Yellowstone is known for its must-see hydrothermal features. Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic are some of the most viewed National Park sights in the whole country. Luckily, they aren’t the only sights worth seeing inside the park! There are so many other-worldly hydrothermal features to experience during your visit.
10 Must-See Hydrothermal Features in Yellowstone
Lone Star Geyser
Location: Lone Star Geyser Basin (backcountry)
Do you want to experience a backcountry geyser that spews water over 40 feet high every couple of hours? Look no further than Lone Star Geyser. This backcountry geyser is a true sight to see. The trailhead is located 3.5 miles south of Old Faithful. The best part of it is that you can choose to hike or bike the 4.2 miles to this cone-shaped geyser; biking certainly cuts the time it would take you to hike it. The Lone Star Geyser erupts over 45 feet nearly every 3 hours. Check the visitor’s center near Old Faithful for predicated eruption times!
Location: Midway Geyser Basin
Do you want to visit Yellowstone National Park’s second most popular hydrothermal feature? At 121 feet deep, this hot spring is one of Yellowstone’s most visited hydrothermal features. Take a walk along the boardwalk at dawn to feel like you stepped foot on mars. If you want a good look at the rainbow colors Grand Prismatic is known for, definitely hike the overlook trail. This was one of Yellowstone’s best hydrothermal features by far and it did not disappoint.
Location: Norris Geyser Basin
Do you want to witness the tallest active geyser in the world? Head to Norris Geyser Basin and hike the back basin to see the world’s tallest active geyser. Steamboat Geyser has two vents approximately 20 feet apart, a northern and a southern. The north vent is responsible for the tallest water columns while the south vent’s water columns are shorter. The Steamboat Geyser recorded over 40 eruptions recorded annually, however, it isn’t as predictable as other Yellowstone favorites.
Location: Upper Geyser Basin
She’s called Old Faithful for a reason! Since the year 2000, Old Faithful has erupted every 45 minutes to two hours. You can expect 100+ feet of water to erupt every 82 minutes from the first names geyser in Yellowstone National Park. This is a hot spot in the park – meaning it experiences thousands of visitors a day. If you want to experience it up close and personal without too many guests, get there in the early morning hours or around sunset.
Location: Mammoth Hot Springs
Honestly, the travertine terraces are otherworldly. Walking the boardwalk around Mammoth Hot Springs is such a beautiful, albeit busy, sight to see. This trail is mostly accessible, as it consists of boardwalks and ramps. These ramps, however, have some steep grades! This spot is a must-see as it changes rapidly and drastically. From year to year, you might not recognize the terraces.
Location: Upper Geyser Basin
When you visit Old Faithful leave the boardwalks and head up the overlook trail. Complete the full loop to not only avoid hundreds of visitors but also see Solitary Geyser. Solitary geyser erupts every 4 to 8 minutes. The geyser only reaches about 6 feet in height, but it’s in a beautiful spot that offers a whole lot of solitude only 20 minutes from the parking lot.
Location: West Thumb Geyser Basin
When you think of the most picturesque hot spring, this is what comes to mind. See it in real life. The most crystal clear, blue water you will ever see lives in the abyss pool. This 53-foot deep pool holds 1.5 million cubic feet of 181-degree water. The West Thumb Geyser Basin provides really unique views of Yellowstone Lake.
Canary Hot Spring
Location: Mammoth Hot Springs
You may come to Yellowstone while this fickle Spring is dormant. And if so, that’s alright! It’s located quite close to Travertine Terraces so you won’t have wasted a trip when another of Yellowstone’s must-see hydrothermal features is so near. Canary spring was named for its bright yellow coloring. The yellow coloring comes from sulfur-dependent bacteria; like all of the hot springs, their coloring depends largely on their temperature. Certain colored bacteria thrive in different temperatures which make the pools the colors you see.
Location: West Thumb Geyser Basin
Fishing Cone is a hot spring in West Thumb Geyser Basin. This geyser received its name in the 1900s from fishermen boiling their catch the cone. Earlier in the 20th century, this cone had 40 foot high eruptions, however, it’s a lot more mellow these days. When you pass by on the boardwalk, you’ll notice a lot of little fish enjoying their warm lake water in this area. It’s so neat to see geysers under the surface of Yellowstone Lake. There are such unique hydrothermal features at West Thumb!
Dragon’s Mouth Spring
Location: Mud Volcano
You can find this spring on a heavily trafficked boardwalk loop. Dragon’s Mouth Spring boils out of a deep cave where gasses and steam are released deep in the cave which creates a gurgling noise that is echoed through the cave and can be heard from the boardwalk. The high temperature of the water causes large amounts of steam to rise from the mouth of the cave, like the mouth of a dragon. Dragon mouth Spring has captured the attention of travelers since the early days of the park and continues to do so.
Mountain Biking Trails in Yellowstone can be hard to come by. You’re not going to find any single-track, well-groomed flow trails in this National Park, but there are plenty of trails that welcome cyclists. If you plan accordingly, biking to some of Yellowstone’s coolest sights can also save you time on your next visit!
Are there biking trails in Yellowstone National Park?
Yes, there are biking trails in Yellowstone National Park. It is a great place for biking! There are a number of trails that are open to biking throughout the park. Additionally, road bikers can enjoy miles of scenic routes – late Spring is the best time for road bikers to experience Yellowstone. There’s always a short period of time in late Spring and early Fall where the park road are closed to vehicles and open to biking.
Where can I bike in Yellowstone?
Although there may not be any single track mountain biking trails withing the park, there are so many great trails you can ride to experience more of Yellowstone!
The Natural Bridge Trail is a fun one! It follows an unused road from the West Sie of Yellowstone Lake to a natural arch in the rhyolite plateau. Although the bridge is not one of Yellowstone’s major attractions, it’s worth a quick bike ride. The best views come from the backside of the bridge – you can climb up to and over the bridge from the viewpoint at the bottom. This trail is often closed in late Spring/early Summer to avoid Grizzly bears hunting for trout in the creek.
Lone Star Geyser is by far one of the coolest geysers the park has to offer. When it erupts, it spews 45 feet high from a 12-foot cone for 20 minutes at a time. This is a well-known biking trail in Yellowstone National Park. You’ll arrive there via a partially paved road that follows the fire hole river for 2.4 miles. At the bike rack (yup, there’s a bike rack at the end) you’ll walk 50 feet to a great viewing area. Find a spot on a comfy log and enjoy a snack! The Lone Star Geyser erupts every 3 hours or so.
Fountain Flat Drive connects the Nez Perce Picnic area with Grand Loop Road near Midway Geyser Basin and Prismatic Spring. It’s a gravel road that’s only open to hikers and cyclists. You can use this road to access Goose Lake, Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook, Fairy Falls Trail head, and the Firehole River. It’s a beautiful ride and a great way to get away from the crowds. We rode the trail to the Fairy Falls trail head, stored our bikes, and hiked to beautiful waterfall views.
Bring your bikes when you spend time at Old Faithful! The paved path between the Old Faithful Lodge and Morning Glory Pool is only 2 miles round-trip, but it’s a quick way to see three really amazing geysers. Make sure you stop at Castle Geyser, one of the oldest geysers in the basin. Daisy Geyser and Riverside Geyser are other viewpoints along the way. Additionally, there is a short trail from Daisy Geyser to Biscuit Basin that is also open to bikes. Bikes are not allowed on the boardwalk. This spot becomes incredibly busy throughout the day so the best biking occurs in the morning hours.
This long loop begins at the railhead of Bunsen Peak. This strenuous ride starts out mostly flat before becoming steep and winding. It drops 960 feet in 2.5 miles as it nears Glan Creek. At Glen Creek is meets the Golden Gate Service Road where it begins to follow the Glen Creek drainage steeply back uphill until it meets Grand Loop Road. You will finish your ride on Grand Loop Road heading back to the trailhead.
If you don’t want to ride on Grand Loop Road or bike the full 10 miles, there is another option. You can ride from the Bunsen Peak Trailhead to the Osprey Falls Trailhead and back for 6.5 miles. There are no bikes allowed on the Osprey Falls Trail so you’ll have to complete a hike and bike if you want to visit the falls!
The only biking trail in Yellowstone National Park that will bring you to the summit of a mountain! If you’re up for the challenge, you ride three miles to the top of Mount Washburn. This steep ride on a dirt and gravel road is not for everyone; you will gain 1,500 feet in 2.5 miles. If you want to bike yourself up to 10,000 feet, this is the trail for you!
