at the summit of a High Peak. At each level except the summit there are live animals on exhibit. Ecosystems include bogs, forests, streams and rivers. The Museum even offers snowshoes for its students to use, so that trails can be interpreted year round! Basically, the museum is a super resource for either grownups or children, since it gives such an excellent overview of the region nad is beautifully built. There can also be alot of "iffy" weather days in this region, so make a list of things to do in all weather.
- National/State Park
- Family Travel
Visitor Interpretive Center ("VIC")
What a little gem this place is... Tucked away in a remote corner of the Adirondacks, this nature center has lovely exhibits, daily lectures and demonstrations (such as falconry) and serves as a home base for a number of great nature hikes -- each with well-marked trails and trail signage.
Teddy Roosevelt visited this area nad hiked as a young boy, thus encouraging his lifelong love of nature and interest in preserving this great park.
Inlet is a small town with a rustic character not far from Old Forge. There's not too much to see here; there's access to Fourth Lake, and Fifth Lake is a tiny pond just further down the road; there are some character-filled gift shops, like Finders Keepers; A good gelato and ice cream place, Northern Lights; and a good information center next to the town halls, where you can find information on hiking and outdoor activities. Just northwest of town are the trailheads for Rocky Mt and Black Bear Mt; we didn't hike either, since a planned Rocky Mt. hike was rained out.
High Falls Gorge
This is a little bit touristy, but only because of the gift shop at the start and rather steep price to view a very scenic spot. Part of me wants to list this as a tourist trap, therefore, but another part tells me to keep it here. I'll opt for the latter, since it's a fun thing to do on a cloudy day and it's close enough to Lake Placid and nearby attractions to justify a quick sidetrip.
Great Falls Gorge is a part of the Ausable River that tumbles through rock chasms and flumes in a series (they claim 700) of waterfalls. A network of small walkways and bridges allow the visitor to traverse the chasm several times. It's a fun outing and kids are guaranteed to love running around the precipes and paths.
Also, at the end, kids can pan for minerals or fossils in a mini-sluice, made up to look like an old-fashioned mine. This was only an additional $5, which did not seem like that much, especially after paying more than $10 for adults and $5 for kids, to get in the Gorge itself.
- Family Travel
- National/State Park
Tour a Great Camp
Known as the summer White House of President Calvin Coolidge, White Pine Camp was built in the early 1900's by a New York businessman named Archibald White. It grew to encompass some two dozen buildings, including guest cabins, boathouses, staff quarters, a bowling alley and a Japanese teahouse.
Today White Pine Camp is one of the few Adirondack ''great camps'' open to the public, providing a glimpse of a long-vanished way of life. Two-hour guided tours begin at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on Saturdays during the summer months.