The 10 Most Adventurous Things to Do in the Adirondack Mountains

Lake George during fall

TripSavvy / Lauren Breedlove

Located in upstate New York, the Adirondack Mountains have long been a haven for travelers looking to escape the hustle and bustle of New York City. But this wildly beautiful region isn't just a place to find a little peace and quiet, as it can also provide plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventure, too. If you're looking for an excuse to leave the busy urban sprawl behind, perhaps these activities are just what you're looking for.

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Drive and Hike Whiteface Mountain

Looking down from the summit of Whiteface Mountain

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New York's Whiteface Mountain makes for one of the more scenic and accessible outdoor adventures in the Adirondack area. Located not far from the town of Lake Placid, travelers can actually take a beautiful drive up the mountain, soaking in breathtaking scenery around every turn. Near the top, visitors will discover a real life castle, which is where they'll exit their vehicle and hike the rest of the way to the summit. The trail isn't particularly long, although it is a bit steep in certain sections. However, once you reach the top, the utterly spectacular views of the surrounding countryside––including Lake Placid itself––will make you soon forget about your tired legs.

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Visit Ausable Chasm

The narrow Ausible Chasm gorge

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Dubbed the "Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks," Ausable Chasm has a lot to offer travelers looking to add a dash of adventure to their visit to the region. The sandstone gorge features narrow openings and towering walls that climb more than 500 feet overhead. A trail that includes a series of rope bridges allows hikers to cross over the Chasm at various points, catching glimpses of the turbulent water as it rushes by below. In the late spring and throughout the summer, more adventurous visitors can choose to go whitewater rafting on the river as well, providing an adrenaline-fueled boat ride that they won't soon forget.

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Go Climbing at Cascade Lakes

Rock climbers will find a lot to love in the Adirondacks, as the massive outdoor playground has plenty of great places for them to ply their skills. One of the most popular and scenic spots is found at Cascade Lakes, where some of the more iconic climbing routes of entire region can be found. The crag at Cascade Lakes offers a little something for everyone, including relatively easy routes (ratings start at 5.3) that are perfect for beginners, as well as 5.10a options for the more advanced climbers.

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Hike Mount Colden

Lake Coldon on Mount Colden

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Because the Adirondack Park covers more than six million acres, there are plenty of hiking trails to discover within its boundaries. In fact, there are more than 2,000 miles of trail in total, which means there are hundreds of options to choose from. That said, one of the very best––and most adventurous––is the hike to the top of Mount Colden. The route covers more than 14 miles and offers 2,600 feet of elevation gain, but it rewards travelers with some of the most remote wilderness sections in the entire region, not to mention some jaw-dropping views along the way. This hike requires a full day to complete, but it is worth it for those looking to stretch their legs some.

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Go Canoeing or Kayaking

A kayak on a lake at sunset

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The Adirondacks aren't just blessed with plenty of hiking trails to explore, the region also has an abundance of lakes and rivers, too. In fact, there are more than 3,000 lakes and ponds throughout the park and an additional 30,000 miles of rivers too, which means that you're never too far from a great place to go paddling. Take for example the St. Regis Canoe Area, which alone covers more than 18,400 acres. The state preserve offers access to an unprecedented amount of backcountry wilderness, all from the seat of a kayak or canoe. Travelers will even find some good options for overnight camping as well, so be sure to pack your tent and sleeping bag.

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Experience World-Class Mountain Biking in Wilmington

a mountain biker rides a trail

Wilmington Tourism

With all of the other great outdoor activities available in the Adirondacks, the mountain bike scene often gets overshadowed. But make no mistake, there is world class riding to be had in the town of Wilmington, where the annual MTB Festival has grown into an extremely popular event each August. Riders will find a lot to love in Wilmington, including Flume Trail, which is a blend of fast single track and more technical rocky riding. Alternatively, Hardy Road is all about finding your zen on a smooth flow trail, while Poor Man's Downhill will get the heart pumping with its 1,200-foot descent spread out over just 3 miles. Whether you're a causal rider or a seasoned pro, beginner or wily veteran, there is almost assuredly a trail for you to ride here.

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Ride the Rails Instead

rail bikes on rail road tracks ready to ride

Kraig Becker

For an entirely different, and more relaxing, cycling experience, why not give railbiking a try instead? A railbike is a specially built, pedal-powered vehicle that is designed to ride along old and abandoned railroad tracks, granting access to places where only trains have visited in the past. Revolution Rail offers just such an experience in the Adirondacks, taking riders out into the wilderness, over river-spanning bridges, and along a mountain pass. The experience is a surprisingly relaxing and tranquil one and includes railbikes for two or four passengers, making it a fun option for the entire family.

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Spend the Day Sailing on Lake George

A boat sailing on Lake George

TripSavvy / Lauren Breedlove

Stretching for more than 32 miles north-to-south, Lake George is one of the crown jewels of the entire Adirondack region. The lake provides many opportunities for outdoor adventure, including boating excursions, stand-up paddling options, fishing, water skiing, and more. But Lake George also draws more than its fair share of sailors, thanks in no small part due to its wide open waters and steady winds. There are a number of ways that visitors to lake can find there way aboard a sailboat, but one of the easiest is by contacting Y-Knot Sailing, an organization focused on promoting sailing on Lake George. If you have the time, the team at Y-Knot can even teach you to sail as well.

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Go Camping on an Island

A tent at a campsite on Lake George

Kraig Becker

Thanks to its sprawling size, the Adirondack Park offers literally hundreds of places for backpackers and campers to pitch their tent in a wilderness setting. But if you're looking for a unique place to go camping, turn to Lake George once again. The lake itself is dotted with dozens of small islands, many of which have permanent campsites—complete with picnic tables, restrooms, and tent platforms—that can be reserved and rented for the night. You'll need to paddle or catch a boat out to your island of choice, but once there you'll have a lakeside retreat all to yourself.

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Hit the Slopes During the Winter

Skiing on Gore Mountain in the Adirondacks

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The Adirondacks are a haven for winter sports too, with plenty of opportunities for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling as well. But the region offers some of the best downhill skiing in the eastern U.S., with Gore Mountain, Whiteface, and Oak Mountain all offering great options for beginner and advanced skiers alike. And with an average of 90 inches of snowfall each year, you can bet there will be plenty of fresh powder to enjoy throughout the season.