Backpacking in the Adirondacks: Best Hiking Trails and Loops

The Adirondack Park consists of 6.1 million acres of dense forest, 3,000 waterways, and over 2,000 miles of hiking trails. All of this amazing space and varied terrain make backpacking in the Adirondacks an absolute dream. 

Experience the magic of the Adirondacks by climbing High Peaks, sleeping in lean-tos, and crossing rivers. What better way to do this than backpacking in the Adirondacks?

Backpacking in the Adirondacks

Backpacking in the Adirondacks means primitive camping in lush forests and steep climbs to panoramic views of Upstate New York. There are miles of trails filled with endless natural beauty.

Day hikes are amazing, but some of the top-rated hikes require a night backpacking trip or two. Backpacking trips in the rugged terrain of the Adirondacks might make for a challenging hike, but it’s a popular spot for avid New York State outdoorsmen and women to get outside. 

Best Backpacking Trails in the Adirondacks

Backpacking in the Adirondacks is one of the best ways to experience upstate New York. Take a look at these ten suggestions and choose one of these top-rated hikes for your next adventure. 

1. Pharaoh Lake and Mountain Loop

Parking Lot: Pharaoh Lake Trailhead

Total Miles:  14 miles

If you’re looking for a trip that has a little bit of everything without terrible difficulty, the Pharoah Lake and Mountain Loop is for you. 

Begin at Pharaoh Lake Trailhead and head out through the marshlands to the lake. There are campsites and lean-tos available all around the lake. There’s even a tent side just below the summit of Pharaoh Mountain.

Spend the early evening swimming in Pharaoh Lake before cooking dinner at the campsite. Prepare for a show as this wilderness area is exceptionally dark. This dark skies area might even show you the milky way.

The full loop plus the mountain will bring you all the way around the lake with a quick 2.8 mile round trip out and back to the summit of Pharaoh Mountain.

This is a popular area for backcountry camping as it’s a relatively easy hike to the first few sites. Start early if you’re hoping to camp on a weekend!

2. Lake Tear of the Clouds Loop

Parking Lot: The Adirondack Loj

Total Miles:  24-31 miles

If you want to hike New York’s highest peak, the Lake Tear of the Clouds Loop is the perfect trail for you.

For this loop, you will start and end at the Adirondack Loj. Your trek will take you up a handful of Adirondack High Peaks helping you cross six of New York’s highest mountain peaks off your list. 

You can complete this hike as a loop, or set up a home base at Marcy Dam and complete day hikes.

Either way, you’ll begin your trip by hiking in from the Loj to Marcy Dam. From the Dam, take the trail to Phelps Mountain and summit the 4,161 foot Phelps Mountain. Return the way you came an backtrack a little bit to tent site just before the turn off for the summit trail. 

The following day is a big one! Start by summitting Tabletop (4,427), followed by Mount Marcy (5,344), Skylight (4,924), and Gray Peak (4,840). Tabletop and Gray have herd paths, which simply means the trails are not created or maintained by the state DEC. End this long day at the Camping area where Feldspar Brook meets the Opulescent River. 

Now you have a decision to make. Hike to the summit of Mount Colden from Lake Arnold and continue out through Marcy Dam. This brings your total nights on trail to three. 

You can also choose to extend your backpacking in the Adirondacks by a night and add two additional mountains plus a trip through Avalanche Pass. If this is the route you choose, you’ll climb Cliff (3960) and Redfield (4606) before making camp at the tip of Lake Colden. 

The following day, head up to the summit of Mount Colden (4714) from the shores of Lake Colden and return to the Adirondack Loj via Avalanche Pass and Marcy Dam. 

Adirondack Park A-Z

3. Tongue Range

Parking Lot: Clay Meadows Parking Lot

Total Miles: approximately 15 miles

Experience a hike that checks off the Adirondack’s most popular lake and several of the Lake George 12ster Mountains with the Tongue Range backpacking trip. 

Begin your hike at the Clay Meadows Parking Lot and hike to the summit of Fith Peak (1,798). On the summit, there is a Lean-To! This is a great place to set up camp for the night. 

The following day you will continue on to French Point Mountain (1,736) and First Mountain (1,586). On your way back to the parking lot, stop for some sunbathing at Montcalm Point. 

This is a one-night trip where you will be backpacking in the Adirondacks! While planning your trip, be sure to brush up on regulations and expectations in this particular area. 

4. Dix Range

Parking Lot: Elk Lake Trailhead

Total Miles: approximately 16 miles

Spend one or two nights in the High Peaks Wilderness and knock out five of New York’s highest peaks in the process. 

