After going out west in April, I was seriously missing the mountains. Jason had one more vacation week left and suggested we do a trip to the Adirondacks, which immediately peaked my interest. Another road trip to the mountains sounded absolutely perfect.
I’ve been to Lake Placid a couple of times as a kid, so I was ecstatic to explore more of it, and I was also excited for Jason to see it all for the first time. So, if you’re interested in seeing everything we got up to, where we stayed, as well as some travel tips—carry on reading!
(Please note, all prices I have listed throughout this post are in US dollars)
Where We Stayed
Rollins Pond Campground
To make our four nights—which turned into five nights—in the Adirondacks more affordable, we decided to camp at Rollins Pond Campground, which we were really happy with. Located in Saranac Lake, Rollins offers spacious sites with plenty of shade and privacy, and most sites are also right on the water. You do have to drive through Fish Creek Pond Campground in order to get to Rollins, but it’s not a huge deal. Fish Creek is also really nice, but it’s less private and has a lot more young families, which is why we opted for Rollins.
The staff working at both campgrounds were friendly and helpful, especially when we decided to book an extra night. Both campgrounds also have showers and flushing toilets (though the one bathroom didn’t have locks on the doors, which I found a little strange). They also have an ice cream truck that comes through both campgrounds during the day/evening, as well as a truck selling bags of ice for $3.00 each.
Rollins also has a boat launch livery site where you can rent canoes, kayaks or rowboats. We wanted to canoe and went with the half day option, which was only $20 (they offer two time slots, which are 7am-1pm and 1pm-7pm). Just remember to buy a non-resident fishing license online if you want to fish.
Cost: $20/night + $5/night for out of state residents.
Where We Hiked
We didn’t actually hike up Whiteface, as we wanted to conserve our energy for our other hikes, as well as save some time. You can hike up Whiteface Mountain, which is a 9.3 mile out and back trail, or you can take the Veteran’s Memorial Highway, which is what we did. The Veteran’s Memorial Highway is a beautiful winding drive up the mountain with a few spots to pullover and snap some pics. From the parking lot, you can either take the Summit Elevator or take the Summit Trail to the top. The Summit Trail is short, but very rocky—it starts off as stairs, but then turns into full on boulders. We decided to take the trail up and then took the elevator on the way down. The top of the summit is amazing with endless views of wild land reaching as far as Vermont and Canada. Though this mountain is a total tourist spot, it’s still definitely a must see.
Cost: $16 for car and driver + $9 for every additional passenger if you choose to drive to the summit.
Indian Head and Rainbow Falls
This was at the top of my to-do list in the Adirondacks. As soon as I saw the photos online I knew I had to see this iconic place for myself, and it did not disappoint whatsoever. This 11.1 mile loop trail makes for a long, but fairly easy hike. The first two miles are pretty uneventful, as you’re hiking up a dirt road, but the deer and brook trout we saw along the way made up for it. At the two mile marker, we took the Gill Brook Trail, which was recommended to us, as it passes numerous waterfalls and then connects with Indian Head. Once we reached the summit, I was absolutely blown away by the view. As you can see from the photos, it opens up into a stunning fjord-like valley over the Lower Ausable Lake, and it is unlike anything I have ever seen before. We spent a good hour at the top taking a ton of photos and just soaking it all in.
After hiking down Indian Head—which leads back to the dirt road—we realized we never passed Rainbow Falls. It sounds like the two are connected when you read about them online, but in reality you take a separate trail to Rainbow Falls. I’m so glad we realized this, as we almost started walking back down the road and would of missed it. The road continues to a dam, where you cross the bridge there and then take a short, narrow trail to Rainbow Falls. The falls are so worth seeing—beautiful and serene, and the perfect place to cool off and recharge before heading back down the long dirt road.
If you plan a trip to the Adirondacks, I strongly recommend putting Indian Head and Rainbow Falls high up on your list. It’s a little tricky to find, as the land is owned by the Ausable Club, but we used the directions on this page, which were extremely helpful. Overall, it took us a little over 6 hours from the car and back, which includes breaks, as well as time spent at the summit and falls.