The Old Gardiner Road Bike Trail is a dirt and gravel road that begins just behind Mammoth Hot Spring hotel. It’s one of the most sought out biking trails in Yellowstone. This road is one way for automobiles, however, bikes can travel in both directions. The trail is 5 miles in one direction; traveling north consists of steep downhill while traveling south is mostly steep uphill. Mountain bikes are recommended for this trail.
This is a great place to stop when you enter the Western park entrance to stretch your legs and enjoy Yellowstone’s beauty! As you could imagine, this trail brings you along a riverside; it’s a great place to watch deer, elk, and moose form afar.
Ride the Roads!
Riding the roads from one place to another is a great way to avoid sitting in traffic and waiting for a parking spot. Unless you road bike and plan to ride some serious mileage, I would keep the road biking to ‘local’ places. For example, when staying in Canyon Village, we rode to Inspiration Point. Taking the bikes to grab a bite to eat or check out the visitor’s center is a great idea as well!
Biking Tips for Yellowstone
Biking is great, however, it doesn’t come without some added risk. Take a look at these 6 tips for an enjoyable biking experience in Yellowstone National Park.
Bike with bear spray and know how to use it.
Wear a helmet, duh.
Wear bright-colored clothing.
Modify your biking route if animals are on the road.
Weather can change quickly and unpredictably
Look for a bike symbol at trail heads.
Explore National Parks
National Parks are the real deal! There are so many amazing ways to experience nature. From biking trails in Yellowstone National Park, to hiking East Coast Mountains at Acadia National Park, and everything in between… nature is neat and there are so many amazing way to experience it.
The Wild Center is beautiful, entertaining, and well worth your time. It’s combines art, nature, play, and education into a calculated, thoughtful masterpiece.
The campus includes hiking trails, creative play spaces, river access, innovative sustainable buildings, opportunities for educational, and so much more. It’s an awesome destination for families with children and those of us who are kids at heart.
How Long Do I Need At the Wild Center?
I think this is dependent on a few things. In four hours my fiance and I experienced Forest Music, the Indoor Living River Trail, Two Animal Encounters, the Wild Walk, the Stickworks exhibit, and took a quick trip to the playground. We’re fairly efficient individuals, but took our time to enjoy the playful otters after their nap, to read every ounce of information on the River Walk, and to take too many photos!
The good new is that your ticket to The Wild Center it good for two days of admission! If you find yourself wanting more time, you can always come back the following day at no extra cost.
What Can I Do Outside at The Wild Center?
With 115 acres, there’s nearly endless opportunities to enjoy the outdoors at The Wild Center. Aside from the Wild Walk, there are plenty of trails for you to meander through the forest on. The Forest Music trail is my personal favorite. Forest Music is an immersive sound trail featuring local artwork and a soundtrack that was created specifically for this art exhibit. It’s a treat for the senses and left me feeling incredibly relaxed; I wanted to walk another lap.
You can also hit the water while you’re here. Graduate from a river walk to a river paddle by booking a canoe trip. New York State licensed canoe trips run every Saturday and Sunday through mid-October starting at 1 PM. This is a great way to explore the Adirondacks further. If paddling isn’t for you, I suggest checking out the Pines Wild Play Area. It’s an amazing space designed for kids to explore and be creative. I love that everything is natural and allows visitors to really use their imagination to create their fun! When we checked it out we were the only kids there, so we made sure to have some fun.
What is the Wild Walk?
Elevate your walk in the woods by taking it to the next level, literally. Ever wonder what the Adirondacks look like from the treetops? Well, the Wild Walk will provide you with the perfect experience. Travel along a trail of bridges and walkways, through tree houses, and into the nest. Take your time taking in the 360 degree views of the Tupper Lake Region.
Be sure to stop by the spider web before you leave the trees and return to ground-level. Experience what it feels like to hang high above the forest floor before you continue to explore the 115-acre campus. Visitors of all ages and abilities will thoroughly enjoy this unique view of the Adirondack Park.
What Kind of Animals Live Here?
You may not believe it, but the Wild Center is home to over 900 living Adirondack native species. Species include otters, porcupines, owls, snakes, fish, and more!
You can experience these animals in a variety of ways. Check out the animal viewing window, the outdoor otter play yard, the indoor river trail, or get up close and personal with these Adirondack animal ambassadors during a Creature Feature. Naturalists will answer any and all questions you might have about the Animals at the Wild Center. They’re incredibly informative, kind, and knowledgeable! You can see which animals are being featured for the day on the Wild Center Website.
What is There to do Inside at The Wild Center?
The Indoor Live River Walk is truly one of the neatest indoor exhibits I have ever experienced. This dynamic walking tour begins in the alpine zone of the Adirondacks beloved 4,000 footers and descends, making 12 different stops, into the less visited bogs and marshlands. As you travel the one-way loop through forests and alongside rivers, you’ll observe and learn about different habitats and wildlife. Be sure to download The Wild Center mobile app for access to the audio content that aligns with each stop along the way.
The River Walk is also home to a water playground, where visitors can watch The Wild Center’s resident fish, turtles, and otters. The large glass tank makes up close viewing of fish and turtles absolutely amazing for the little ones! It’s as if they’re under water with them. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch the otters after a nap so you can see how curious and playful they are. It’s a very beautiful and relaxing place to be.
The one-way loop will bring you to the Main Hall, where you’ll have access to the expanded Wild Supply store. There were a lot of really great quality items in here to commemorate your experience with.
Additionally, The Wild Center is home to Flammer Theater. The theater is currently closed due to the inability to properly social distance, however, it normally features two films. A Matter of Degrees was produced exclusively for The Wild Center and shows the true history of the Adirondacks. The Wild Adirondacks provides stunning images of the most wild parts of the park that most of us are simply not lucky enough to see. When the theater reopens, it’s definitely worth a watch!
What Will My Children Learn From The Wild Center?
Seriously – they’ve outdone themselves. As an educator, I am floored by how many amazing opportunities The Wild Center has for our youth to learn about the Adirondacks. There are science based activities, virtual field trips, junior naturalists programs, cultural education, and more to be had both in-person and virtually. If you have a curious little explorer or two at home, you should really plan a trip to The Wild Center. Check out all of their online resources leading up to your trip to get excited. Visit The Wild Center’s educational tab on their website to learn more specifics!
Should I Visit the Wild Center?
Take a walk on the wild side and see the Adirondacks from a brand new perspective. There aren’t very many places where you walk among the treetops one minute and experience an indoor river walk the next. The Wild Center should be on everyone’s list when they visit the Adirondacks!
If you leave the Wild Center and you’re looking to explore more of the beautiful Adirondack Mountains, try out the Tupper Lake Triad. The Tupper Lake Triad is a local hiking challenge. If you hike all three mountains, you earn a patch! It’s a great challenge for families looking to get outdoors together and into hiking.
Grand Teton National Park is absolutely stunning. Of all the National Parks I have been to, this one has the most wow factor. It is simply the most dramatic mountain range I’ve ever witnessed. Let’s set you up for a memorable day of fun in the Grand Tetons!
Can You Spend One Day in the Grand Tetons?
Although I would suggest a longer stay, you can see a a whole lot of beauty in one day in the Grand Tetons. If you’re willing to create a one day plan and stick to it, you will have an amazing experience in Grand Teton National Park no matter how long you have to spend there.
How Do I Spend One Day in the Grand Tetons?
You can spend one day in the Grand Tetons taking in mountain views, swimming in alpine lakes, and observing wildlife in their natural habitat if you know how to plan it right! I’m going to help you plan your most memorable trip yet with these optional activities. You can even piece multiple suggestions together for an action packed day!
Take A Scenic Drive
Take a Grand Teton Driving Tour. The 42 mile scenic drive loop through Grand Teton National Park provides visitors with intimate views of the Tetons and the chance to spot wildlife in the surrounding wilderness.
Some people choose to pay a guide to drive them through the loop, while others take on the driving and guiding themselves. The park consists of two main roads, the inner road and the outer road. The inner road is within the park’s boundaries and requires park admission ($35 for the week). It brings you up close and personal with the Grand Tetons and provides access to many trailheads, lakes, and photo hot spots!
Both the inner and outer road have amazing pull offs and viewpoints. An early morning drive will provide you with the best lighting and the best opportunity to see wildlife as well!
Have a Lazy Lake Day
Are you looking for a laid back day on the lake with amazing views? Hang out on the rocky shores of Jackson lake for an amazing summer chill day. Bring a camp chair and a picnic lunch to the swimming beach at Colter Bay to cool off on a sunny day. I suggest bringing footwear you can get wet as the beach consists of large rocks.
String Lake is another popular swimming location in the Grand Tetons. It is shallow and sandy, making it a great place for families to picnic. Many guests bring paddle boards and kayaks to String Lake as well.
