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Planning an Adirondack Day Trip

A casual hiker’s adventure plan

by Glenn Pareira


I am not a 46er. In fact...I think I might only be a 4er? 5er maybe? That’s right. Thirty-three years of living in the Adirondacks and I have yet to tackle all of the high peaks. It is on the list. But there’s just so many other trails with shorter climbs, equivalent views, and fewer crowds to explore, not to mention canoeing, boating, camping, sampling new beers, local music. Just so many things on the to-do list.


Selfie of bearded man on mountain top in fall.
The Author - In the wild.

Moral of the story: while I’ve had some experience exploring the Adirondacks, I’m clearly not an expert. The good news is you don’t have to be either to have a great time hiking here. Here’s a rundown of what my trip planning routine looks like:


Planning

Woman looking over the mountains in fall. Vibrant colors.
High Peaks - Keene

Dreamin’ the dream - every adventure begins the same way for me. A comment, a recommendation, a post..someone or something somewhere kicks my brain into “adventure” gear and puts me on the scent of a new place to explore. For me, this usually involves numerous Google searches and a trip over to adirondackatlas.org or another trails app. Here are the questions I’m usually asking myself when scoping out a new hike:

  • How’s the view? (Let’s be honest--it’s the first question we all ask)

  • How long is it?

  • How much “up” (elevation gain) is there?

  • What’s the weather going to be like when I want to go, and what are the chances it’ll change between where I start and where I end? (Winter, spring, fall, and summer are all very different here.)

  • How crowded might it be, and how much earlier might I need to arrive to find a parking spot?

  • Do I need a reservation to hike? (new consideration for 2021 for one specific access point to the High Peaks).


Packing


I more or less have a backpack pre-packed with most of the stuff I like to take. Sometimes I’ll add or subtract pieces depending on how serious my adventure may be.


Two small dogs on the summit of Mt. Baker in the summer. Looking at lakes and mountains.
Saranac Lake

Here are my hiking essentials:

  • My hiking boots - Seriously. Nothing could be more important than a sturdy sneaker or boot. Leave the sandals in the car.

  • My backpack - I’ve got a fancy hiking backpack with all sorts of widgets and doodads, but literally any pack will do. If you’re hiking without a backpack, give me a call. Because if you can carry all this stuff without a pack, you are most certainly a sorcerer of some sort with the ability to store things in another dimension.

  • Plenty of water - I’ll bring 64 ounces for a long day hike (I drink a lot). 16oz would be my minimum for a short hike.

  • A hiking pole - I used to think hiking poles were dead weight, but I added a pole to my routine last year and I’ll never look back.

  • Flashlight - and extra batteries!

  • TP - because everybody poops.

  • Poop bags - because my dog Cedar poops too.

  • GPS/Map/Compass - I’m a Boy Scout. I like to have a map and compass. And my GPS. You may not be a boy scout and may not want to invest in a GPS. And that’s fine. But you SHOULD take a printed map and know how to read it. If you don’t have a physical hiking map (the best option). There are any number of paid or free websites and apps that will allow you to print off topo maps and/or allow you to use your phone as a GPS with trail maps. Just remember to download your digital maps and bring extra batteries! Cell signal is weak or nonexistent in the mountains and electronics are always in danger of losing power.

  • SNACKS! - C’mon now. What could be more important than snacks?! I’m a big fan of nuts, sesame sticks, and energy bars (a sandwich and cold beverage from a local deli never hurt, either).

  • First aid kit - I carry a small pre-made hiking first aid kit. You can probably pick a simple kit up at your local drug store, or just make your own.

  • A wind/rain jacket - Cause you never know…

  • A hat/sunglasses/sunscreen - Cause sun be brutal on my dainty freckles!


Need some more guidance on what to pack for your own trip? Here are some Hiking 101 tips and a hiking checklist to help you keep track.


Morning of


Nom nom nom. Any good day hike should start with a good breakfast. For me that’s usually a bowl of oatmeal or some eggs. Then, a visit to the bathroom, and my dog Cedar and I are ready to go. One more glance at the weather and check of our pack and we’re out the door.


wilderness pond with small island and mountain in the background.
Saranac Lake

At the trailhead


Congrats to us! We’ve made it! We signed in at the trailhead (don’t forget that) and we’re off on another adventure! Oh wait...we forgot one last bathroom stop at the parking lot (maybe, if there’s a facility there). Seriously, I can’t stress the bathroom planning enough! There are virtually no bathrooms or privys (outhouses) in the woods once you leave the pavement. I do carry toilet paper so I can go on the go. But honestly, it’s not an easy task to dispose of my waste properly on the trail and I’d prefer to avoid it. In fact, in two decades I’ve only had to deal with it a few times on a day hike. So do yourself a favor and go before you go. Unfortunately I have not been able to instill the same principles in my dog Cedar, so I do still have to contend with pet waste on the trail. The things we do for our dogs...


Beagle with his nose in the camera on a mountain top. Blue skies in the background.
Cedar Beagle on a mountain top in Tupper Lake.

Time to soak it all in.


From here on out a day hike is pretty simple. Stay on the trail, clean up after yourself, and enjoy it. You’re in one of the country's largest and greatest parks! I can tell you from experience, no matter the season or the weather, the woods and the views never get old.


Oh, and one last thing. Before you head out, review and take the pledge to keep our Adirondacks beautiful for generations to come.


Happy hiking, my friends.

Take the Love your ADK Pledge!


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