Adirondacks – You Call Yourself a Serious Mountaineer or Hiker? Try 46 Peaks More Than 4K ft!

Serious mountaineers and hikers will face their biggest challenge climbing these 46 peaks at more than 4,000 feet.

What are the Adirondacks?

Hardcore mountaineers and hiking enthusiasts don’t need an introduction to the Adirondacks, which should already say a lot. Simply put, the Adirondacks are one of the most impressive geological structures on the planet, feature that makes New York stand apart from all other holiday destinations. The Adirondacks are a set of mountains, spreading over an area of more than 6 million acres. They are located in the most northeastern corner of Upstate New York, nestled in the heart of the Adirondacks Park.

The Adirondacks are home one of the most amazing natural sites you will ever see: the Adirondack High Peaks. The High Peaks are defined as a set of the 46 highest mountains in the region. Needless to say, the High Peaks are an astounding attraction that hosts more than 10 million tourists every year.

Adirondack Mountains

Making it to The Summit is the Best Feeling in the World.


Although all the mountains are found in Upstate New York, there are still a few different places you must visit for the challenge. Only four of the 46 mountains are not located in the Central or Northern Essex County.

Of the 46 peaks, 33 are located in an area known as the High Peaks Wilderness Area, a vast tract with an area of 1,200 square kilometers. These are divided into the eastern zone, home to 26 peaks; and the western zone, which houses 7 summits. Two more mountains are set in Wilmington while the last 11 sit in the Giant and Dix Wilderness Area. The two highest mountains (Mount Marcy and Algonquin Peak) are both located in Essex and have no official footpath to the summit.

Formation and History of the Adirondacks.

The most amazing part of the hikes are bound to be the views you find at the summits, however, the history and creation of the Adirondacks also inspire awe. The rocks found in the mountains are estimated to be 2 billion years old. The rocks originated from sediments found 50,000 feet deep in the bottom of the sea, near the equator. Tectonic movements caused the sediments to collide with what is now North America, creating a mountain building episode commonly known as the Grenville orogeny.

The mountains were named Adirondack (meaning porcupine in Mohawk language) by Ebenezer Emmons in 1837. Although the name comes from Mohawk origins, no native tribe has lived in the area, but they used it as hunting grounds and travel routes. The Adirondacks were acquired by the English in 1664, and then by the State of New York after the American Revolutionary War. Since then, the Adirondacks have become a major hiking sensation and were designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1989.

About the Adirondack High Peaks.

The Adirondack High Peaks are a set of 46 mountains that are estimated to be at least 4,000 feet high. Recent estimations suggest that four of the peaks may be just below 4,000 feet (all within the 3,900 to 3,998 range). However, due to tradition, the 46 peaks still remain unchanged and are no easier to climb. The High Peaks are home to fragile snow forest ecosystems and an array of specialized, endemic animals. The forests feature lush trees such as deciduous, spruce and pine.

The Adirondacks are also home to three types of wetland: swamps, bogs, and marshes, which display unique characteristics when compared to each other. The High Peaks home rare animal life such as spring peepers, spotted salamanders, painted turtles and great blue herons. The Adirondacks offer such rich natural diversity because it featured various ecosystems, including alpine ecosystems. Alpine ecosystems usually occur above treeline and are called highland or mountain climate as well.

Reserve Status.

Natural reserves are heavily supervised, and Adirondack is not the exception. The Adirondack Park is located between Keene Valley and Essex County. The park is home to the mountains as well as lakes, rivers, forests, and other habitats that range from wetlands to old-growth forests.

The park and mountains are part of New York’s Forest Preserve, which gives them the highest level of conservation status in any state. New York’s Forest Preserve is run by the Department of Environmental Conservation and is required to be “forever wild”, as demanded in Article 14 of New York’s Constitution.

Natural Wonders Around the Adirondack High Peaks.