Take a Hike: A Short One
The Taggart Lake hike is perfect for all skill levels. At around 3.5 miles for the loop and only a couple hundred feet of elevation gain, this is an easy way to escape the crowds. Enjoy views of the Teton Range from a beautiful alpine lake. If the lake seems crowded, head up the trail towards Bradley Lake for 3-5 minutes to find a quiet and calm shoreline.
Take a Hike: A Longer, Flatter One
The Hermitage Point Trail is a 10 mile out and back with beautiful views of The Teton Range and Jackson Lake. The trail traverses through forests, meadows, and wetlands. It doesn’t have any significant elevation gain, however, I would consider it rolling terrain. Try to hike in a party of 3 or more, carry bear spray, and stay alert; this if prime wildlife habitat and you are likely to see some beautiful animals if you’re exploring at the right time of day.
Take a Hike: A Long One with Elevation Gain
Cascade Canyon to Lake Solitude is a very long day hike with a huge payoff. At 20 miles round trip, I only suggest this hike to well-prepared hikers who are confident they can hike 20 miles in a day. If you take the ferry across Jenny Lake, this hike drops down to about a 14 mile hike round trip.
This beauty will take you around Jenny Lake and then up to hidden falls and inspiration point before leading you through Cascade Canyon. The Canyon is absolutely stunning and provides phenomenal, up-close views of Grand Teton. The canyon hike itself is fairly flat until you reach the North Fork; from this trail junction on to Lake Solitude is a steady climb. This hike is difficult and time consuming, however, it boasts some of the best views in the park..
Take A Boat Ride
The Jenny Lake shuttle service will bring you back and forth across the lake. Head to the east boat dock at Jenny Lake, purchase the fare, and board the boat to cross the lake. From there you can take a quick hike up to hidden falls and inspiration point for some beautiful views.
Boat, Paddle, or Raft
There is a lot of water in Grand Teton National Park. Spending on day in the Grand Tetons might look like a boat ride, canoe or kayak trip, or even a white water rafting adventure. Within the park you can rent boats, kayaks, canoes, and paddle boards at Colter Bay on Jackson Lake. At Jenny Lake you can rent non-motorized canoes and kayaks to explore the water.
Many visitors bring their own water crafts to the Grand Tetons. One Day in the Grand Tetons might look like a canoe trip down the Snake River. All boats entering Grand Teton National Park Waters require an AIS inspection. Once your watercraft passes inspection, the opportunities from fun are endless!
Booking a whitewater rafting tour on the Snake River is a popular option for many visitors. If this interests you, be sure to do your research and choose a company you’re excited to raft with!
The wildlife in Grand Teton National Park is diverse and abundant. Because it is one of the largest intact temperate ecosystems in the world, many moose, beavers, bears, sandhill cranes, bison, wolves, and elk call the park home.
The top three locations to see wildlife in the Grand Tetons are Schwabachers Landing, Oxbow Bend, and on Moose Wilson Road. You’re more likely to spot wildlife at sunrise and sunset which makes wildlife observation the perfect add-on to your one day in the Grand Tetons activity.
This one is a bit of a double dipper if you go at dawn or dusk as well! You’ll be able to witness a stunning sunrise or sunset while animal watching.
Book a guided fishing adventure or plan your own. Wyoming state laws regulate the fishing that can be done inside the park and you will need a license. Luckily, you can purchase a license inside the park at Flagg Ranch, Colter Bay Marina, Signal Mountain Lodge, or online. The best front country fishing spots include the Snake River, Jenny Lake, and the Gros Ventre River. If you’re willing to work for it and take a hike into the backcountry, Cascade Creek and Phelps Lake.
There is a wonderful trail system at Teton Pass. Teton Pass is a high mountain pass just West of Jackson heading towards Idaho. We rode the Black Canyon Trail and absolutely loved the downhill portion! Unfortunately, we were uneducated and missed the memo about shuttling your bike. When we were done with our great downhill ride, we finished off the morning with a 4 mile trail that gained 2,000 feet of elevation in order to return to the car – yikes! Let’s just say, I did a lot of pushing my bike. The Black Canyon trail was absolutely stunning and well maintained. We rode through an innumerable amount of butterflies and had beautiful views throughout the ride.
If the downhill bike park is more your style, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Teton Village is for you! Ride 1,276 feet up to the trails on the Sweetwater Gondola. There are trails for everyone to enjoy; novice trails for those new to the sport and advanced, eye-opening trails and jump tracks for the seasoned veterans await. Lift tickets and bike rentals are available through early September before they start gearing up for the winter season!
Drive Up A Mountain
Signal Mountain offers a variety of services to visitors, such as dining, lodging, and a marina. It’s also home to a very scenic drive; this 5 mile road takes about 20 minutes to drive and is so worth the short detour. The viewing point on the summit of Signal Mountain provides breathtaking views of the Tetons’ towering peaks, the valley below, and Jackson Lake. It’s important to note that trailers and RVs are prohibited from this narrow road. Additionally, this road is closed during winter.
Spend A Day/Night on the Town
Jackson Hole is a 50 mile long valley and is home to the town of Jackson. Jackson is a great town to hangout in with its many shops, restaurants, and bars. It’s important to note that Jackson is an expensive town, however, it is the closest town to Grand Teton National Park. It’s clean, beautiful, and offers a number of great activities. Between the Elf Refuge, Wildlife Art Museum, and multiple Ski resorts, you’re bound to find something fun!
Mix and Match One Day in the Grand Tetons
Start your day early, at sunrise, to watch first light on the Tetons. If you spend sunrise at Schwabacher’s Landing or Oxbow Bend, you’re likely to experience a few animal sightings as well. We were able to watch a Moose and her calf graze on the marshy banks of Schwabacher’s Landing.
At this point, you’ll be ahead of the crowds and can head off to whatever kind of daytime activity you’d like! I’d suggest some type of hike to help you get up close and personal with the mountains during your one day in the Tetons. Bring a pole along if you’re hiking to a body of water and do some light fishing when you arrive at your destination.
After your hike, cool down and clean off with a dip in Jackson or String Lake before heading into town for dinner. If you finish dinner with time, post up at one of the many pull-outs along the scenic park road to watch the sun disappear over the Teton Range.
This would be one jam-packed day in the Grand Tetons, however, it would give you such a great taste of this beautiful park!
Are the Grand Tetons Worth Visiting if I Only Have One Day?
Absolutely. This mountain range will take your breath away at every angle. It’s definitely in my top 3 favorite National Parks and I’m confident it’s going to stay there.
Hiking Mount Katahdin is a goal for many outdoor enthusiasts! Whether they’re looking to complete the Appalachian Trail or hike the highest mountain in Maine, summiting Katahdin is their answer. Katahdin stands at 5,269 feet tall and is also part of the Northeast 111 hiking challenge. Its name, provided by the Penobscot Native Americans, quite literally means, “The Greatest Mountain”, and for good reason. Let’s start planning for the day we make hiking Mount Katahdin a reality.
Mount Katahdin Frequently Asked Questions
Do You Need a Permit to Hike Mount Katahdin?
No! There is no permit required to hike Mount Katahdin. Access to the mountain is controlled by the campsites and parking spots which can be reserved in advance and are also available on a first-come first-served basis.
Baxter State Park Entrance Fees: $15 per vehicle for non-Maine residents
Parking Fees: $5 per car for day hikers
Camping Fees: $32 per night in the summer and $17 per night in the winter
Where can I Park to Hike Katahdin?
You can make a Day Use Reservation for the parking lots at Roaring Brook, Abol, or Katahdin Stream Campgrounds. A Day Use Reservation will be held for you until 7:00 AM on the day of your planned hike; after this time, your spot will be given to other hikers on a first come first serve basis.
Maine residents have a leg up on other hikers. They can make a Day Use Reservation for any time in the summer season as of April 1. Non-residents can make a Reservation to hike Katahdin two weeks or less prior to the date of their intended hike.
If you are unable to secure a reservation, you will have to arrive early to Baxter State Park for a first come first serve parking spot to hike Katahdin.
Can you Hike Katahdin in a Day?
Absolutely! Katahdin is most commonly hiked as a day hike. On average, it takes hikers around 10 hours to complete a round-trip Katahdin hike.
The Easiest, 10.4 Mi.: The Saddle Trail may be considered the easy route, however, it’s still no joke. You still need to gain thousands of feet in elevation, however, you’re able to do so in more mileage.
The Shortest, 7.3 Mi.: The Abol Trail is the most direct trail to the summit of Mount Katahdin. It’s also the steepest route, gaining 3,982 feet of elevation in 3.4 miles. Keep in mind that the shortest trail isn’t necessarily the easiest.
