Better Know A Park: The Adirondacks, New York’s Natural Playground

Adirondack Park, the adirondacks, outdoor activites

Adirondack Park is a wilderness wonderland unique in many ways. First off, the park, which is located entirely in the state of New York, is defined by the massif of the Adirondack Mountains. Rather than designating a portion of a mountain range for preservation, in 1902 the state legislature defined the entire Adirondack region as a park. And at 6.1 million acres in size, it’s one goddamn large park at that. For comparison, do you know how large famous Yellowstone National Park is? A mere 2.2 million acres!

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But even more notable than the size and scope of Adirondack Park is the nearly unprecedented way in which its land is managed. Just over 50 percent of the land within the boundaries of the park is actually privately held. In fact, there are more than a hundred towns located within the park which has more than 130,000 permanent, year-round residents. Within the confines of the park you can find everything from logging operations to pristine woodlands to ski resorts to summer camps, and of course there are a hellofalot of charming cabins. Adirondack Park also contains more than 10,000 lakes and many thousands of miles of streams and rivers, most of which can be navigated by small boats.

The area first became popular in the middle of the 19th Century, and is today visited by as many as ten million people per year. Indeed, the Adirondacks are a great place for anyone who enjoys…


It’s hard to beat canoeing in the Adirondacks. The countless lakes and miles of water wending through the mountains provide endless opportunities for exploration. Sheltered beaches appear among rocky shores and all manner of waterfowl splash in or soar above the mostly placid water. If you want a bit more adventure, there are also myriad opportunities for whitewater kayaking and rafting amid the green hills of the park. In fact, you can ride rapids rated all the way up to Class VI in this neck of the woods, but note that Class VI rapids are rated by the International Scale of River Difficulty as “Extreme and Exploratory Rapids” and that they are “rarely attempted and often exemplify the extremes of difficulty, unpredictability and danger.” So… stick with canoeing?

Kristin Ben WoodsHIKING

You could spend a lifetime hiking throughout the Adirondack Mountains and still not see every glen, peak, and valley. The park has more than 40 summits that stand more than 4,000 feet above sea level, and dozens more lower crests. There are well over 2,000 miles of well-marked, maintained trails in the park, and the adventurous hiker (ideally adventurous but also equipped with a lensatic compass and a topo map) can blaze his or her way through untold swaths of unspoiled wilderness. Just keep in mind that there are approximately 3,500 – 4,000 bears in the Adirondacks…


Whether you like sheer cliff climbing, bouldering, or ice climbing Adirondack Park offers all that and more. You can attack the 700 foot granite cliff of Roger’s Rock or you can free climb the natural crack lines at Poke-O-Moonshine. There are plenty of companies offering guided climbing trips all throughout the park, and there are plenty of places for you to pull off the highway and saunter up a rock face, too. Many of the best climbing spots involve hikes or even canoe trips in, making the experience a well-rounded adventure.


If you love the thrill of downhill skiing or snowboarding, Adirondack Park has got you covered. If you thrill at the misery of cross country skiing, well, you can do that too. There are eight well developed ski areas, most of which offer more than 1,000 feet of vertical slope open for enjoyment. Difficulty ranges from Bunny to Black Diamond, and you can also enjoy snow tubing, snow mobiling, snowshoeing, and other activities that start with the word “snow.”