The Adirondack Mountains in New York State are absolutely beautiful. We have fallen in love with the Adirondacks (known as the ADK) and try to go there every chance we get. I hope this driving tour helps to show you some of the amazing beauty that the Adirondack Mountains and New York State has to offer.
In early 2022, we visited the Adirondacks and had an entire itinerary planned out, but it ended up being super cold at over negative 40 degrees with wind chill. With it being so cold, we were unable to do all of the fun long hikes we had planned. Instead, we had to improvise and ended up spending the day on a driving tour around the Adirondacks. This driving itinerary is good anytime of year and great for if the weather is bad on your trip or if you prefer enjoying the outdoors from the comfort of your car.
About the Adirondacks Road Trip
The Adirondacks cover a large area and have a lot of variation in scenery. A road trip is a great way to see all the different types of scenery, activities, and ecosystems that the Adirondacks offer.
The itinerary I have created is 160 miles and takes around 3.5 hours if you drive it with no stops.
Here is the link to the itinerary on Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/dqbwjnYEX78XC7G5A
This itinerary starts in Indian Lake, but you can start and stop this trip at any point along the way. We started in Indian Lake, but you could start the drive from any of the stops within the itinerary. Do the trip in 1 day or as many days as you wish. You can camp along the way or do a full loop all in one day. We just wanted to give you the framework for the best road trip through the Adirondacks and let you customize the rest to your liking.
The Adirondack Road Trip Itinerary
(The itinerary below starts at Indian Lake and takes the loop counter clockwise)
1. Indian Lake
Indian Lake is a small town surrounded by beautiful wilderness. There are several lakes around the town of Indian Lake, including Adirondack Lake, Indian Lake, Lake Abanakee, and Lewey Lake. In the summer, Indian Lake is a hub for water sports of all kinds. Indian Lake tends to be less popular compared to the big towns of Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, but the area has infinite outdoor opportunities at all times of the year.
If you’re just driving through, a short detour on the road leaving Indian Lake to the south (at the intersection with Stewart’s Gas Station), there is a roadside pull-off on the left hand side that has great sweeping views of mountains to the east and an information panel describing each of the mountains.
2. Stop along the Hudson River (yes the same Hudson that goes to NYC)
The Hudson River that flows all the way down to New York City and drains into the Atlantic Ocean begins in the Adirondack Mountains. Northeast of Indian Lake is the Hudson Gorge Wilderness where the Hudson River actually starts. Heading east from Indian Lake, the Hudson River will run beside the main road. At this point, the Hudson River isn’t nearly as wide or deep as it is lower in New York and it is quite picturesque. There are various roadside pull-offs to stop by the Hudson River and look at the view or take pictures.
3. North Creek
North Creek is the first town you will come to that is east of Indian Lake. Gore Ski Resort is located in this town.
4. Hop onto 87 North or for a more scenic drive Route 9
To continue the loop, you will need to head northeast. You have two options: if you have less time, you can take 87 North OR if you have more time and would prefer a more scenic drive, you can hop on Route 9. They both go the same places, but Route 9 gives you more of a scenic view along the way and will take a little longer.
5. Schroon Lake
The town of Schroon Lake is, as the name suggest, along the shore of Schroon Lake which is on the edge of Pharaoh Lake Wilderness Area. Many trails start from the Schroon Lake area. There is a beach along the lake. 9 Mile Coffee Co is a coffee shop that we have been wanting to try here. There are also several restaurants in Schroon Lake if you’re hungry.
6. Dix Mountain and Chapel Pond
Get off 87 North at Exit 30 for Keene Valley and turn left off the exit. Continue on this road. The first area that you will be passing is the Dix Mountain Wilderness. There are multiple pull-offs for various hiking trails in this area. My favorite area to stop when driving here is at Chapel Pond. Chapel Pond will be on your left hand side. It is a pond surrounded by cliff faces and trees. This area is especially pretty in the fall when the leaves are bright colors and the leaves are reflecting off the water.
7. Indian Head or Roaring Brook Falls
If you continue following this road, there are many more hiking trailheads, including one of the most famous trails in the Adirondacks- Indian Head. Indian Head is around an 11 mile hike round trip with some of the most iconic views in the Adirondacks. If you’re interested in hiking to Indian Head, check out the trail on AllTrails.
Another attraction in this area is Roaring Brook Falls. While there is at trail that can take you very close to Roaring Brook Falls, you can even just see Roaring Brook Falls from the road. If driving west or counter-clockwise as described as in this itinerary, the waterfall can be seen on the right side up on the mountain.
8. Keene Valley
Keene Valley is one of the first little towns you will come to on this road. There are 2 places that I recommend stopping at in Keene Valley, although surely not the only places worth your stop. First, for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, stop at Noon Mark Diner. This diner is a classic in Keene Valley and is always busy no matter the time of day.
For coffee, stop at Old Mountain Coffee Company which is right across the road from Noon Mark Diner. Old Mountain Coffee Company has delicious coffee. My favorite drink to get is the maple latte which is made with locally made maple syrup that is made only a few miles down the road. If you don’t drink coffee, they have a delicious maple steamer (maple syrup and steamed milk) that is a must.
9. Marcy Field
Marcy Field is technically an airstrip, but also has parking for some local trailheads. Also since it is a flat area, it is a good place for views if you don’t plan on getting out of our car.
