Travel Diaries: Your Guide To Exploring The Unrivaled Beauty Of The Adirondacks
For over 30 years, my good friend's family has had a home in Keene, New York, in the heart of the Adirondacks. I don't think I would have stumbled up there otherwise, but I'm glad to say I now consider it one of the most magical places in the United States to escape to at any time of year. When I'm there, two days feels like two weeks away.
It's a drive (but a beautiful one!) straight up Route 87 from New York City past Lake George and into the tall pines, through the shimmering slate faces of the mountains that get taller and taller as you go. It almost feels like a journey to a past era of Americana, where you can imagine that wool socks, ice skates, and a canvas rucksack would be tucked into the back of your Wagoneer as you make the trek north.
Once I arrived in Keene for a recent weekend getaway, I hiked 5 miles through a cool forest in warm rain, participated in a gluten-free bake-off against my best friend, and grilled wild salmon on the deck overlooking the mountains.
The Adirondacks are full of endless trails, mountain lakes, and long vistas to heal eyes that are sore from looking at a laptop for too long. Here's a sampling of some of my favorite things to do, see, and eat in the region. Enjoy!
What to do
1. Go hiking
I was surprised to learn that the Adirondack Park is the largest national park in the continental United States. It's as big as Vermont; covers one-fifth of New York state; and has 3,000 lakes, 30,000 miles of rivers and streams, and more wilderness than anywhere else on the East Coast. In 1894, it was protected as "forever wild" by New York state's constitution and has 46 high peaks, all ranked in order of elevation, starting with Mount Marcy at No. 1, elevation 5,344 feet.
All of this makes the Adirondacks a hikers' paradise and the perfect destination for people who want to reconnect with nature, be active, and deeply disengage from life at home. The Adirondack Mountain Club website is a great resource for hiking plans and information on the area's conservation programs.
2. Head to the water
The swimming hole in Keene is lovely and totally safe for kids and dogs. Canoeing and tubing are also popular warm-weather river sports in the region, but be sure to do your research on the rapids. The waters are cold and can get rough after storms.
3. Go shopping
If you came unprepared for the wilderness, plenty of stores around Keene can cover all your outdoor needs. The Birch Store is unrivaled in its selection of perfectly on-point Adirondack style from White+Warren cashmere sweaters to floral sundresses for afternoons by the lake. The Mountaineer will stock you with boots, wool socks, cross-country skis, and a rainbow of Patagonia jackets that lasts for days. It also has maps and advice on how to get yourself lost and unlost in the wild.
Check out the next-level taxidermy at North Country Taxidermy and Trading Post during your day around town too. It's easy to appreciate this part of the area's rich heritage (even if you're vegan!).
Never was a place more built for long afternoons on the porch with a book, building a cozy fire in the evenings, and going on long walks in the fall as the leaves change. Special thanks to Jane Lafarge Hamill and her family for showing me the insider's view of the Adirondacks over the years and for ending all competition when it comes to being the best hosts in the wild.
Where to stay
1. Dartbrook Lodge
This lodge in Keene is furnished by local artisans and has a range of accommodations, including well-appointed private cottages and suites with porches and kitchens.
2. The Rooster Comb Inn
The Rooster Comb Inn is a small hiker's hotel in Keene Valley, within walking distance of coffee, shops, blueberry pancakes, and trailheads.
Where to eat
A lot of the food in the Keene area has a meat and potatoes vibe. You aren't going to find too many signs proudly announcing "Gluten Free" and "Vegan" in town. But if you know where to look, you can find the best local vegetables and farm-raised grass-fed beef. And if you're up for it, it's worth it to just go for the chicken wings and beer at least one day.
1. Cedar Run
Kristy, the lovely chef and owner of Cedar Run, has an NYC sensibility and stocks healthy food and specialty pantry items including gluten-free frozen pie crust. She also makes great prepared food to take with you as you head out for a long hike.
2. The ADK
The ADK in Keene Valley has cardamom muffins, great espresso, and burgers, sandwiches, soups, and salads to be enjoyed on the porch in nice weather.
3. Black Rooster Maple
This adorable spot sells all things maple sugar in every shape of plant or animal you could desire.
4. Brew Castle
Brew Castle is a new, super-cute craft beer shop with gluten-free food offerings.
5. The Noonmark Diner
The Noonmark has gluten-free pancakes alongside otherwise typical diner fare. You'll have earned it after hiking all day!
6. Rivermede Farm Market
The Rivermede Farm Market has amazing locally grown vegetables and fruits.
There's also a weekend farmers market on Rt. 73, between Keene and Keene Valley's Marcy Airfield on Sundays. It has everything from fruits and veggies to woodworking displays. (A notable favorite farm of mine is Fledgling Crow.)
Looking for some more travel inspo? Check out the rest of our Travel Diaries here.