The entire Adirondack Park offers stunning natural beauties. The mountains alone form a semicircular area, which assures a great view regardless of the mountain you choose to hike. The famous Lake Placid is located about 2 hours driving from the Adirondacks, roughly 91 miles away.

There are many attractions besides the High Peaks in the area, which includes Lake Placid, also known as The Mirror Lake. In addition to that, you can visit the Tupper Lake Wild Center and spend a whole day admiring different animal species endemic to the Adirondacks. Many mountains also house ski resorts, such as the one found atop Whiteface Mountain. You may even step out of the ordinary by visiting the Bobsled and Luge Complex also located in Lake Placid and listen to the entertaining and curious stories narrated by the tour guides.

Adirondack Mountains

Natural Beauties Surrounding the Majestic Mountains.

The Adirondacks Mountain Club.

There is no need to say that the Adirondacks High Peaks are an inspiring attraction. The Adirondack Forty-Sixers (or 46ers) is a clear example of how this natural structure has impacted its residents. The Adirondacks 46ers is a mountain/hiking club and organization formed by hikers who have hiked all 46 peaks, or that are currently in the process of doing so. The first 46ers were two brothers by the name of George and Robert Marshall.

The 46ers was officially founded in 1936 by Ernest Ryder and Edward Hudowalski as a social club with the same goal as they continue to have today: honoring and recognizing those who achieved the grueling task of climbing all 46 peaks above 4,000 feet.

The most notable club members are the Winter 46ers: members who climbed the High Peaks during both summer and winter seasons. This is no easy task as they winters in Adirondacks can be extreme. However, there were 623 registered Winter 46ers and 7,806 active members as of April 2013.

Notable Peaks.

Each one of the 46 peaks offers a one-of-a-kind experience and view from the top. There are also a few of them that stand out because of their difficult hiking routes, which usually require advanced skills. The two most famous, highest and difficult mountains are Mount Marcy and the Algonquin Peak. None of them offer a real hiking route, but instead, follow a so-called ‘herd-path, formed after decades of usage.

Another notable summit is Whiteface Mountain which offers a ski resort at the top of the mountain. Grace Peak was re-named after the first woman to climb all 46 peaks, and 9th person to achieve the feat. The Table Top mountain offers three different summits starting at 4,215 and ranging to 4,304 feet. Giant Mountain is the twelfth highest peak in the Adirondacks and was the first of the High Peaks to be recorded by a hiker. The infamous Gothics Mountain is known for its 360-degree view, which provides a great sight of the rest of the Adirondacks.

Trail Conditions and FIYs.

At least 22 of the mountains lack a real hiking route and require hiking skill and safety equipment. The other 24 mountains have a set hiking or walking route to the summit. Some mountains, such as Whiteface, even offer alternative transport methods to the top, such as cable-car services. Others offer no trail at all, so hikers usually follow the ‘herd-paths’ created by previous hikers.

The hikes and climbs can range anywhere between 5 and 15 hours, but are all definitely worth it. You will find majestic, awe-inspiring natural views. You may also encounter wildlife in your climb, and unless you are 100% sure it’s safe, you should always keep your distance. There are several recommendations for climbing the 46 peaks. These include the leave no trace principle, children hiking safety guidelines, trailhead parking, and of course, checking the weather forecast.

What You Will Need.

There is a few basic tools and equipment needed to have a successful adventure. Make sure you pack extra water and extra food rations. Also, verify you have a basic first-aid kit with you. You must have a navigation tool such as a map, compass, and GPS.

You also need sun protector if you have delicate skin. Carrying a flashlight or headlamp will also make your life easier in every aspect of the trip. Remember to bring a repair kit and emergency shelter as well. Lastly, make sure you are carrying fire, either in the form of a lighter, windproof candles and waterproof matches.

You can always visit tourist information centers at the park itself if you need to know specific details once you make it to the Adirondacks. Now, it’s time to pack and enjoy your next adventure!

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