10. Black Rooster Maple in Keene
Black Rooster Maple Syrup is some of the best maple syrup I have ever tasted. Black Rooster Maple has a little shack near the Stewart’s in the town of Keene. The shack will be on your left hand side. They sell all different types of maple syrup and products made with maple syrup. The maple syrup is delicious and affordable.
11. Cascade Lake
Cascade Lake is the next stop on the drive and the pull-off will be on the left side of the road. To visit Cascade Lake, there is a small parking area in-between Upper and Lower Cascade Lake. The parking area for Cascade Lake can be quite crowded and can be a little difficult to get to if it is crowded, just something to keep in mind. These lakes are large and surrounded by rocky cliff faces and trees. In the fall, the water is like a mirror, reflecting the exact image of the colorful trees around it. This is one of my favorite places to view the leaves in the fall.
12. Heart Lake and the High Peaks Wilderness
When many people think of the Adirondacks, they think of the High Peaks Wilderness with mountains like Mount Marcy. Even if you’re not a big hiker, you can still enjoy the High Peaks Wilderness. Heart Lake is located only a few steps from the parking lot. You can walk to the edge of the lake and look at the views of the surrounding mountains. There is also a 1.2 mile trail that loops around the entire Heart Lake. You can find the loop trail on AllTrails here.
If you’re looking for another hike that is short, but a little more adventurous, Mount Jo is a great option. The trail to Mount Jo is around 1.8 miles round trip, but with 700 feet of elevation gain. The hike is more strenuous than the Heart Lake Loop, but super beautiful. Find the Mount Jo Trail on AllTrails.
13. Lake Placid (and Mirror Lake)
Lake Placid is the most popular town in the Adirondacks. It has even hosted the Winter Olympics in the past. While there are many things to do in Lake Placid, my favorite thing to do is walk along Main Street and enjoy views of Mirror Lake. In the summer you can canoe on Mirror Lake and in the winter you can sled across it.
I have an entire blog post on things to do in Lake Placid where you can find even more information about things to do and places to stay in Lake Placid:
14. Saranac Lake (and Lake Flower)
Continue west from Lake Placid and you will reach Saranac Lake. The lake that you encounter when driving into Saranac Lake is actually Lake Flower. There are many watersports available in Saranac Lake. If you are interested in walking along the lake, there is a lakeside park near the town center. A really good ice cream place is Mountain Mist Custard. They even have a little deck with Adirondack chairs overlooking the lake–the perfect place to eat frozen custard.
15. Tupper Lake
Continue west until you reach the town of Tupper Lake. Tupper Lake has a main street with shops and restaurants. Tupper Lake is surrounded by a ton of different lakes. There are a few different museums in the town as well if you are interested.
16. Roadside Pull-offs between Tupper Lake and Long Lake
From Tupper Lake, head south. You will be driving for a while through various protected lands. Along the way, there are various roadside pull-offs. We enjoyed stopping at some of these roadside pull offs to watch for wildlife and look at the hills, lakes, and tiny islands. These are great to stop at no matter the time of year.
17. Long Lake
The town of Long Lake is small, but has pretty lake views. You will reach a bridge that crosses over the narrow part of Long Lake. Stop here and park on the side of the road. You can see great views of long lake here. On one side of the road there is the Long Lake Town Beach and Paradise Cafe on the other side of the road. Long Lake is a super cute town, although many establishments are closed or have limited hours in the winter season.
18. Buttermilk Falls
Continue south from Long Lake to get to Buttermilk Falls. Be sure to use your GPS to get to Buttermilk Falls since it is a short detour on a gravel road (very well-kept gravel road). We had seen Buttermilk Falls on the map and decided to check it out, and man we were blown away. Buttermilk Falls is absolutely gorgeous and much bigger than we anticipated. From the small roadside parking area, it is a short walk to Buttermilk Falls. You can view the falls from the top or climb down to view it from lower down. When we visited in the winter, it was very frozen and pretty, but it would also be very nice in the summer too.
19. Blue Mountain Lake
Blue Mountain Lake is a beautiful lake close to Blue Mountain. In the winter, Blue Mountain Lake freezes over and you can walk out onto the frozen lake to get even better views of Blue Mountain from the lake. In the summer you can rent boats and kayaks to go out onto the water.
If you have more time on your trip, Blue Mountain is a mountain that can be hiked pretty easily with a fire tower on top that has great views. The Blue Mountain Trail is about 5 miles and can found on AllTrails.
20. Rock Lake
Continue east from Blue Mountain Lake and you will see a roadside pulloff for Rock Lake on the left. We actually stumbled upon the Rock Lake Trail and are so happy we found it. The Rock Lake Trail is in between Blue Mountain Lake and Indian Lake. It is a short ¼ mile trail from the road to Rock Lake. From the Rock Lake shore you can see pretty views. In the winter, you can see little ice fishing huts across the lake.
21. Return to Indian Lake
From Rock Lake, continue east and you will reach your starting point of Indian Lake and will have made a full loop.
We love the Adirondacks and feel like they are the true crown of New York. If you’ve never visited the Adirondacks before, I hope that this itinerary helps you to plan a visit to one of the best parts of New York!
Thanks for Reading!