Adirondack Mountains

Discover the Adirondacks Unique Beauty, Diverse Ecology and Historic Legacy
Adirondack Plants and Wildflowers

Panoramic view of Mt. Colden, Mt. Jo and Wright Peak with a large field of yellow canola plants in the foreground of the High Peaks region.

Colin D. Young
Red Sunset at Blue Mountain Lake
Janet McNally
Gothics from Saddleback
Brian Bledsoe

Just a few hours north of New York City, the Adirondack Mountains offer an outdoor paradise. These mountains lie within the Adirondack Park and contain 85 percent of the entire wilderness in the Eastern United States – representing the largest area of its kind east of the Mississippi River. Pristine and expansive, the Adirondacks' mountains and rivers have inspired generations of outdoorsmen to hike, paddle and play in nature.

Spanning over six million acres in Northern New York – an area larger than the entire state of Vermont – the Adirondack Mountains boast more than 2,000 miles of hiking trails, over 3,000 lakes and ponds and 1,200 miles of rivers.

Adirondack Geology

The Adirondack Mountains are more than 5,000,000 years old and is a monument to the shifting, irrepressible powers of the last ice age. Towering above New York's diverse landscape, the Adirondacks detail a history when small alpine glaciers carved their way through what is now the Adirondack Region, glacial erratics - stones deposited by the glacier - were scattered across the landscape. Massive chunks of ice broke away from the glacier, and were buried beneath sand and gravel washed from the ice. As these ice chunks melted, depressions, called kettle holes, were formed. When the kettle hole extended below the water table, a pond was created. Many of the small, circular ponds you see while hiking in the high peaks began as kettle holes.

Over millennia, as glaciers carved away the landscape, mountains began to take shape. Unlike the Rockies and the Appalachians, the Adirondack Mountains do not form a connected range, but rather a 160-mile wide dome of more than 100 peaks. Although the mountains are formed from ancient rocks more than 1,000 million years old, geologically, the dome is a newborn. The Adirondack Peaks can be anywhere from 1,200 feet tall to well over 5,000 feet tall, and the 46 tallest summits above 4,000 feet are called the High Peaks. Although four peaks were later discovered to measure less than 4,000 feet, they are still considered Adirondack High Peaks.

The highest of them all is Mount Marcy, towering 5,344 feet above sea level. It is one of the most distinctive features of the Adirondack landscape. Mount Marcy is home to Lake Tear of the Clouds, the highest lake in New York State at 4,292 feet, and the source of the Hudson River.

Unlike the elongated shape of other mountain ranges such as the Appalachians and the Rockies, the Adirondacks were formed fairly circular and dome shaped. It is considered a relatively young range though it is made of ancient rocks more than a 1,000 million years old. Because of this, the Adirondacks have been referred to as "new mountains from old rocks." It is theorized that there is a "hotspot" beneath the region, which causes continued uplift at the rate of 1.5-3 cm annually.

Explore the Adirondacks

It took millennia to create the Adirondack Mountains. One of the first places to receive Forever Wild status in United States, these mountains have been cherished as an outdoor playground, accessible and open to all, for centuries. Whether you're a life-long resident or a first time visitor, the Adirondack Mountains are yours to explore. From the shores of Lake Champlain, to the tallest ridge of the Tug hill Plateau, the Adirondack Mountains offer an astonishing natural paradise filled with possibility for adventure in every season.


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