10 Must-Do Adirondack Classics

beaver meadow falls

Beaver Meadow Falls photograph by Flickr user mono go

In our 2009 Annual Guide to the Great Outdoors, Annie Stoltie wrote “The Hit List,” a guide to the quintessential Adirondack activities that everyone should experience. Four years later the list holds up, though some of the particulars have changed. To help you plan your summer to-do list, here is a revised and amended version (new information is in italics):

1. Row a guideboat. Tupper Lake guideboat builder Rob Frenette says you can see, test and covet antique or shiny-new models of these traditional craft at the Willard Hanmer Guide­boat Race and parade on Lake Flower, in Saranac Lake. This year’s event is July 7th.

May 17–19, Adirondack Guide Boats is offering on-water demos at the Woods Inn, in Inlet.

And the Adirondack Interpretive Center (AIC), in Newcomb, is kicking off its new guideboat program over Memorial Day weekend. The SUNY-ESF–operated AIC owns two historic boats—a 1902 Warren Cole once owned by Archer Huntington, and a late 1800s Caleb Chase boat that never left the town of Newcomb. Throughout summer and fall, guests will be able to take guided tours of Rich Lake in the boats. For more information contact the AIC at or (518) 582-2000.

2. See a Great Camp. Adirondack Architectural Heritage executive director Steven En­gelhart recommends Camp Santanoni, in Newcomb, because it has everything you’d expect of these quintessential landmarks: rustic buildings; secluded, lakeside setting; and a compelling history.

3. Visit a waterfall. Adirondack Waterfall Guide author Russell Dunn suggests picturesque Beaver Meadow Falls and colossal Rainbow Falls, both in Essex County and on tributaries that flow into the East Branch of the Au­sable River. Just a mile apart, they can be ap­preciated from their bases—where you’ll get the best view, says Dunn—during one hike.

4. Sleep in a lean-to. For the ultimate snooze in one of these iconic structures, central Adi­rondacks–based New York State Forest Ranger Greg George [now retired] offers what he calls nice, remote sites at John Pond in the Siamese Ponds Wil­derness Area, near Indian Lake, and Cascade Pond, off the North­ville-Placid Trail, near Blue Mountain Lake.

5. Climb a fire tower. Marty Podskoch, who wrote Adirondack Fire Towers: Their His­tory and Lore, The Northern Districts and The Southern Districts, gives a quartet of must-see structures: the restored one atop Bald Mountain, in Old Forge, which is accessible via a fairly easy trek; Hadley Mountain’s tower, near Lake Lu­zerne, where you can consult an interpretive guide; in Newcomb, Goodnow Mountain’s allows a spectacular scene of area peaks; and the sky cab on Snowy Mountain, near Indian Lake, is where, a hundred years ago, one of the Adirondacks’ first fire-tower observers was stationed to spot backwoods blazes.

6. Tote a pack basket. Old-school guides used these carryalls because they’re comfortable, dur­able and roomy. Marcia Wal­igory, of West Martinsburg, in Lew­is County, weaves and sells the potbellied baskets at Transport a picnic, an in­fant, a pet in one of these packs. The Adirondack Life store also sells pack baskets hand-woven by a local artisan. Or learn to make your own at the Adirondack Folk School, in Lake Luzerne. The next pack basket weaving workshop will be held on June 28.

7. Paddle a motorless lake. Peter Hornbeck, of Hornbeck Boats, in Olmsted­ville, lists Lake Lila and Henderson Lake as his top picks. The former for its sheer beauty, with sandy beaches, islands and gorgeous views; the latter because of its “awesome” High Peaks vistas.

8. Explore a new state land acquisition. Though unofficially open to the public for years under Domtar In­dustries’ ownership, Lyon Mountain, in Clinton County—with 14,400 acres for hiking, hunting and skiing and a new trail to its summit—is now a public resource, ac­cording to the Adirondack chapter of the Nature Conservancy’s Connie Prickett. Classification of the state’s recent purchase of former Finch, Pruyn lands, including the Essex Chain of Lakes Tract between Newcomb and Indian Lake, won’t be decided for months (read more in the 2013 Annual Guide to the Great Outdoors, on newsstands by May 21), but it is expected that public access will be allowed by fall. 

9. Hike one of the 46 highest peaks. Phil Corell, treasurer of the Adirondack 46ers—he’s hiked 21 rounds of the 46, plus five circuits in winter—suggests Gothics and Colden. He says their open rock summits and central locale in the High Peaks Wilderness Area offer unobstructed views of surrounding mountains.

10. Sip an Adirondack cocktail while watching the sunset from an Adi­rondack chair. Recipe for an Adirondack, from A. S. Crockett’s 1935 The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book: 2 oz. gin 2 oz. orange juice Pour the gin into an old-fashioned glass filled with ice. Top with orange juice.