This smaller mountain is part of ADK (Adirondack Mountain Club), which is a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection and education of New York State’s wild lands and waters. We chose to do Mount Jo, as the 1.8 mile loop trail is short and sweet, and we knew we could do it no problem.
We took the recommendation of short trail up and long trail down, which I would definitely recommend, as the short trail is quite steep and rocky, which would be much more difficult to do going down. Though it’s a short hike up, you’re rewarded with a beautiful view of the High Peaks and Heart Lake. This a great beginner mountain, as it’s just challenging enough, but still easy enough for people of all ages.
Cost: I believe the parking fee was around $10-$12, but I can’t remember exactly.
Other Things We Did
High Falls Gorge
This is a good option for families with small kids or people that don’t like hiking, but in my opinion it’s way too overpriced for how small it is. We hiked Johnston Canyon in Banff, which was free and absolutely amazing, so I was expecting something a little similar, which is why I think I was so let down.
Cost: Summer rates are $12.50 for adults and $9.50 for kids ages 4-12.
Downtown Lake Placid aka Main Street is a great place to go for a leisurely stroll. We headed here Wednesday afternoon, as we needed a day to chill, and this was the one day that was calling for rain. There’s quite a few options in regards to food and shopping, along with other things like the Lake Placid Olympic Museum, as well as the Palace Theatre, which has been around since 1926.
Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf
Something to know about Jason and I is we love playing mini putt. Another thing to know is that Jason always manages to beat me by two or three points. This place reminded me a lot of Smugglers Cove Adventure Golf, which I used to go to as a kid in Florida, so it was hugely nostalgic. There’s also another miniature golf right across the street from this one called Boots & Birdies, which I’m sure we’ll do next time.
Cost: $9.50 for adults and $8.95 for kids ages 4-12 (if you grab a free Adirondack guide in Lake Placid there’s also a coupon for up to $6 off).
Where We Ate
We didn’t eat out too much while we were here, but I figured I would mention two places we did stop at. We wanted to do at least one dinner out, but that never happened, as cracking a beer open at the campsite just sounded so much more appealing after a day of hiking.
We grabbed a quick bite to eat here when we were in Lake Placid, as their pizza looked really good when we walked by. We ordered a medium pizza, which was massive, as well as some Saranac Root Beers and ate outside. It’s really drab inside, so I’d recommend sitting at their picnic tables outside or grabbing takeout, but the pizza we had was cooked perfectly, and just the right amount of grease.
Donnelly’s Soft Ice Cream
Near Saranac Lake, we drove by this tiny ice cream shop multiple times, and after always seeing a crowd we decided we had to try it for ourselves. Turns out this place is an Adirondack favourite for homemade ice cream. Their menu is perhaps smaller than the shop itself, only offering their flavour of the day twisted with vanilla. You just pick your size, pay (cash only) and that’s it. We went on a Tuesday, which was red raspberry with vanilla, which was sweet with just a hint of tartness. This is the perfect sweet treat after a day of hiking, and it was also probably the softest ice cream I have ever eaten.
I think travel tips are always helpful to include, especially if you’re new to hiking. Here’s a few travel tips of my own if you’re planning a summer trip to the Adirondacks:
- AllTrails is extremely helpful, as it offers everything from trail info and maps to reviews and photos. It’s also very useful for figuring out directions and parking.
- If you plan on doing some hikes then please invest in a pair of hiking boots. A lot of these hikes are quite rocky and hiking boots will make it much easier to climb than running shoes. Personally, I prefer hiking boots that are steel-toed and boots over shoes as they offer the extra ankle support.
- This should be obvious, but I can’t stress enough the importance of planning your hikes accordingly, as at the end of the day your safety and well-being are most important. On top of plenty of water and snacks, please pack for all situations. There are plenty of packing lists you can find online, but I might put together one of my own in the future.
- Travel insurance is always a good idea. Better safe than sorry.
- In regards to firewood, a ton of homes sell firewood right off the side of the road, which will be your cheapest option. It’s sold per box and self-serve. The price/size of the box, of course, differs for each property, but we found one place close to Rollins that sold a large box of wood for only $5.
- And finally, McDonald’s will be your best friend for free, reliable WiFi.
‘Til next time Adirondacks!