The Adirondack Park in northern New York state is a six-million acre preserve, the largest park in the lower 48 states. Though it features 10,000 lakes and countless breathtaking vistas, perhaps the most impressive thing about the park is its unique mixture of private and public lands. About half of the land is privately owned (and heavily regulated).
Still, the population of the region is tiny. Only 120,000 residents call the Adirondack Park and its 100 towns home. That's like taking all the residents of the nearby city of Syracuse and spreading them across an area the size of Massachusetts.
The Adirondacks offer a multitude of recreation and relaxation options. As in my novel Camper Girl, sometimes the best way to experience the wilderness is to get lost. Kayak across a still lake at dawn. Hike up a mountain trail or along a rocky brook. Camp among the pines. Sleep beneath the stars.
But if you're looking for a getaway that's a bit more focused, check out some of the unique attractions that make the Adirondack Park a year-round destination:
Near the end of Camper Girl, Shannon visits this quaint mountain village, home of two Olympic Games. When I was writing the book, I didn't know where Shannon's journey was going to take her. I thought maybe she'd end up at the Atlantic Ocean or boarding a plane to her next adventure. But the majesty of Whiteface Mountain and the beauty of Lake Placid kept calling.
Enjoy a stroll through downtown. Lake Placid offers great shopping and dining. Visit the Olympic Center. Take a dogsled ride or toboggan across Mirror Lake.
As for nearby Whiteface Mountain, there are many ways to experience this 4865-foot peak for yourself: bike it, hike it, drive it, and, of course, ski it. You can even bobsled it! One of my favorite things to do is to take the Cloudsplitter Gondola Ride, especially in summer and fall.
Located in Tupper Lake, The Wild Center offers a truly unique perspective on wilderness. The highlight for many is the Wild Walk, "a trail of bridges to the treetops of the Adirondack forest." The bridges lead you to a human-sized nest, a human-sized spider web, and -- well, you get the idea.
Formerly known as the Adirondack Museum, this 24-building immersive experience really does promise something for everyone. Exhibitions highlight the art and commerce of the region. Outside, wander the nature trails and see the rich history of the Adirondacks' logging and hunting past while learning how your stewardship can help shape the Park's future.
Shannon hikes up Blue Mountain, which is one of the most popular climbs in the Park. It's centrally-located, offers great views at the summit, features a historic fire tower, and is challenging but not too challenging.
Speculator is a tiny town in the south-central region of the Adirondacks and sits at the intersection of Routes 8 and 30. Many of its visitors are on their way to someplace more tourist-y: Old Forge or Lake George. I have spent part of my every summer in that one-gas station village. Speculator offered exactly what my parents wanted: quiet fun, away from the hubbub of the suburbs, a place to explore and imagine and relax. Get a day pass at Moffitt Beach State Campground and enjoy the inviting, gentle waterfront.