To the slopes, trails, and waters: The 7 best adventures in Lake Placid, New York

December 18, 2015                 4m read time
Barbie Carpenter


Talk about a misnomer. With dozens of trails to explore and mountains to ski, Lake Placid is far from, well, placid. Read on for our seven favorite adventures.

The world’s best athletes converged upon Lake Placid for the Winter Olympics not once but twice. And it’s easy to see the snowy appeal. Sitting on the shores of serene Mirror Lake under the shadows of the Adirondacks, the area is mainly known for skiing. But don’t sit out the summers—Lake Placid delivers year-round gold-medal adventures. Whether hiking the peaks or mountain biking along steep trails, everyday athletes will find much to explore here. Ski down the slopes at one of the many resorts, whitewater raft the Hudson River, or watch cascading waterfalls. If a medal is what you’re still after, sign up for the annual Ironman competition in July. You’ll swim, bike, and run against the best of the best.

1. Head to the Gorge

High Falls Gorge near Lake Placid Jim Liestman

High Falls Gorge near Lake Placid

Jim Liestman

 

High Falls Gorge is a privately owned, 22-acre nature park located in nearby Wilmington. Take advantage of the park’s well-groomed 1/2-mile walk across glass-bottomed bridges to four waterfalls. More experienced hikers can climb a 1-mile trail that challenges you with steep inclines and uneven footbeds. From lush vegetation in the spring to blooming wildflowers in the summer to multi-hued foliage in the fall, this nature trail offers a rotating gallery of seasonal beauty. Bring home a piece of the Gorge by mining for gemstones at AuSable River Mining Company. Whatever sparklers you find, you take home, so dig deep for a dazzling souvenir.

2. Hit the Slopes

Snowy mountains in Lake Placid Christophe

Snowy mountains in Lake Placid

Christophe

 

Lake Placid is home to the Olympic Sports Complex, so snowsports are expected, if not required, when you visit during the winter. This complex delivers 31 miles of marked trails for ski bunnies and 10 marked loops for cross-country enthusiasts. At the Mount Van Hoevenburg Cross Country and Biathlon Center, sign up for 2-hour downhill skiing lessons with certified instructors who will guide you to Josie’s Cabin, where you can enjoy complimentary hot cocoa and s’mores by the fire. Nordic skiers looking to test their endurance should hit the 35-mile Jackrabbit Ski Trail. You can tackle it in about 10 hours or you can extend the adventure by splitting up the journey into a few days and staying at local inns along the trail.

3. Climb Jay Mountain

Jay Mountain near Lake Placid Jack C

Jay Mountain near Lake Placid

Jack C

 

Nestled in the northeast portion of the Adirondacks sits Jay Mountain, a 3,600-foot peak known for its long, open, rocky ridgeline. Climb the newly renovated 2 ½-mile trail to the summit. On your way up, you’ll navigate through birch, oak, and maple forests. Strap on your hard hat because the local squirrels are known to say “hi” by tossing acorns at your heads (an irksome game known to locals as “beanings”). At the top, you’ll be rewarded with 360-degree views of the Adirondacks and wilderness stretching all the way to Vermont.

4. Rip down the Hudson

Rafters on the Hudson River near Lake Placid Adirondac Rafting Company

Rafters on the Hudson River near Lake Placid

Adirondac Rafting Company

 

A trip down the Hudson River will deliver some thrills, especially for springtime adventurers. For rougher currents and more challenges, sign up for the Adirondac Rafting Company’s 17-mile whitewater rafting excursion in the spring, when the melting snow causes the river to swell. Be ready to hang on as you face waves that appear to be several stories high. If that image sends chills down your spine, delay your visit until June, when calmer and warmer waters offer a family-friendly adventure for all ages. Regardless of when you take on the rapids, wear old sneakers or water shoes, and layer long underwear beneath your wetsuit so your trip down the Hudson doesn’t leave you shivering.

5. Get Cultured at Lake Placid Center for the Arts

Inside Lake Placid Arts  Lake Placid Arts

Inside Lake Placid Arts 

Lake Placid Arts

 

Take a breather from outdoor adventure and enjoy a taste of local culture at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts. Watch the Metropolitan Opera in HD, grab tickets to a short film festival, or attend a throwback movie night (featuring throwback ticket prices—cha-ching!). The LPCA offers something for the whole family, whether the kids want to see a performance by the children’s theater or you want to get your Pinterest on by making a masterpiece (like a DIY snow globe) at one of the craft classes. When you wrap up, head across the street for dinner at Jalapenos. Spice up your night by trying the fiery Leprechaun sauce or ordering a shot of one of the 170 types of tequila at the bar.

6. Test Your Rock Climbing Skills

Notch Mountain Slabs in the Adirondack's in Lake Placid Jenica

Notch Mountain Slabs in the Adirondack's in Lake Placid

Jenica

 

Rock climbers love the variety of challenges in Lake Placid. Experienced climbers can take on Wallface, a traditional climb with seven pitches. With 800 feet of steep rock, it’s New York’s most gnarly cliff. Gothics, the Adirondacks’ 10th tallest mountain, is also a climber’s paradise. But come prepared—you’ll need crampons, an ice pick, and an ice ax along with a sense of adventure. Beer Walls, a popular crag in Keene Valley, has easy top-roping and 31 routes. Beginners should try Barkeater Cliff, which features plenty of routes in the 5.5 to 5.8 range.

7. Cycle and sightsee

Bikers have plenty of trails to explore around Lake Placid. Spend the day weaving through trails adjacent to the Lake Placid Club and Resort golf courses, where you can take on a vast trail network. Try the Cinderella Story trail. It might have a sweet name, but its 155-foot climb makes it far more challenging than a carriage ride to the ball. Looking for an easier ride? Cycle the Twisted Sister or Flying Wasp trails, which offer moderate inclines. For a gentle ride, head east out of town on Route 86 to neighboring Wilmington, where you can pedal around Lake Everest’s flat 25-mile loop. For a real workout, hop on the Ironman route, a 112-mile two-loop tour around the area. Whatever your endurance level, shimmy into that Spandex, and get riding!

Barbie Carpenter

Barbie Carpenter is a freelance writer and editor and self-proclaimed grammar enthusiast based in Lexington, Kentucky. When she’s not polishing prose, she’s spending time with her husband and two young children, exploring the Bluegrass region, and planning her next trip to the beach.

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