Hiking with Kids in the Adirondacks

I am an avid hiker and outdoor enthusiast, drawn to the wilderness, particularly the Adirondacks. I am currently working on completing the 46 High Peaks, so I end up spending a lot of time hiking with my youngest son Caleb, who is just starting his 46 endeavor, and with friends.

Janet Thomas

In the summer of 2008 I took my first vacation in the Adirondacks. I remember it like it was yesterday. The entire week was kind of magical. It was my first time visiting the Adirondacks and I was looking for adventure!

The entire drive was rainy and overcast; it was early July and very humid and sticky. I remember going through all of the small rustic towns from Old Forge to Saranac Lake, and the only disappointment I had was that there wasn't one mountain in sight, the one thing I had my heart set on seeing! We arrived at our cottage, Marcy Cottage on Lake Flower, home for the week, unpacked and found a pizzeria spot in Saranac Lake where we enjoyed some wood fired pizza.

The next day proved worth waiting for as we set out on our first hike in the Adirondack Mountains. I have to admit, I'm a little competitive and love to be challenged so it was no surprise Mt. Marcy was on the agenda.

That morning, we walked along Lake Flower to downtown Saranac Lake and ate breakfast at the Blue Moon Café. The coffee, food and atmosphere were amazing. The Blue Moon Café is still one of my favorite places to go for breakfast. After fueling up with our first ADK style breakfast, we were on our way to see what the "Dacks" were really all about! Walking back to Marcy Cottage I could see in the distance over Lake Flower the mountains peeking up through the clouds and fog as it was lifting.

Driving through Lake Placid to the trailhead at Heart Lake was really neat. Mirror Lake, the mountains surrounding it, Lake Placid's small shops, all the people running and riding bikes; it was busy, but not too busy and big, yet still very small with an "at home" feeling.

As we turned down Adirondack Loj Road, I was breathless from the view. It's still one of my favorites, beautiful and breathtaking. By then, I was pumped full of adrenaline. We stopped to take a few pictures and continued down the road.

Hiking with kids in the Adirondacks
Enjoying the View in the Adirondacks

The BIG Hike

By then, it was about 10 am. We signed in at the register and began the hike up to Marcy Dam. I remember it as being really easy starting out. We were passing by people left and right thinking this was going to be a breeze! Either this hike was really easy, or we were in exceptional shape. We made it to Marcy Dam in no time it seemed and it was beautiful, another spot for great photos.
We moved on, continuing on the trail that would take us up Marcy. The weather was perfect, mid-80's, sunny and the bugs weren't bad. The trail began to get more narrow and steep, we started climbing and were breaking a good sweat.

After a couple of hours, we'd been climbing at a good pace and thought – it can't be much further. Another hour goes by, the climb gets steeper, and the ankle breakers bigger. We have got to be close now. A bit later, we could see Marcy's bare rock faced summit gleaming in front of us. A fellow hiker said there was a beer tent up there too, but it must have blown away by time we had reached the summit!

From Little Marcy to the summit of Marcy was very cool, I was pumped full of energy and excitement, running and scrambling and crawling up and over rocks as fast as I could all the way up to the summit – and there I was at 5,433', the highest point in New York State. I was literally radiating with an ADK glow as I stood in awe and looked around, all around, 360 degrees around the Adirondack High Peaks Wilderness.

The views from the top were spectacular and far-reaching and even more breathtaking than they were below. I knew from that moment on that this was my playground, and I wanted to explore it. It was a fun challenge with a sweet reward.

We spent a good hour up on the summit eating lunch and soaking up the views. The hike up took us four hours, so we figured maybe half the time going down...the hard part was behind us, right? Wrong. The hike down wasn't as easy or as quick as we thought it would be. There were still a lot of scrambling and ankle breakers to get around so we didn't save a lot of time on the decent.

Even so, I spotted things on the way down that I had missed on the hike up. There's something special about taking kids hiking in the wilderness that adds a whole new level of joy to the adventure. My kids are so full of curiosity, and they teach me to slow down and to take even more in. It was peaceful and quiet as it started to get later, and the trails less busy with hikers. By the time we returned to Marcy Dam, our legs were starting to get tired and heavy, stubbing our toes on rocks and roots. We finished hiking out to the parking lot around 7 pm.

We were filthy, soaked in sweat and starving. We drove down the Loj Road heading to Lake Placid to get something to eat, looking back at the High Peaks with the greatest feeling of accomplishment. We laughed at how awesomely sore our legs were, leaned forward as the wind passed through the backs of our shirts in between the car seats to dry out a bit before we got to the restaurant.

Sunrise atop Mt. Marcy in the Adirondacks
Sunrise atop Mt. Marcy in the Adirondacks

As we drove out, I looked back at Marcy from the end of the Loj Road. It looked so far away, and it amazed me that it was possible to have been sitting at the very top of that mountain just four hours previous. I couldn't wait to get back out there and was planning the next hike already at dinner. Oh, and we topped off a delicious steak dinner with a big bowl of Mint Marcy from Stewart's back at Marcy Cottage.

It was definitely one of my most memorable and fulfilling days in the mountains, and the start of many more just like it. 


About the Author …
Janet Thomas
Spending a weekend hiking in the Adirondacks is one of our favorite things to do as a family. I love the atmosphere, the friendly nature of the people, the picturesque mountains and lakes, the variety of trails and things to do.
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