The Trans Adirondack Route is a newer and lesser known trail that covers approximately 236 miles inside the Adirondack State Park. The route traverses the Park from the northern boundary to its southern boundary. To date, 15 have attempted to thru-hike the route and only 7 have finished.
The Adirondack Park is a 6 million acre patchwork of private and public lands that was established in 1892 by New York State Legislature. The original concept was to protect the watershed and the forests within it that were being deforested. Today the Park has evolved into a patchwork of public and private lands that are governed by the Adirondack Park Agency, created in 1971, where thousands of people live, work and play in a protected environment of mountains, forests and streams. At 6.1 million acres, the Park is larger than Yellowstone (2.2 million acres), Grand Canyon (1.2 million acres), Glacier (1 million acres), Yosemite (0.76 million acres) and the Great Smoky Mountain (0.5 million acres) National Parks combined.
Trans Adk Route
The route was created by Erik Schlimmer. His route is a connected network of existing trails, roads, snowmobile trails, and bush whacking. Pmags has a link to an interview with Eric on The Trail Show from November 2014 on his page.
Thoughts about the Trans ADK
On the surface, the Trans ADK looks like it is a must do. However, I would disagree with this thought. The premise is great, but the actual trail is not what you think it is going to be.
I started in Ellenburg Center, NY and traveled south to the terminus west of Gloversville, NY. The first 47 or so miles are straight up road walking. If you are like me and try to do 20 plus miles each day, you will find yourself in a bit of a bind for this section. There are limited areas where you can camp because state land that is suitable for a nights rest is few and far between.
Mapping the Route
I purchased the guide book and maps and was less than impressed.
The maps are printed on white paper, show contour lines and roads, and that is it! The maps are hard to read and provide you with no real useful information. I chose to buy the National Geographic Maps for the Adirondack Park and traced the route onto these maps instead. The Nat Geo maps allow you to have an idea where the towns are in relation to your position, show counter lines and are color coded. Much more useful!
The book spent about 20 minutes in my hand before I knew it was not worth using. Descriptions are confusing and there is too much information intertwined with the mileage data making it hard to compile mileage information. Perhaps someone will develop a basic data book in the future that will be useful.
Hiking the Route
Overall the route is quite easy aside from the road walking, which totals about 60 miles throughout the route. Of course I picked the year that rain was more frequent than usual and endured horrible trail conditions. On trail I only had 4 days out of 12 that I hiked where I didn’t encounter rain. I was forced to take 2 rest days to dry my gear making my trip extend to 14 days.
The bushwhacking, which is about 10 miles, was not a problem. As you would expect, the bushwhacking was more of a nuisance dealing with thick conditions than it was finding where I was going. Unlike others who have attempted or finished the route, I did not take a compass. I don’t recommend that you do the same unless you are an expert at map reading.
Once you get near Whiteface Mountain, most of the bushwhacking is over and you are now connected to well-traveled trails in the Park. There is a short bushwhack near Cascade Mountain that is relatively short and was close to my first rest day and mail drop at Topo and T-Max’s Hostel.
The route through the High Peaks is perhaps the only area that you will feel like you are at the mall. The route traverses through the bobsled center, over Mt Vanhoevenberg and takes you towards Marcy Dam. This area on a summer day can be mobbed with hikers. Fortunately, you are only going to skirt the High Peaks and then make your way down to the Northville Placid Trail. Please note that if you choose to stay in the High Peaks you will need a bear canister. I chose to hike a 27 mile day through the High Peaks because I didn’t want to carry a bear canister.
After leaving the High Peaks you will spend about 100 miles of your trip on the Northville Placid Trail. Unexpected for me was that this section was relatively isolated and devoid of other hikers. I only encountered one thru-hiker heading north on the Northville Placid Trail and a handful of weekend warriors. This section of the trail is pretty well maintained. Crossing over to the Northville Placid Tail was more than fun. You will ford a river, encounter beaver flooded areas and hike through areas that are overgrown and not well maintained. Once you are on the Northville Placid Trail, hiking is as easy as it gets – relatively flat and pretty well maintained. As you make your way through the flat low areas of the trail, you can expect mud and standing water if it has been raining.
The route breaks off the Northville Placid Tail at the north end of Piseco Lake. After the route breaks off at Rt 8 you will find a few small bushwhacks and your trail time will be spent mostly on snowmobile and short connecting trails. Nothing much exciting in this section. Flat and easy!
Resupply while hiking the route is not an issue. You will be close to several towns that have supplies or a post office that you can mail a package to yourself ahead of time if you choose.
Lake Placid is a great place to resupply and has all the amenities that a hiker would want. If you need to replace gear there are several outfitters there. Lodging in Lake Placid can be costly and I recommend using the hostel on the outskirts of town. The route takes you within a couple miles of the Topo and T-Max’s Hostel. A burger and beer is recommended at The Lake Placid Pub & Brewery.
Long Lake also has most of what a hiker is looking for, but beware that food at the grocery store may be a little limited and pricey. There is a hardware store that stocks camping items that are geared more towards the car camper. I had a mail drop at the post office, which is right in town, and the trail is only a few miles outside of town. For eats you should definitely go to the Long Lake Diner and Owl’s Head Pub for a greasy burger and a taste of the local flair. If you are lucky you will get a chance to meet Jimmy, a local who is very hiker friendly. He was kind enough to let me use the lean-to at his house, take a well deserved shower, and feed me a great dinner.
The last drop that I used was in Piseco Lake. The route passes right by the post office so this is a great place for a mail drop. There is also a small grocery/convenience store that is on the route and is a good place to get a snack and a beer.
Lodging and Camping
Let me be blunt, camping in the first 47 miles is limited, so plan very carefully. But once you are consistently on state land there is no shortage of places to camp. Again, if you choose to camp in the Eastern High Peaks you must have a bear canister. You will encounter many shelters along the way and some camping sites that are very nice.
Lake Placid has every type of lodging that you can imagine! If you’ve got the cash they have what you are looking for!
Long Lake is a little on the thin side for lodging and camping. If you are looking for a place to stay, Lake Eaton campground is your only real choice and is quite a haul from the trail, but hitching a ride should not be to much of a problem.
Pisceo Lake has a campground/Inn that is overpriced for what you are getting. Their rates were around $49.00 for a crappy site. The campground has a shower and the inn has food, but no beer. I had my heart set on a beer and a burger, but ended up settling for lipton noodles and a packet of chicken with a warm beer that I walked way too far to get.
I was really hoping that this route would be as great as some have made it out to be on social media. Truthfully, it was a bit of a let down. I would recommend buying your own maps of the Park that National Geographic produces and design your own route. You can avoid all the needless road walking and have a true wilderness experience. My choice of doing a trip in the Park again would be a route using the Northville Placid Trail that cuts up and over the Great Range in the High Peaks. There are many options! I acknowledge that spending time in the High peaks would be filled with more people and the challenges faced when you are in a crowded hiking area. But, for me this would possibly provide more of the physical challenge I am looking for and touch on some more diverse environments.