Begin your hike on the Hunter Pass Trail and make your way to Slide Brook Herd Path Trail Junction. Here you will find a variety of campsites and privies. Choose one and set up camp. 

From here you can complete two smaller loops or one big loop snagging five Adirondack mountains in one day. 

If you choose two smaller loops, the first would consist of Macomb, South Dix, and East Dix. Take the Slide Brook Herd Path up and descend on the Lillian Brook Trail. 

The next loop finishes off the Dix Range with Hough and Dix. Take the Lillian Brook Trail up and descend via the Beckhorn Trail (steeper and shorter) or the Hunter Pass Trail (more mellow and longer).

Return to your campsite for another night or pack up and head out! The hike out would add an additional 2.2 miles to your day. 

It’s important to note, this trail covers over 5,000 feet of total elevation gain if you complete one big loop ascending via the Slide Brook Herd Path and descending via the Beckhorn Trail. If you complete two smaller loops, you will be experiencing even more elevation gain on the trail. 

5. MacIntyre Range 

Parking Lot: The Adirondack Loj

Total Miles: approximately 11 miles

This is a great option for anyone looking to dip their toes into Adirondack High Peaks backpacking trip. It is an out and back which does allow you to summit three High Peaks while keeping your heavy gear at base camp. 

Begin your hike at the Adirondack Loj and head towards Algonquin Peak. At about 2.5 miles in you’ll find a tent site. Set up camp here and spend the night. 

The following day you will continue up the trail to Wright Peak (4,580), the site of a 1962 Airforce Bomber Crash. This summit is known to be incredibly windy, so come prepared.

Continue on to Algonquin (5,114) and Iroquois (4,840). You’ll wind up traveling up and over Alqonguin Peak twice to complete this hike, however, the col between Iroquois and Algonquin isn’t too steep or difficult. 

All three summits provide amazing views of the High Peaks and the surrounding area. Always come prepared for a variety of weather conditions when hiking in the Adirondack Park and be prepared to retreat below the treeline in the event of lightning or high winds. 

If you’re feeling up to it, you can pack out camp the same day that you summit. I recommend spending another night at camp and enjoying an easy hike out of the woods in the morning. This would bring your trip to 2 nights. 

6. Easy Lakes Loop

Parking Lot: Bubb and Sis Lakes Trailhead

Total Miles: approximately 6-7 miles

This is a great opportunity for backpacking in the Adirondacks if you’re a beginner or hiking with children. Enjoy relatively easy terrain, beautiful lowland lake views, and nice shoreline campsites. 

Begin your hike at the Bubb and Sis Lakes Trailhead. Complete the trail continuing on to Moss Lake. When you’ve reached the trail junction, you’ll need to choose to complete the Moss Lake Loop clockwise or counterclockwise. 

The direction you choose doesn’t really matter. In about a mile you’ll hit camping areas on the shoreline of Moss Lake. Choose your favorite site and set up camp! 

Moss Lake is beautiful and rich in history. This 600-acre site was once a girls’ camp. Girl’s from around the state returned year after year to complete activities that improved their self-confidence, athleticism, and leadership skills.

After a night at camp, complete the Moss Lake Loop and return via the trail from which you came. When you return to the parking area, a pit stop in the town of Inlet or Old Forge for a treat from one of their local establishments. Blue Line Coffee House, Dough a Deer, and Ozzies Coffee Bar are my personal favorites! 

7. Cranberry Lake 50

Parking Lot: Gilbert Tract Trailhead

Total Miles: 52-mile loop

This is a great low-elevation hike for anyone looking to spend a couple of days in the woods. There are also a variety of side trips available to those seeking additional adventure. High Falls (.8 miles RT) and Cat Mountain (1.2 miles RT) are popular side quests. 

Start your hike at Gilbert Tract Trailhead and complete the trail clockwise. This puts you on the extra wet part of the trail on the final day of your hike. Additionally, you’ll end your hike with a road walk.

The first part of the trail is mostly flat and absolutely beautiful. Hike the East Connector Trail through the forest until you reach the shorelines of Cranberry Lake. There are a variety of campsite options along the trail.

At 9.5 miles in there’s a lovely campsite overlooking Curtis Pond. This site is amazing because it’s breezy and keeps a lot of the bugs away. About 12 miles in, you’ll reach the Dog Pond Campsite which provides access to a row boat on Dog Pond and a privy. 

When you wake up in the morning you’ll continue along the trail for a distance of your choosing. A shorter day will bring you to the Olmstead Pond Lean To, a great place to spend the night. 