The Best Loop, 9 Mi.: Start at Roaring Brook Campground and take the Helon Taylor Trail to Knife Edge which will bring you to Baxter Peak, or Mount Katahdin. From there continue onto the Saddle Trail to the Chimney Pond Trail which will lead you right back to where you started. You can also hike this same loop in reverse!
Where Can I Stay to Hike Mount Katahdin?
There are a number of campgrounds within Baxter State Park where you can lay your head after hiking Mount Katahdin. Some of the more popular include:
South Branch Pond Campground
Chimney Pond Campground
Roaring Brook Campground
Katahdin Stream Campground
Campground near Baxter State Park:
Wilderness Edge Campground, 15 miles from Baxter State Park
Katahdin Shadows Campground, 26 miles from Baxter State Park
Pine Grove Campground & Cottages, 32 miles from Baxter State Park
Budget Hotels in the nearby town of Millinocket, 20 miles from Baxter State Park:
Baxter Park Inn, approximately $120-$130 per night
Katahdin Inn & Suites, approximately $110-$125 per night
Pamola Motor Lodge, approximately $90 per night
Hotels in the surrounding area:
Big Moose Inn, Cabins, & Campgrounds
New England Outdoor Center
5 Lakes Lodge Bed & Breakfast
Penobscot Outdoor Center
Can Dogs Hike Mount Katahdin?
There are no dogs allowed in Baxter State Park.
When Does Baxter State Park Open?
The Togue Pond and Matagamon gates open at 6am and close at 10pm daily. All publicly accessible roads in the park are open during this time. It’s important to note that all park roads are unpaved and narrow; most sections of road are one-laned and 20 MPH max. It takes a long time to get from one place to another.
Tips for Hiking Mount Katahdin
1. Plan Ahead & Reserve a Spot
The number of hikers who can climb Mount Katahdin is limited by the number of parking spots at the trailheads. Plan ahead for your hike. Research which trail you’d like to hike and try and reserve a campsite or parking spot where that trail begins.
It’s important to have a backup plan. If your desired campground and/or parking lot is full, you’ll have to look elsewhere. Flexibility in trailheads and hiking dates can go a long way!
2. Wake Up Early and Wait Patiently
If you’re forced to take your chances on a first come first serve parking space, you need to be prepared to wake up early. You Need to be at Baxter State Park’s Entrance around 4:00 AM; I know this sounds excessive, but believe me when I say you won’t even be the first car in line.
A line of cars will form at the gate. When the Rangers open the gate at 6 AM, they will instruct all cars waiting for Katahdin First Come First Serve parking spots to pull over to the side. All day use reservations need to check-in by 7:00 AM. After 7:00 AM, first come first serve hikers will start to be accepted into the park.
You will need to know which parking lot you want to park in. Always have a backup plan in the event that your chosen lot and/or trail is full!
3. Train for Your Hike
For most experienced hikers, you know what a 10+ mile day and 4,000 feet of elevation gain feels like. If you’re new to hiking, I suggest getting some training hikes in so that your day spent hiking Mount Katahdin is more enjoyable and smooth sailing.
If you’re new to hiking and hoping to tackle Mount Katahdin, start small and give yourself time to improve. Start with 2-3 mile day hikes. As these become easier and you learn more about the great outdoors, start to increase the distance of your hike and the weight of your pack. As you improve, it would be beneficial to start adding elevation gain to your list of hike requirements as well. Adding instance and elevation gain to your training hikes will help you get a real feel for what hiking Mount Katahdin will be like.
Strength training will also complement your hiking abilities. Completing lower body exercises, such as squats, lunges, and calf raises with weight will help to decrease muscle fatigue as you gain elevation. Working on core strength and balance will also positively impact your hiking abilities.
4. Prepare for Exposure When Hiking Mount Katahdin
The higher you climb, the more exposed you are. Mount Katahdin is 5,269’ tall which means you’re above treeline for a lot of the hike. Being above treeline means you are fully exposed to the elements including wind, rain, hail, fog, lightning, snow, and cold.
It’s important that you plan ahead and prepare for exposure. Although checking the weather forecast is helpful, it’s important to realize that weather can be much different on the summit than it was at the trailhead.
Always pack layers, even on a sunny summer day. You should always have your rain gear, an additional warm outer layer, and accessories, such as a hat and gloves. It might seem crazy to pack these items in the heat of summer, but you never want to be sorry you didn’t.
5. Hike Knife Edge on the Return
Knife Edge is a 1.1 mile fully exposed, technical hike. It connects Pamola Peak to Mount Katahdin. This ridgeline is as narrow as four feet, with 2,000-foot drops on either side in some places. It should only be attempted by experienced, prepared hikers with good decision-making skills.
Our decision-making skills kept us from traversing Knife Edge and making it to Katahdin in August of 2019. It was raining sideways, incredibly windy, and about 40 degrees when we made it to Pamola Peak. We opted out of our adventure and made the very disappointing hike back down to the car. This is why we suggest saving Knife Edge for your return hike! That way, you can summit Katahdin in less-than-ideal weather conditions and not waste your attempt.
It is important to note that cold and rainy conditions are okay for hiking when properly prepared. They simply weren’t the proper conditions for traversing Knife Edge, thus leaving us with no choice but to return to our trailhead without reaching the summit.
6. Pack High Energy Snacks
Hiking Mount Katahdin is a full day’s work! It is very important that you pack multiple high-energy snacks for your trip. This will ensure you have the fuel to complete the hike.
Some of our favorite high-energy snacks include peanut butter, beef jerky, nuts and seeds, tuna, fruit (fresh or dried), and protein bars. Energy chews are another great item to bring along as well. Carrying a variety of these in your pack should guarantee you have the energy to tackle Mount Katahdin.
Along with packing high-protein snacks, it’s imperative that you pack enough water for your hike. Dehydration will debilitate you before hunger will. Be sure to hydrate prior to and during your hike!
7. Be Prepared to Turn Around
This goes without saying for any hike, but definitely one with the magnitude of Katahdin. The mountain(s) will always be there; please turn around if something doesn’t go your way and places you in danger.
Here are some common reasons people turn back on a hike: – Poor Weather – Injury – Timeliness – Lack of Food/Water – Lost – Tired
Hopefully, you’re able to complete the hike you’ve set out to do! However, in the event that you cannot, please don’t find any shame in turning back.
8. Experiencing AT hikers!
Hiking Mount Katahdin is the final push for North Bound Appalachian Trail Thruhikers. It’s likely you’ll experience them along the trail and on the summit. They’re incredibly neat individuals who have so many stories to tell; if they’re looking to share, you should take a listen!
It’s also important to realize that they’re probably going to smell… like really bad. And that’s okay! You would smell too after hiking 2,190 miles over the course of 5-7 months.
Leave No Trace While Hiking Mount Katahdin
It’s so important to Leave No Trace when you’re in nature. Percival P. Baxter, once the governor of Maine, donated the land of Baxter State Park to create, protect, and provide the people of Maine a wilderness area. This space is some of the most rugged terrain in the Northeast and absolutely beautiful. His philosophy of “Wilderness First, Recreation Second” lives on through Mount Katahdin and Baxter State Park. Please honor this mission while hiking Mount Katahdin and remember, it’s wild out there.
This beautiful, laid-back lodge is set in a wooded area along Fourth Lake between Old Forge and Inlet. Its location on the lake and close proximity to either town make it a popular location for boaters, snowmobilers, and those seeking lowland Adirondack adventure.
Book a Room at Great Pines Resort
The Great Pines Resort provides luxury accommodations in the Adirondack Park. It’s an absolutely gorgeous resort with the most perfect rustic decor. Currently, the check-in process is quite simple; Great Pines will send you check-in instructions on the day of your stay and a number to contact in the event that you require some assistance.
This board, right outside the lodge main doors, provides guests with tons of pertinent information! There are steps for checking in, a map of the property, food menus, and information on local activities. It doesn’t hurt that you can enjoy a beautiful view while checking out all Great Pines has to offer!
What Kinds of Rooms are Available at Great Pines Resort?
There is a style of room for every traveler at Great Pines Resort! We stayed in room number 1, which is a Lodge Lake View Room with a King Size Bed. This room includes an access point from inside the lodge via the stairs in the great room and an entrance on the walk-out shared porch. Our room included an incredibly comfortable King size bed, flat-screen television with full Direct TV, and an en suite bathroom. Our room was also equipped with a mini-fridge and Keurig coffee machine. Additionally, there were two Adirondack chairs outside our door on the porch to match the rustic, cabin decor of Great Pines.
