Here are a few ideas for Adirondack autumn hikes that probably won't be so crowded

view from Spruce Mountain fire tower Cristin Steding

The view from the Spruce Mountain fire tower.

By Cristin Steding

It seems like each year more and more people are on the trails in the Adirondacks. And with peak foliage season quickly approaching, it's about to get a lot more crowded.

While the DEC grapples with how to handle the increased traffic -- a recent move included trying to drastically reduce the amount of parking at one of the most popular trailheads -- it's probably a good idea to check out some less crowded hikes in the meantime.

Scrolling through the #adirondacks hashtag on Instagram, you might think there were only a handful of hikes in the region. The familiar v-shaped vista of Indian Head, people holding up fingers for the number of High Peaks they've hiked, and the panoramic views from Cascade dominate.

But there are literally hundreds of other hikes in New York, many with views just as good -- and you don't have to leave your house at 4 am to get a parking spot.

Here are some hidden gem hikes in the Adirondacks that are likely to give you fall foliage views without the crowds...

A reminder: Any time you're hiking, you should be be prepared with proper footwear, clothing, gear, and water. Check the weather forecasts (which can change quickly) and trail advisories for the area you'll be hiking. And practice proper trail etiquette, including leave no trace. This article is no substitute for a map or guidebook or experience.

Spruce Mountain

Just outside Saratoga, Spruce Mountain is the perfect casual hike: not too far from town, not too long (3.1 miles), and a steady grade the whole way up. Somehow, despite all that, it's also tends to be uncrowded. There aren't any views from the summit, but there is a fire tower. Once you climb above the tree line on the tower, you'll be rewarded with 360-degree views of the surrounding foothills and in the distance the Adirondacks. trail map

Stewart Mountain

If you're looking for something short and sweet, Stewart Mountain near Lake George delivers picturesque views for minimal effort. A little less than 1 mile long, this hike makes a great pit stop before dinner on a weekend afternoon. Or even better yet, bring a picnic to take in the lake views. trail map

Cat Mountain

Five Ponds Wilderness Area Cat Mountain
photo: Wikipedia user Aepstein607 (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Excellent views and no crowds await at this mountain hidden in the Five Ponds Wilderness area of the Adirondacks. (This is not the same Cat Mountain as in Lake George). The hike begins at the Wanakena trailhead and partially follows the shoreline of Cranberry Lake before swinging up the mountain and ending with sweeping views of the surrounding forest. The trip clocks in at 9.7 miles. But if you're up a different sort of adventure, you can shave off almost 5 miles by boating in via Cranberry Lake. trail map

Snowy Mountain

For the High Peaks experience without the High Peaks crowds, check out Snowy Mountain in Indian Lake, a challenging 7-mile hike. While not the longest distance on this list, it is the most difficult, with 2,100 feet of elevation gain over the course of the hike. For your efforts, however, you'll likely be rewarded with relatively empty trails and breathtaking views. trail map

Mount Adams

Near the High Peaks, but off the busy trails, is Mount Adams. This peak features a fire tower with some of the best views in the Adirondacks. The steep 5-mile hike also includes two river crossings. (One of them is the beginning of the Hudson!) So be prepared and extra cautious. Once you get to the top, however, you'll be rewarded with an awe-inspiring view of the surrounding High Peaks. Best of all, you can be having brunch in Keene by noon. trail map

Cristin Steding is a freelance writer and founder of Upstate Club, a guide to outdoor living in upstate New York. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram.


+ A handful of Adirondack fall hiking suggestions that are not the High Peaks

+ Instead of the High Peaks this autumn...


Camp Little Notch, in Fort Ann, NY hosts some really cool hikes.

You need to look for the events on the Camp Little Notch facebook page to find out when, but there is a Civil War era iron blast furnace in the middle of a nice loop trail, which also has cellar holes and cool old walls. Great for kids!

They have Open House/Open Hiking this coming Sunday (Oct 7) noon to 5pm, and then they host a Black Friday Open Hiking Day, which is great because you go by the Exit 20 outlets on the way there and can do some shopping then hike!

These are great, but a lot of people are hiking the High Peaks precisely BECAUSE they're 15+ mile, 3000'+ hikes. Unfortunately alternatives like the hikes listed here aren't going to appeal to someone actively seeking that kind of a challenge. That said, the High Peaks attract a lot of people who aren't prepared for the intensity, and these hikes would be great starting points for anyone aspiring to the challenge who isn't an experienced hiker already. But at the end of the day, I think the DEC is going to have to institute daily limits if they're serious about cutting down on the traffic on the most popular routes... redirecting people to alternatives will only do so much.

Punitive parking regulations is Albany's outreach to Adirondacks.
Instead of, you know, accommodating people who bring business to the area lets restrict-fine-cease-end-desist. Of course, they could've arranged a gravel or even a grass parking lot someplace away from the trailhead and run a paid shuttle bus, but no, let's aggravate people under the guise of safety.

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