A longer day two on the trail brings you to one of two beautiful sites. Oswegatchie River Site 21 or the High Falls Lean To (additional .8 miles). 

Day three brings wet feet. You’ll cross a handful of beaver dams… and I mean straight up walking on the gnawed on logs of a beaver dam. A long third day will bring you right back to the parking area or you can camp at one of the two sites at Oswegatchie 41/High Rock. 

The hike out is mostly flat and will lead you through the town of Wanakena before sending you back into the woods until Cranberry Lake. Stop at Birches Lakeside General Store at the start of your road walk for a cold beverage, snack, and a T-shirt to commemorate your experience.  

8. Great Range 

Parking Lot: Roostercomb

Total Miles: approximately 20 miles

The Great Range is a point-to-point hike of epic proportions! Summit eight High Peaks over nearly 10,000 total feet of elevation gain.  

You’ll start by taking the trail for Roostercomb. Add an additional mile to your hike by choosing to summit the fairly easy Roostercomb (2,952). From here the hike passes over Hedgehog Mountain before you reach the summit of Lower Wolfjaw (4177). At the next trail junction, turn left and continue on the Wedge Brook Trail for about .4 miles to the campsite.

In the morning, hike back up the Wedge Brook Trail toward Upper Wolfjaw Mountain (4,203), Armstong Mountain (4,331), and Gothics (4675). After lunch continue on to Saddleback (4,511) and Basin (4817). Basin can be a tough summit to maneuver with a full pack so exercise caution.  Travel .7 miles from the summit on the State Range Trail to the Sno-Bird campsite

Today’s the day! You’ll be summitting Marcy, but not before a quick side quest up Mount Haystack (4,915). Be prepared for Haystack’s false summits as there are several of them. Head back to the State Range trail and take it to the Phelps/State intersection. Here you will begin your climb to Mount Marcy (5,343), New York’s highest point. 

After climbing Marcy, begin your descent. After you pass the Phelps Mountain Trail (which you could add to your hike), you’ll come across a few tent sites with a Privy next to Phelps Brook. Stay here for the night and then hike out to the Adirondack Loj in the morning. 

This is a point-to-point trail which means you will need someone to shuttle you back to your car at the Roostercomb Trailhead. The other option is to leave one car at the Loj and another at the Roostercomb Trailhead. This is for you to figure out when you plan the details of your trip! 

9. Northville Placid Trail

Parking Lot: Northville, Waterfront Park 

Total Miles: approximately 136 miles

The Northville-Placid Trail travels through some of the most remote areas of the Adirondacks as it spans from the park’s southern border to one of the Northernmost towns. If you’re looking to be on the trail for a week or longer, this is a great option for you. 

The trail begins at Waterfront Park in Northville. There’s a Stewarts here, so it provides the perfect opportunity for a last-minute meal or snack before you hit the trail for 7 – 10 days. 

Your hike begins with a 3-mile road walk before entering the woods. I recommend keeping day 1 relatively short if you’re not starting super early in the morning and camping at Woods Lake after about 12 miles of hiking. If not, travel an additional 6.4 miles to a tent site at the Godfrey Rd Spur Trail intersection. 

The trail continues through varied terrain, lush forests, and a multitude of water sources. Be prepared for local wildlife, the mosquito, to absolutely control your day through the marshy sections of the trail. If you decide to give it a try in the colder months of September or October, you might have better bug luck. 

On day two or three you’ll pass through Piseco on another 3-mile road walk. Check out the airport bathrooms for running water and a toilet as you hike through!  

Along the way, you’ll travel through Blue Mountain Lake at Lake Durant. You can pay for a shower at Lake Durant if you feel so inclined! This is sadly where my personal attempt of the trial came to an end due to a knee sprain.  

From Lake Durant you’ll continue on to Long Lake, traveling over the highest point of the trail at 3,000 feet. Once you cross 28N in Long Lake, you’re in the home stretch with just over 25 miles remaining before Averyville Road in Lake Placid.

There are seemingly endless lean-tos and campsites on this trail so you’re able to stop and rest or set up camp whenever you feel you need to. Long days on the trail, primitive camping, and great views await on the Northville-Placid Trail. 

10. Trans Adirondack Route

Parking Lot: Southern Park Border on East Road

Total Miles: approximately 240 miles

The Trans Adirondack Route is for thru-hikers seeking solitude. 

Walk nearly 250 miles of New York’s most wild hiking trails. Established in 2013, the Trans Adirondack route covers 5 wilderness areas and 8 wild forests. It quite literally brings you from the Southernmost border to the Northernmost border of the Adirondack State Park. 