Room Styles At Great Pines Resort
Lodge Mountain View King
Lodge Mountain View King Suite (Twin Pull Out)
Lodge Mountain View King Suite (Queen Pull Out)
All rooms starting with “Lodge” are attached to the main lodge. You can access your room through the stairs in the great room. If your Lodge room has a lake view, you can also access your room from the shared, second-story walk-out porch.
Courtside Two Double Beds
Courtside Two Double Bed Lakeview
Courtside King Jacuzzi Suite
Courtside King Jacuzzi Suite Lakeview
Courtside rooms are part of two buildings that run perpendicular to the lake. These buildings include a covered porch with Adirondack chairs which allow you to view the lake.
Lake View Two Double Beds
Mountain View Two Queen
There is an additional building that runs parallel to Fourth Lake. This building houses Lake View Double rooms and Mountain View Queen rooms.
One Bedroom Cabin
Two Bedroom Cabin
Additionally, Great Pines offers three different Cabin Options. Each cabin provides slightly different amenities and views from the next! As a result, cabins are a great option for families traveling to the area or for those looking for more seclusion during their stay.
Are Pets Allowed at Great Pines Resort?
Great Pines Resort loves animals and even keeps a stash of treats at the front desk for their furry visitors! Up to three dogs of any size can join in on your vacation fun for an additional $50 per pet, per stay. You are required to bring proof of current vaccinations for your stay.
Pets are not permitted to stay in Lodge rooms. It’s important to mention that pets may not be left unattended in rooms. It’s a wonderful place for people and pets alike!
Does Great Pines have Great views?
Great Pines boasts beautiful views in all directions. You’re in the Adirondacks! All of the views are something special. To the south, you can enjoy views of Fourth Lake, the largest of the Fulton Chain of Lakes. Looking North, past route 28, you’ll notice a small ridge line; surrounding the resort, you’ll find beautiful vegetation native to the Adirondacks.
Dining at Great Pines Resort
The Lodge at Great Pines
Spencer and I have decided that our Lodge Dining Experience was one of the best we’ve ever experienced. We had a 5 P.M. reservation for the Greenhouse, fireside 6-course dinner. It was the most perfect, intimate meal experience overlooking Fourth Lake.
In the summer, this unique dining experience takes place lakeside and is referred to as The Green House. You won’t want to miss out on this private dining experience; it’s the best fine dining you’ll encounter in the area and you will not be disappointed in your decision to treat yourself to the most luxurious dinner Old Forge has to offer.
Great Pines Lean-to Menu
The lean-to is a themed Adirondack eating experience. You can find these Adirondack-style shelters throughout the park; this three-sided shelter can provide a great night’s sleep in the backcountry or a great place to eat lunch on the trail.
The Lean-to at Great Pines is designed to look and feel like this rustic piece of architecture. They feature a casual dining menu influenced by local ingredients and a full-service bar. During our stay I went for a hat trick and ordered the Maple Moscow Mule, Maple Scout Wings, and the Maple Chicken Sandwich… Do we see a common theme here? I loved it all. Spencer ordered the special, Chicken Asiago. This dish was unbelievable! Not only was it a pretty big portion,but it was full of flavor as well. So much so that I made him share…
The Lean-to is located on the Great Pines Resort property, only a few steps from your ‘front door’. It has an outdoor dining area out on the deck for perfect summer eats (and drinks!). It provides easy access for boaters as it is only a few steps up from the docks.
Dining in the Old Forge/Inlet Area
There are quite a few options for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert in the Old Forge and Inlet area. If you’re looking to leave the Resort for a meal here and there, there are definitely some really great options for you! There’s a breakfast option for everyone! Diner-style breakfast, quick coffee fixes, and deli sandwiches are available in both towns. Some of the most sought-after diner spots include Mister’s Bistro and Tony Harper’s in Old Forge; Screamen Eagle, The Caboose, and Seventh Lake House provide great meals in Inlet.
What is there to do at Great Pines Resort?
Great Pines Resort loves tofoster community; they partner with the town of Inlet and other local businesses to create exciting events for locals and visitors alike. During our stay, Starlight Night at Fern Park was scheduled as an evening ski and snowshoeing event. Cross country skiing and snowshoeing would take place from 7-9 PM on the lighted loop at Fern Park. Great Pines, alongside Fourth Lake Wine & Spirits and other local businesses, planned on having booths where they would serve hot cocoa, a warm cocktail, or a tasty snack for visitors to enjoy. Unfortunately, the event had to be cancelled due to weather. Spencer and I still took a drive over to snowshoe the mile-long lit loop after dinner; it would have been a magical experience had it come together.
Luckily, Great Pines and other local businesses are committed to seeing more events like this take place in the area! They’ve already hosted and co-hosted similar events which have included brunch with llamas at a nearby farm and barn parties with evening trail walks. Follow the Great Pines Facebook page for information on upcoming events; the Inlet, NY Information and Events facebook page would be a great place to find exciting local events as well.
Fun Activities Near Great Pines Resort
There are so many amazing things you can do as a family in the Old Forge area. Old Forge is known as a four-season destination for those who seek adventure and relaxation. After some time relaxing at Great Pines, you’ll be ready for some action!
Try your hand at the Fulton Chain Trifecta hiking challenge in any season! Hike 3 of the area’s most popular hiking trails and earn a patch for your efforts. This hiking challenge is a great way for individuals, families, and their pets to get in some great exercise while taking in the beautiful scenery from the area’s high points.
What can I do near Old Forge in the Winter?
If it’s winter fun you’re looking for, take a visit to McCauley Mountain. McCauley is a great place for downhill skiing and snowboarding as well as cross country skiing. The alpine skiing area includes terrain that is suitable for all levels and has a fantastic ski school if you or your littles are looking to learn! This is our favorite ‘local’ mountain seeing as we live about an hour away; we try to make it here every winter for at least one day of riding. It radiates big mountain fun while embracing its cozy, small-town ambiance.
Just a few miles down route 28, in Inlet, you can enjoy Fern Park. Fern Park is home to a number of recreational options for outdoor enthusiasts of all ages and experience levels. The cross country ski, mountain biking, and hiking trails at Fern Park are always free; there is even a 1-mile lit loop and sledding hill open until 10PM all winter long. Additionally, there’s an ice skating rink at Fern Park with a warming hut and restrooms.
What’s the Best Summer Activity in Old Forge, New York?
In the summer month’s, Old Forge is known for having the largest water park in the state of New York! It’s a true family fun location that improves every year. I am a teacher and our Middle School does an end-of-the-year trip to Enchanted Forest Water Safari every June. It is a really awesome day for all; the only people having more fun than the kids are the chaperones! It is truly a family-friendly gem nestled into the lower Adirondack Mountains.
Believe it or not, the list of family fun spots continues! There are over 15 exciting activities you can enjoy with your family near Great Pines Resort.
Great Pines Resort is A Great Stay!
We can’t wait to return in the warmer months! Great Pines resort is absolutely beautiful in winter; I can’t even imagine how stunning it would be in summer and fall. The grounds are beautiful, the staff is friendly, and the food is made with love! There’s nothing I would change about our stay at Great Pines Resort.
Old Forge, and the neighboring town of Inlet, is a four-season destination for many families. Although there are a plethora of family-friendly activities to be had in the area, there’s one that doesn’t cost any money and will provide you with a lifetime of memories. There are so many beautiful hikes in Old Forge it can be tough to choose just one… but let me help you try and narrow it down!
If you’re new to hiking, it’s important to note that preparedness is a necessity! Check out my hiking 101 guide for everything you need to know to get started. Follow the guide for information that will help to keep you safe on your adventures while having a positive impact on the wild spaces you’re exploring.
One of the most popular hikes in Old Forge, and for good reason! Bald Mountain is home to Rondaxe fire tower and sees as many as 15,000 visitors a year. It is a beautiful, fairly easy hike to a summit boasting beautiful views of first and second lake. The trail has one steep section (microspikes & snowshoes are necessary for winter) and will have you traversing some bare rock. Although it is an easier trail, I wouldn’t recommend this trail for families with very young, hiking children; the bare rock sections make me nervous with little ones.
Due to its popularity, you’re likely to find trash on the summit of Bald Mountain. Do your part! Pack your trash out with you (this includes toilet paper) and if at all possible, pack out the trash others have left behind. Leave it better than you found it!
How Long Will it Take me to Hike Bald Mountain?
Experienced Hiker: If you’re an experienced hiker that moves at a decent pace, it shouldn’t take you more than 20 minutes to reach the summit.
Family with Young Children: Although Bald isn’t technical, it does have a few steeper sections and some questionable rocky footing. To reach the summit of Bald Mountain, it may take a family with young children 40-45 minutes.
