Algonquin Peak

Adirondack Mountains, New York
The Adirondack Mountains are located in upstate New York. The 6-million-acre Adirondack Park is a mixture of public and private land, allowing you to stay in small mountain communities surrounded by state-protected wilderness. The mountains form the headwaters of the mighty Hudson River and butt up against beautiful Lake Champlain.

Deer's hair sedge on the summt of Algonquin Peak

There are endless opportunities to explore everything from remote wilderness lakes to high alpine summits. For those seeking shorter outings, there are plenty of beautiful roadside vistas and attractions. The mountains of the High Peaks Wilderness draw most of the attention, but there are plenty of other locations to visit and explore as well. The low-lying Champlain Valley offers a plethora of short hikes with outstanding vistas of the High Peaks to the west and Lake Champlain to the east. Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain, located right off Interstate 87, is a short hike with excellent views.

Standing at 5,114 feet, Algonquin Peak is the second-tallest mountain in New York state and the tallest mountain in the MacIntyre Range, which is a prominent range seen from Lake Placid. The trail to the summit is 4 miles one way and climbs about 3,000 feet. The views from the summit are spectacular—to the east you see Mount Colden, Mount Marcy and the Great Range, as well as Dix. Whiteface and Lake Placid are prominent to the north. The Seward and Santanoni ranges are visible to the west. Directly to the south are views of Lake Colden and the Flowed Lands.

Weather At Algonquin Peak

Weather conditions in the Adirondacks can be highly variable. Temperatures can reach -40 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter and top out in the 90s in the summer. Winters in the Adirondacks can be particularly challenging, especially if you’re headed to a summit to photograph. If you aren’t well versed in winter hiking, you can still capture excellent winter scenes from roadside vistas. Trails can be very muddy and stream crossings dangerous in the spring, a time of year when it’s generally recommended to stick to low elevations. Summers are warm, albeit humid, so you’ll want to make sure to carry plenty of water. Always be sure to check the weather forecast in advance if you’re planning a hike.

Photo Experience

I’ve been photographing and living in the Adirondack Park for over a decade and still feel like I’ve only scratched the surface. Many of the most spectacular locations require hiking 10-plus miles roundtrip and ascending 2,000 to 3,000 feet. This poses a particular challenge for the landscape photographer in terms of being at a location during the golden hours. You’ll need to spend a lot of time planning ahead and preparing. You’ll especially want to be aware of all the local regulations, which vary across the park. For example, camping isn’t allowed above 3,500 feet in the High Peaks Wilderness.

What’s great about the Adirondacks is you don’t need to wake up at midnight to start an exhausting 5-mile hike to a high mountain summit to get excellent photographs. There are plenty of shorter hikes that lead to outstanding views. And it isn’t just mountains to photograph; the Keene Valley area has plenty of gorgeous waterfalls, and the Saint Regis Canoe Area is packed with beautiful small lakes and ponds. OP

Best Times

If you’ve never been to the Adirondacks before, I recommend visiting in the summer or fall. If you’re in search of fall foliage, peak color usually occurs in the High Peaks Region the first week of October and a week or two later for the southern portion of the park. Once you have a good lay of the land, winter is also an excellent time to visit. 

Contact: Visit Adirondacks, visitadirondacks.com.


See more of Brendan Wiltse’s work at brendanwiltse.com.

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