Adirondack wilderness offers hiking access to New York’s High Peaks

Hikers and backpackers love the High Peaks Wilderness. The 203,500-acre tract is the largest state-owned wilderness areas in New York’s Adirondack Forest Preserve.

The preserve itself covers 6 million acres and is a patchwork of private and public lands that was created in 1885. It was one of the first public parks created in the United States. Only Yosemite and Yellowstone had come before.

The Adirondack Mountains are a great outdoor playground. The preserve includes more than 2,000 lakes and ponds, 1,200 miles of rivers, 30,000 miles of brooks and 2,000 miles of trails, plus black bear and moose.

The western Adirondacks is a land of water: lakes, ponds, wetlands, rivers and a few mountains. But the High Peaks Wilderness in the east offers a chance to hike to the top of peaks via maintained trails. It is an accessible wilderness with lots of hiking options. The wilderness contains nearly all of New York’s 46 High Peaks (elevation 4,000 feet or greater), including Mount Marcy and Algonquin Peak, the two tallest at more than 5,000 feet.

Most of those peaks are concentrated south of Lake Placid and near Keene in the nearby Keene Valley. Some are above timberline and feature Alpine-like rocky tops with incredible views.

Initially, 46 New York mountains were designated High Peaks. Four were later determined to be under 4,000 feet and one that should have been included was not. But due to tradition, no peaks were added to or eliminated from the original list of 46. All but four are in or near the High Peaks Wilderness.

The area was first hiked in the 1920s by brothers Bob and George Marshall (Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness is named after one brother).

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