This gorgeous trail can make for an awesome day in the mountains! Hit it as a loop (blue and yellow trail markers) for 4.7 miles or an out and back (blue trail only) if you’re looking for a shorter distance. The trail is steady and provides options for hikers of different skill and endurance levels. The blue trail to the summit is slightly shorter and steeper than the yellow trail. There is a fun little rock scramble just before the summit on the blue trail as well.
The summit is spacious, providing room for all parties. It’s also an awesome space to explore! There are some absolutely gorgeous views from the summit of Black Bear. If at all possible, get up there for sunrise on the northeast side of the mountain and you will not be disappointed.
How Long Will it Take me to Hike Black Bear Mountain?
Experienced Hiker: If you’re an experienced hiker that moves at a decent pace, it may take you between 60 and 75 minutes to reach the summit. If you’re incredibly speedy you can make it to the summit in a little over 45 minutes if you’re hauling.
Family with Young Children: Black Bear isn’t technical and consists of a mostly steady uphill. The blue trail does have a steep section that includes rock scrambles, whereas the yellow trail is less steep and a tad longer. I would suggest a family with small children allot for 1. 5 to 2 hours to reach the summit.
A great trail for all skill levels! This hike gains a mere 100 feet of elevation over the course of its mile-long trek to the lake. This short, but scenic walk will bring you to a beautiful view of Gull Lake. As one of the shorter hikes in Old Forge, I would suggest this trail for beginners and those hiking with young children.
How Long Will it Take me to Hike the Gull Lake Trail?
Experienced Hiker: This trail is pretty simple… you’ll be back to your car in about 45 minutes to an hour depending on how long you take in the views for.
Family with Young Children: This is another great trail for the family! Since it doesn’t gain too much elevation, it’s an easy 2 miles round trip for the kiddos. I would say you could be back at your vehicle in an hour and a half or less.
This pleasant hike around Moss Lake is a wonderful way to get outside for the whole family. It is definitely one of the best loop hikes in Old Forge. This trail is truly suitable for all skill levels. There are a number of primitive camping sites along the backside of this trail as well a picnicking area. The campsites are marked on the board at the start of the trail – it’s a convenient way to see if the site you’re looking to backpack into it available or not.
How Long Will it Take me to Hike the Moss Lake Loop?
Experienced Hiker: The Moss Lake Loop will be a walk in the park for an experienced hiker. It took me about an hour to hike the full loop.
Family with Young Children: This is an awesome trail for families for a few reasons. There are some ups and downs, but nothing major. It’s a great opportunity to have your little ones hiking a longer, but simpler distance. Additionally, there are benches and picnic tables throughout the hike for when you need a rest. This hike would realistically take your family an hour and a half to two hours depending on how much rest you take along the way!
A beautiful hike, bike, or ski through the Black River Wild Forest and around Nicks Lake. Although on the somewhat longer side, this hike features easy terrain and really cool features such as bridges and beaches. The hike will lead you to the beach at Nick’s Lake Campground; trail markers can get a little spotty around this point but you should be able to find the trail again! If not, walking, riding, or skiing the road for the final 1.5 miles is always an option.
How Long Will it Take me to Hike the Nicks Lake Loop?
Experienced Hiker: This trail isn’t difficult, however, it is on the longer side of things. This hike will likely take you around 3 hours to complete.
Family with Young Children: Although the Nicks Lake Loop isn’t technical or steep it is long. I would only suggest this trail for a family with young children who are used to hiking. With young children who are conditioned hikers, needing minimal rest, this trail would take you between 4 and 4.6 hours to complete.
This is a moderately trafficked 6.9-mile trail about 15 miles south of Old Forge. This trail is mostly an old railroad turned gravel road and is best used from April through September; if you do hike this trail during hunting season, it’s essential you wear bright colors. This is state land and great hunting grounds.
A popular way to reach this trail is to hike or bike on the old railroad gravel road located to the left at the McKeever Parking Area. You can also drive your vehicle along Wolf Lake Landing Road, which is to the right of the large McKeever parking area. Drive this road up to the next parking area. This will cut a lot of walking from your hike. From this point, take the blue marked Remsen Falls Trail to your destination and enjoy!
How Long Will it Take me to Hike to Remsen Falls?
Experienced Hiker: This depends largely on where you’re starting your hike. If you’ll be hiking the full 6.9 miles, this will likely take you three and a half hours round trip.
Family with Young Children: I wouldn’t suggest this trail for families with young children unless you park at the second parking area and/or bike to the falls. It’s important to note that although the terrain isn’t technical, I would only bring children who are quite comfortable on a bicycle if that’s how you decide to tackle the mileage!
A great first summit for a family! (and one of my personal favorite hikes in Old Forge). Another really popular hike in the Old Forge area, at only 1-mile round trip this is a very doable trail for most. Its short, .5-mile ascent, means you’re gaining over 400 feet of elevation in a short amount of time. Luckily, this elevation gain is steady and never too steep or technical. The summit provides gorgeous views of 4th lake and the winding road below. It is beautiful any time of year (however, winter preparation means carrying and having microspikes and snowshoes)!
How Long Will it Take me to Hike Rocky Mountain?
Experienced Hiker: You will find yourself at the summit in 20 minutes or less!
Family with Young Children: This is a great mountain for families! The one-mile ascent does gain a bit of elevation, but isn’t ever overly steep and is the perfect challenge for the kids. With young, inexperienced children it would likely take you 30 – 45 minutes to reach the summit.
This is a heavily trafficked little out and back just outside of Inlet. It’s relatively flat and leads to two beautiful lakeside views. This trail has a spur trail to a vista view if you’re looking for a little bit of elevation gain. Additionally, this trail continues on past the lakes for 1.2 miles to meet up with the Moss Lake Trail.
How Long Will it Take me to Hike to Sis & Bubb Lake?
Experienced Hiker: You’ll likely find yourself at Sis Lake in 15-20 minutes.
Family with Young Children: This is another awesome trail for families as the only real elevation gain occurs in the first quarter-mile of the hike. It would likely take you 30-45 minutes to reach Sis Lake.
The Woodhull Mountain Trail begins at the McKeever Road trailhead. This is one of the longest hikes in Old Forge, making it a less popular hike in the area; luckily, that often means some solitude. Due to its length, a popular way to reach the summit is to bike on the old railroad gravel road located on the left at the large McKeever Parking Area. After about 5 miles of biking, you’ll come to a point where biking is no longer feasible. At that point, you can tie up your mountain bike before hiking the rest of the mountain.
Similar to The Remsen Falls trail, you can also drive your vehicle along the Wolf Lake Landing Road on the right of the large McKeever parking area. This road leads up to another parking area. Starting here cuts a lot of mileage off your hike, however, it’s still at least a 9+ mile round trip hike. From this parking area, riding your bike is still an option until you reach the area where the trail becomes thin and hiking is your best option.
How Long Will it Take me to Hike Woodhull Mountain?
Experienced Hiker: It’s hard to tell! It largely depends on where you park and how you approach the trail. We parked at the first parking lot and rode our bikes for the first 5 miles. Even on two wheels, this hike took us a few hours to complete.
Family with Young Children: I would not suggest this hike for families with young children.
If you hike Rocky, Black Bear, and Bald Mountain during your time in Old Forge, you’ve completed the Fulton Chain Trifecta. Congratulations! This is a great beginner hiking challenge that’s perfect for getting a family into the hiking scene.
There’s More to Do than Hiking in Old Forge
Think about making Old Forge into your next staycation location! There are a number of great restaurants, awesome accommodations, and endless fun opportunities no matter what time of year you are visiting. Take the family for a fun-filled day at Enchanted Forest Water Safari or up the thrills and hit the mountain for some downhill mountain biking, skiing, or snowboarding!
Old Forge makes for a wonderful Adirondack Base Camp for visitors looking to explore the central Adirondack region. Whether you’re looking for adventure or serenity, you will find it here in the hamlet of Old Forge. Come explore Old Forge for a weekend getaway or a day trip and leave feeling refreshed from that clean mountain air.
What is There to do in Old Forge?
Quite a bit! We’ve gone ahead and provided you with the season(s) each activity is available to you and the price range per person participating. There is something for everyone of any age here in Old Forge, New York!
1. Adirondack Scenic Railroad
Explore the beautiful scenery of the Adirondacks with a relaxing train ride. From the Thendara station, you can schedule a number of different riding experiences. Enjoy a scenic train ride through the Adirondack Mountains or schedule a themed experience. Many rides correspond with the seasons: there is a Haunted History train ride, Pumpkin train ride, Santa themed ride, and a Princess & Superhero ride.