Experience historic campsites, local wildlife, and a lot of the region’s most primitive waterways and mountains. The trail takes anywhere from 11 to 20 days to complete and should only be attempted by experienced, well-prepared backpackers. 

Erik Schlimmer created the route to help people immerse themselves in the magic of the Adirondacks. We recommend purchasing the guidebook he wrote with turn-by-turn directions, descriptions, and maps. If you’re interested in giving the Trans Adirondack Route a go, check out the aptly titled book Blue Line to Blue Line.   

Understanding Rules and Regulations When Backpacking in the Adirondacks

Every wilderness area has its own particular set of rules and regulations. The Adirondack High Peaks obviously requires visitors to follow the leave-no-trace ethics alongside a few additional requirements. 

Camp Location

When camping in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness, you should do your very best to camp in undesignated camping areas only. If you need to camp outside of a designated site, you must be at least 150 feet from any road, trail, water body, or waterway,

Additionally, you cannot camp above 3,500 feet unless you’re at a lean-to. This includes summits and any place where there is a sign that explicitly states, “No camping”. 

Food Storage

All food must be stored in a bear canister. Black bears in the Adirondack High Peaks are smart. I don’t recommend using a Bear Vault Canister as the black bears of the region have outsmarted them. 

Not storing your food properly puts you and the animal at risk. Additionally, you can receive a ticket for improper food storage when backpacking in the Adirondacks. 

Group Size

Day-tripping groups are limited to 15 people. This helps to protect resources in the Adirondack Mountains from further decline.

When backpacking in the Adirondacks your group size is limited to 8 people. There are no permits available for larger group sizes. 


In the eastern zone of the High Peaks Wilderness, there are no campfires allowed. 

The Department of Environmental Conservation banned campfires in the High Peaks region due to wildfire danger and wood gathering. 


Pets can join you on most of your Adirondack wilderness hiking. They must be leashed while on the trail, at your campsite, and above 4,000 feet in the Eastern High Peaks region. 

The Adirondack Mountain Reserve, or AMR, prohibits dogs on their property. If your trailhead or trail travels through any part of the AMR, your furry friend is not permitted to join you. 


Although there are places where drones are allowed in the Adirondacks, a majority of the Adirondack Park is drone free. Anywhere motorized vehicles are prohibited, drones cannot fly.

You cannot fly a drone on any state lands classified by the Adirondack State Land Master Plan as “Wilderness”, “Primitive”, or “Canoe”. Additionally, you can’t launch in a legal location and then fly into one where drones are prohibited. 

Adirondack Mountain Reserve

The Adirondack Mountain Reserve consists of 7,000 acres of private land around the Upper and Lower Ausable Lakes. The parking area for these trails is located just southeast of Keene Valley. 

A reservation is required to access this area of the park between May 1 and October 13. Indian Head, one of the most popular lookouts in the park, is accessed from the AMR gate. 

General Leave No Trace

Review the Center for Outdoor Ethics Leave No Trace Principles before you spend time in the outdoors.

The general rule of thumb? Leave outdoor spaces better than you found them. Take only memories and leave only footprints (on durable surfaces).

Backpacking Routes of the Adirondacks

Choose from some of the best hikes in the Adirondack Park for your next backpacking trip! And although I wouldn’t consider any of these a beginner hike, we do have a post sharing the best fall hikes for beginners. Spoiler Alert! These hikes are great in every season so there’s no reason to wait until Fall.  

3 thoughts on “Backpacking in the Adirondacks: Best Hiking Trails and Loops”

  1. Pingback: The 25 Best Things to Do in the Adirondacks –

  2. Heather Lester

    Great set of hikes!! One thought, I’d do a great range traverse in the other direction, specifically because of the Saddleback cliffs, but it also makes the cable route on Gothics more fun going up that section. Most would want to go up the Saddleback cliffs, not down, and definitely not with a huge pack. You can do a loop from the Garden parking area or a traverse from the Loj to the Garden or Roostercomb, but I wouldn’t go the other direction. I avoided the cliffs completely when I did my 46 by going up Ore Bed trail to Saddleback on a lower great range loop. Amazing area!!! And look up John’s Brook Lodge if you do this hike. Great option to stay at the lodge or the Lean tos nearby. Beautiful water, moss, forest. Happy hiking!!

    1. Haha, thanks for the suggestion! I’ve actually hiked all of these as well and there’s a photo of me and my husband standing on the deck of the JBL in our packs somewhere in this post! It is a great option for sure, but personally, I would use it as a home base for out and backs as opposed to coming all the way down to it for a night and then making my way back up… that’s a lot of work hehe!! Happy Trails ❤️

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