Lakes Region Hiking — The Adirondacks and Whites, A Contrast of Mountain Ranges

The Adirondack Mountains in northern New York State are not geologically part of the Appalachian Chain, as are the White Mountains. They are much older, formed over a billion years ago when upward doming of bedrock embedded under the earth’s crust was thrust upward to create the mountain mass we know today.

The White Mountains, on the other hand, are much younger, several million years old and formed by plate tectonics. The White Mountain National Forest comprises about 796,000 acres, while the Adirondack Park is more than 6 million acres.

The two mountain ranges also differ greatly in their settlement. The Adirondacks were mostly unknown until the 1840s. The source of the Hudson River was not discovered until the mid-1800s. Mount Washington, on the other hand, was first climbed in 1642 by Darby Field. Following the Civil War, people began to flock to the Whites for summer long retreats. The Cog Railway, which climbs Mount Washington, was completed in 1869. People were hiking to Mount Washington via the Crawford Path in the 1840s.

Many trails in the White Mountains were built by the Appalachian Mountain Club and “professional” trail builders. The trails in the Adirondacks mostly follow routes created by early trappers, geologists, loggers and surveyors. Many of the trails to the higher summits are not even marked or maintained. They’re called “herd paths.”

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