Many outdoor enthusiasts have heard of the 46 Adirondack High Peaks: They are a series of mountains above 4,000 feet in elevation in New York State. While there is plenty of diversity and excitement to be found in this part of the atmosphere that hovers around the tree line, there are dozens of other peaks below this threshold that can be equally challenging and impressive to summit. Whether it’s the West Canada Lake Wilderness, the Dix Mountain Wilderness, the High Peaks Wilderness, or the Giant Mountain Wilderness, there are hundreds of trails and treks below the higher altitudes that are very beautiful and worth hiking. Given the surge in popularity across the Adirondacks, some of these lesser-known trails are perfect to challenge yourself. In doing so, you will gain a new perspective on the largest public protected area in the contiguous United States. Here is a short list of some great adventures to get you started.
Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain can be recognized by its stunning cliff side that faces east and provides a stark contrast to the local landscape. Located in the Taylor Pond Wild Forest, this 2,180-foot mountain is a very popular, highly trafficked destination in the northeastern Adirondacks. There are two trails that lead to the top, and this adventure description follows the Observer’s Trail. It is a 5-mile round-trip route that climbs approximately 1,500 feet to the summit. Atop this momentous peak stands a fire tower with incredible 360-degree views that span from the High Peaks, across Lake Champlain, and to the Green Mountains in Vermont.
Pharaoh Mountain is a central feature of the 46,283-acre Pharaoh Mountain Wilderness. Located in the southern Adirondacks, this summit offers several wide open, incredible lookouts to peer across the surrounding landscape in all directions. A trek to the peak's summit takes some time, effort, and a 2,000-foot gain, but with the challenge comes a wonderfully scenic reward. From the end of Crane Pond Road you will complete a route that is approximately 10 miles round-trip, on a long dirt road, past a few ponds and marsh areas, and up a pine covered trail to the rocky mountaintop.
Tucked back along the edge of the High Peaks Wilderness is a popular 2,876-foot mountain called Mount Jo that peers out into the Adirondack High Peaks. The mountain was named by Adirondack pioneer Henry Van Hoevenberg after his fiancée, Josephine Schofield, in 1877. There are two trails leading to the summit of Mount Jo, a 710-foot ascent: The Long Trail is easy, measuring 1.3 miles, while the Short Trail is steeper and more difficult, measuring 1.1 miles. Along the way, hikers will encounter a variety of species of trees and birds and, upon arriving at the summit, a summit host to answer questions about the area.
Roaring Brook Falls is one of the most popular waterfalls in the Adirondacks due to its size and ease of access. Its upper reaches can even be seen in passing from the road. For those taking the time to actually stop and visit the falls, it is well worth the trip to both the bottom and the top. The trail to the base of the falls is flat, wide, and only 0.3 miles. To reach it, take a right at the fork in the trail. Depending on the flow of the river, more adventurous hikers can scramble partway up the face of the falls and look directly up at the narrow band of water cascading down the mountainside.
Out on the far side of Keene Valley, Jay Mountain rests away from the usual Adirondack 46er crowds at the intersection of Jay Mountain Road and Upland Meadows Road. It boasts spectacular 360-degree views of the Adirondack High Peaks, Whiteface Mountain, and Lake Champlain. The trail was redesigned in 2012 by the Adirondack Mountain Club and Student Conservation Association, an effort commissioned by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. It now meanders and switchbacks up to a lesser summit for 2.5 miles before traversing 1.5 miles of open ridge to the 3,600-foot summit.
Formally adopted by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in 2014, Cobble Lookout is a relatively new hiking destination that is family friendly and very rewarding due to its spectacular 180-degree view of the Adirondacks. This lookout is a broad rubble ledge with a sheer dropoff. The overlook is located on the eastern side of Morgan Mountain of the Stephenson Range in the Wilmington Wild Forest. The well-marked blue-blazed trail proceeds through the forest on a mostly level grade with only a 250-foot elevation gain over 1.3 miles. The broad view from the lookout gets hikers up close to Esther Mountain (4,240 feet) and Whiteface Mountain (4,867 feet), two of the Adirondack's 46 High Peaks.