The Adirondack Scenic Railroad is ran largely by volunteers. The Adirondack Railway Preservation Society has been operated and maintained by volunteers since 1992. Together these volunteers contribute over 15,000 hours annually. These hours consist of ticketing and car-hosting to operating the fleet. These volunteers allow this nonprofit to operate at an affordable price for those seeking a ride!
2. Alpine Skiing & Snowboarding
McCauley Mountain, my favorite ski spot in New York! Small town vibes with big mountain energy. McCauley Mountain is a wonderful place to learn to ski or snowboard. It’s also a great location to hone your skills and test your limits.
McCauley has a vertical drop of 633 feet with 23 runs, 1 terrain park, a double chair lift, and 2 T-bars. The cozy lodge provides shelter from the cold, bar food, beverages, and a tuning shop! It’s a beautiful mountain that is rarely busy and can provide a full day of family fun.
Boating on the Fulton Chain of Lakes is a summertime favorite for local and visiting families. For waterway access, boating safety, rules and expectations you can look here.Rivett’s Marina and Palmer Point will rent out pontoon boats and fishing boats for hourly, half-day, and full-day excursions. If it’s jet skis you’re looking for, Old Forge Sport Tours is your best bet!
4. Calypso’s Cove
Calypso’s Cove, just off of Enchanted Forest Water Safari, is an awesome family fun park in Old Forge. Spend the day, or the afternoon, playing arcade games, rock climbing, racing go-karts, and more.
This park operates on a ticket system. Each attraction is worth a certain number of tickets, kind of like a carnival. This makes it easy and affordable for families to come to Calypso’s Cove with just one or two activities in mind. Additionally, all Enchanted Forest Water Safari properties, including Calypso’s Cove offer a Military Discount with an active or retired ID.
5. Cross Country Skiing
You can head on over to McCauley Mountain for miles of cross country ski trails. For $5 you can enjoy miles of intermediate and beginner trails. Stop by Mountainman Outdoor Supply Company for your XC Ski rentals! This is a great alternative to downhill skiing that doubles as a phenomenal workout. Enjoy the crisp, peaceful winter woods on a pair of cross country skis.
6. Enchanted Forest Water Safari
Enchanted Forest Water Safari, where the fun never stops. New York’s largest water theme park can provide a full weekends worth of fun. With a combination of water and amusement rides, the kids (and adults) will never be bored.
Water Safari recently ungraded a number of awesome water slides, providing endless summer thrills. The newest (in 2020) is a 4-lane, 293-foot mat slide racer names the Serengeti Stampede. Whether you’re looking for an exciting ride or the calming, restful lazy river, Water Safari has it all!
7. Fulton Chain Brewery
Fulton Chain Brewery is a great stop during your Old Forge stay! Whether you’re stopping in for a post-hike, bike, ride, or paddle brew, you won’t be disappointed. At any given time there are up to 10 brews on tap sourced from local ingredients for a true Adirondack experience.
Hiking can be 4-season, free activity for the whole family. Once you have the proper gear, you’re set for life. Old Forge is home to a number of beautiful trails with both lake and summit viewpoints. Here’s a list of 10 beautiful hikes in the Old Forge area; you can plan to hike the Fulton Chain Trifecta and earn a patch as well!
If you’re new to hiking, It’s important that you’re properly prepared. This includes carrying the 10-essentials, no matter how short or simple the trail may seem. Additionally, it is very important that you practice the seven leave no trace principles. This is not only for your safety but also for the longevity of the outdoors.
There are plenty of places to slip that Kayak in the water for a good paddle! If you own your own Kayak, this activity is free and you have plenty of lakes, rivers, and ponds to choose from. If you are new to Kayaking or don’t own one, there are plenty of places where you can rent.
For Kayak rentals in Old Forge, I would turn to Mountainman Outdoor Supply Co. or Tickner’s Canoes. Mountainman Outdoor Supply Co. offers both rentals and trips! For $40-$50, you will receive a boat, paddles, PDFs, and a shuttle upstream. At the start of each trip, you will learn the basics of paddling before being sent on your way. If you have your own boat, but still need a life, you can even shuttle your own boat upstream for a small fee.
10. Mountain Biking
McCauley Mountain acts as a mountain biking haven in the summer months. With 20 different trails, servicing riders of all skill levels, and more trails being developed, McCauley is a great place to explore on two wheels.
McCauley has both single and double track trails. There are single tracks that are narrow, rocky, and technical and machine-built flow trails with large berms, rollers, and jumps. Because this is an alpine ski area in the winter, there are also wider multi-use trails that accommodate cross country and alpine skiers during the winter months. Mountainman Outdoor Supply Co. has mountain biking rentals for you to utilize if needed!
11. Mini Golf
Head on down to Nutty Putt Miniature Golf for 18 holes! Nutty Putty opens on weekends starting in April and opens for the season mid-June. Operating hours are from 9:30 AM to 10/11 PM (ish). It will cost you $7.50 (in the 2021 season) for 18 holes of mini-golf. Putt into the clown’s nose on your last hole to win a free round of golf!
Additionally, Nutty Putty’s is also an ice cream bar! Enjoy some of the best ice cream in Old Forge after your round of golf.
12. Moose River Farm
Head over to Moose River Farm to experience animals in the Adirondacks. Four-season llama treks through the Moose River Plains are an Old Forge Hit. Llama treks and farm tours last 45 minutes each; they also offer a llama mini-trek for young children along with a farm tour for a discounted price. These tours generally fill up on summer weekends up to two weeks in advance so plan accordingly!
13. Old Forge Lake Cruise
Take a historic steamboat tour of the Fulton Chain of Lakes. Enjoy the fresh air and clean water as you cruise around the first four lakes of the Fulton Chain. Each boat features a snack bar, a restroom, and an upper and lower deck. Take two hours to explore the ever-changing scenery of the Adirondacks!
14. Rail Bike Adventures
Pedal your rail bike with three other friends/family members from Thendara station to Carter station. During this 2 hour excursion, you’ll experience a combination of slight grades and level sections of track. Railbike tickets can be reserved starting in March for the summer season. A 4-person rail bike costs $147 and is suitable for explorers of all ages.
15. Shop Downtown
There a number of inviting shops in downtown Old Forge but there is one that should be at the top of every visitor’s list. You could get lost in the Historic Old Forge Hardware Store! This Hardware store is unlike any other and has been servicing locals and visitors alike for over 100 years.
Other downtown shops include souvenir village, Life in the ADK, and rainbow zen. These shops cover all the bases. Clothes, gifts, jewelry, and artwork are available for purchase on Main Street in Old Forge.
Old Forge is known for snowmobiling in the winter months! Although this is an expensive hobby to get into, it’s a ton of fun! You can haul your own snowmobile up to the Old Forge area or you can rent them for the day once you’re here! RPM Snowmobile Rentals, ADK Snowmobile Outfitters, and Old Forge Sport Rentals all offer daily single and double seater rentals.
Old Forge loves to celebrate snowmobilers! The Snodeo weekend is the place to be each December for snowmobile lovers of all ages.
17. Strand Theater
This 1920’s theater will bring you back in time for the evening. This truly unique experience is sure to be a highlight of your trip. It might also be one of the cheapest movie nights you ever have! A matinee will cost you $6.00 and evening shows will cost you $7.00. No matter what time of day, seniors and children cost $6.00. The Strand Theater also provides private shows for small groups. This hidden Adirondack Gem is certainly one you need to check out while you’re in town!
Make your own swimming hole by hiking to one of the areas beautiful backcountry lakes or plan a day at the public beach! Take a free dip at Old Forge public beach with the safety of a certified crew of lifeguards. Nick’s Lake provides another great opportunity for supervised swimming as well! This campground is tucked into the woods just minutes from McCauley mountain; an overnight here will cost you $22.
19. The View
If you’re looking for the premier art experience in the Adirondacks, the View will deliver. Check the site for gallery hours. The View offers exhibitions, performances, and various art classes. It’s definitely worth checking out if you appreciate the arts. With over 40,000 annual visitors, the View is a popular destination for tourists and residents alike.
20. White Water Rafting
If you’ve never been white water rafting, you absolutely have to go! If you’re looking for hard core white water rafting, check out ARO Adventures on the Moose River in Old Forge. These trips are only offered during the month of April and will end with a BBQ!
Unfortunately, the only truly local white water experience is pretty intense. If you’re willing to travel a bit away from Old Forge, there are more mellow rapids for you to enjoy with your family. Take a day trip and experience a different area of the Adirondack Park while having a ton of fun on the river!
Visit Old Forge
Old Forge is the entry-way to the Adirondacks for many visitors! It’s a beautiful town to experience in any season and makes for a great, year-round family destination. If you’re interested in visiting Old Forge but don’t know how to start planning, fill out my Travel Itinerary Form to have one created just for you!
Although these free Adirondack campsites might not cost you any money, they don’t come without a price. These sites will cost you your diligence; please be sure to leave no trace and, as always, drive away from these sites leaving them better than you found them. Personally, I like to collect all of the garbage that may have been left behind and clean up the fire pit -if applicable- before I head out at the end of my stay. Knowing the 7 Leave No Trace Principles is the key to being a good outdoors advocate.
Complete this free Leave No Trace Online Awareness Course before heading out there!
Here we have a list of 15 drive up, primitive campsites in the Adirondack Park that won’t cost you any money. Many of these sites will allow you to stay for up to 3 nights with no questions asked. Anything between 3 and 14 days requires a permit. Often, permits are free. They’re simply required for a long-term stay. Please take care of these sites and be willing to share with others if there is enough room!
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These free campsites in the Adirondacks can be found just off route 73 shortly after you pass Chapel Pond (coming from the East/ The Northway), It’s a tricky turn off that I’ve missed even after staying there a few times. Luckily, if you miss it coming from Keene Valley, you’ll be able to turn around at the Chapel Pond parking lot.
Chapel Pond is great for a quick overnight stay. The road noise is loud and this spot tends to be quite crowded as it is close to/within the High Peaks Region. For a quick stay, it provides a legal place to sleep in close proximity to many trail heads in the Keene Valley and Lake Placid area. Chapel Pond is a great spot to clean or cool off as well.
The dirt road connecting the paved section of Coreys Road off of Route 30 to the Seward range parking lot. It’s tucked away back behind Axon Landing in a pretty remote drive-in spot!
The sites are quaint and very primitive. Some are larger and nicer than others; the first site past Stony Creek is most definitely my favorite! No cell-service here and direct access to only a few trails, but a lot of peace and quiet.
There are 12 campsites with fire rings and some with outhouses in this area. There are 5 sites on Shelving Rock Road which is a gravel road with easy car access. Additionally, 7 more primitive sites lie between the gate and the Sleeping Beauty (summer) trailhead. Darcy Clearing road requires a higher clearance vehicle for successful passage. This area is best for passenger vehicle and tent camping.
The sites are all nicely wooded and provide access to local trail heads such as Sleeping Beauty, Shelving Rock Falls, and Buck Mountain, as well as Lake George. Unfortunately, this makes this space quite busy with day hikers as well as overnight campers. This is a great spot to stay if you’re trying to knock out some Lake George 12ster!
This very remote spot will have you driving quite a ways down Cornell Rd off of Route 28. When you get to Woodys road make a right. This will bring you to a number of unnamed Adirondack Park Preserve roads.
These sites are incredibly remote, therefore making them very primitive. They’re best for tent camping, although a small camper would fit in the parking areas. If you’re looking for peace and relaxation, these are great sites for you!
Off of route 30 just before South Bay of Tupper Lake lies route 421. About 6 miles from route 30 you’ll find a dirt road where 6 lake-side campsites can be found. Five additional sites are littered throughout Otter Brook road.
This spot is away from traffic and in the beautiful Horseshoe Lake Wildforest area. Horseshoe lake is perfect for fishing and paddling; if you’re looking to hike there are a few trail heads within 15 minutes of these sites. Check out the Tupper Lake Triad for these hikes.
Five sites with beautiful, filtered views of Jones Pond await! There is an outhouse that is in pretty good shape and each campsite has a fire pit. The campsites are all connected by a lovely little trail that runs alongside the lake; it’s my favorite place to be on a crisp, fall Adirondack morning.
Jones pond is my all time favorite campsite of the Adirondacks. I *almost* didn’t share it with y’all because I would be devastated if it was ruined – so please do your part and LNT – but that wouldn’t be fair. Nature is NOT mine to divvy out! However, it is the duty of all who enjoy it to advocate for its protection.
Just off Route 30, on Jessup River Road, you’ll find a dirt road that is home to 7-8 free Adirondack campsites. The very first spot is reserved for day use only. It has a picnic table and a boat launch.
The rest of the sites are quaint and close to the lake. You can hear the road from these sites, however, they provide great paddling and fishing access. You’re also in close proximity to a number of local hikes. Snowy Mountain and OK Slip Falls are relatively close by and beautiful!
An absolutely gorgeous spot just 15 minutes south of Old Forge. Five to ten campsites can be found off of the long, narrow, well-kept gravel road. The gravel road is about 1 mile off of Route 28; with two different roads that fork off from the main parking area. You’re going to want to take Wolf Lake Landing Road to find your campsites!
This a great, remote spot with a lot of different recreational opportunities. The Moose River and Woodhull Lake are available for paddling, fishing, and swimming as well. There’s also a beautiful trail to the Woodhull Fire Tower nearby as well.
Within 3500 acres you can find over 100 free, primitive campsites. The Limekiln Lake-Cedar River Road is a seasonal access road extending 23 miles through the Moose River Plains. The road stretched from the Limekiln Gate in the west, near the community of Inlet, to the Wakely Dam Gate at the end of the Cedar River Road in the east which lies near the community of Indian Lake.
This is an absolutely beautiful, remote spot with endless possibilities. The Moose River Plains region is arguable one of the most beautiful free Adirondack campsites you can find. There are approximately 130 miles of maintained trails as well as more than 65 ponds and lakes. It’s an absolutely stunning spot to camp in summer and fall! It would be an equally beautiful place to camp in the winter if you had a snowmobile to access the sites.
Northwood Club Road is open from Mid-May through December. The campsites can be found on a dirt road about 5 miles from pavement. There are a cluster of 4-5 sites right over the Boreas River, however, if you continue further down the road you will have additional sites to consider. If you go far enough, you’ll make your way to the Huntly Pond campsites as well.
This is a peaceful, quiet spot on the water. Most sites come equipped with a fire pit – as always, please be mindful of your flames! There are local hiking trails nearby as well: Moxham Mountain, Vanderwhacker Fire Tower, and the Boreas Loop trail would be great day trip options!
This 20 mile-long primitive road is home to approximately 18 primitive free Adirondack campsites and a number of trails. The road stretches from Stratford to Arietta, crossing the East Canada Creek at its southern terminus.
This road cuts through the Ferris Lake Wilderness, providing access to remote sections of the forest. Over 100 miles of hiking and multiple-use trails can be found here. The sites are primitive, however, they’re remote and take you away from it all!
Route 8 is a main road in the Adirondacks, which means it is open year round! There are about 20 different primitive campsites along the road here between Wells and Bakers Mills. The sites are not obviously marked from the road, it will be up to you to find the yellow campsite disc.
Route 8 is a beautiful stretch of road! Route 8 runs alongside the East Branch of the Sacandaga River and its tributaries. Along this route you’re fairly close to Gore Mountain, Auger Falls, and Crane Mountain for day trip activities.
This long dirt road begins about a mile out from the ADK Loj parking lot. This road is the trailhead for the old Mount Van Hoevenberg trail as well as the South Meadow Gate with access to the High Peaks Region. These sites are all marked with campsite markers with space for a single car or two to park next to the site.
This is an awesome place to set up camp if you plan to travel into the High Peaks Wilderness from the Loj or the South Meadow Gate. Keep in mind that this road is not maintained and all campsites are first come first served. These free Adirondack campsites are very popular – I would have a back up plan if you’re arriving on a weekend.
Towards the end of West River Road in Wells, you’ll find 13 designated campsites. These free Adirondack campsites can accommodate tent sleepers or RVs. There is no cell service here, however, you can usually acquire some in town.
The sites are primitive but many have outhouses that are in decent shape. This is a beautiful spot alongside the river and is in close proximity to a few local hikes. The Auger Falls trail and Pine Orchard trail are among the most visited in the area!
Free Adirondack Campsites in the Backcountry
There are free, primitive sites throughout the Adirondack Park. Many of them require a paddle or hike to get too – It’s important that you’re prepared to spend a night in the wilderness when planning on staying at one of these sites. Also, keep in mind that you could hike 3-8 miles in to a site to find it occupied. It’s always important to have a back up plan. As always, leave no trace; for your safety, the longevity of the forest, and the safety of our wildlife it is imperative that you educate yourself on the 7 LNT Principles.
Free Camping Websites
In the event that you’re ever looking for free camping outside of the Adirondack Park, I thought it might be helpful to provide you with some resources. These sources can help you to find a free campsite anywhere in the United States and Canada.