It’s 2:30 pm when we leave The Lorca, our lodge just up the road from Oak Mountain. By 3 pm we’re on Einstein’s Express, the quad chairlift that takes us up this delightful ski area, likely overshadowed by nearby major Adirondacks ski destinations, Gore Mountain and Whiteface. Looking behind us, the snowy Adirondack lake vista of Speculator bears a beauty that reminds us of the scene when you ski down Heavenly Mountain and come upon that sweeping view of Lake Tahoe.
Our first run down is Sacandaga, a lovely green cruiser with gorgeous views, some nice bends, and exquisitely groomed snow. Our Weather app says it’s 9 degrees, but in the sun we don’t notice it. Perfect warm-up run.
We check out Upper Ryan’s Run (a black) and Lower Ryan’s Run (a blue). For a small, very family-friendly mountain that is so close to Lake Pleasant, Indian Lake, Blue Mountain Lake, and other popular Adirondack lake towns, Oak Mountain surprises us with its variety of trails to explore. Nova, Alternate, Skidway, and the other trails on that side of Einstein’s Express aren’t open, but we enjoy an hour of runs down Oak Mt. Run, Fifth Ave, and the trails surrounding Sacandaga.
It’s fun (and educational!) to see the local high school ski team practice as we ride the chairlift. It inspires us to work on our weight-shifting and carving for the remainder of our spontaneous Friday afternoon ski outing.
We hear great things about Acorn Pub and Eatery down at the base where there is often live music. We’ll need to check it out next time for après ski.
This quaint ski area – popular with families since 1948 though a new discovery for us – offers 22 trails (snowmaking on 40%), a 650-foot vertical from base (1,750 feet) to summit (2,400 feet), and four lifts (quad, two T-bars and a surface lift). The longest run is 7,920 feet.
In addition to downhill skiing and snowboarding, Oak features four lanes of snow tubing and miles of snowshoeing trails that take you through a majestic forest.
Lift tickets to Oak Mountain are very reasonable. Full-day tickets are $44, four-hour tickets are $37, and two-hour tickets are only $30. We highly recommend starting or ending the day with even just an hour of skiing at Oak Mountain.
(Capacity is limited, and lift tickets, rentals and lessons must be booked in advance online.)
Oak Mountain is a three-season resort in the Southern Adirondacks, an easy drive from Albany, Utica or Lake George.
Oak Mountain’s website lists nearby accommodations and “Play and Stay” packages.
Among them is Lorca ADK, our lodge which we recently renovated from a historic motel, to accommodate stays year-round.
Lorca ADK is a classic drive-in lodge, reimagined as a self-check property for the contemporary traveler. It’s surrounded by forests, across the road from Indian Lake with gorgeous islands. The eight units provide coffee, tea, mini-fridges, s’mores and firewood. The property offers grills, fire pits, lawn games, a seasonal pool with weekend hours, and a nature walk. Lorca ADK is about 20 minutes from Oak Mountain, and about 30 minutes from Gore Mountain Resort.
Walking the Gorge Trail in Watkins Glen State Park in New York’s Finger Lakes is, in a word, spellbinding.
The centerpiece of the 778-acre Watkins Glen State Park is a 400-foot deep, narrow gorge cut by the Glen Creek that was left “hanging” when glaciers of the last continental glaciation, some 12,000 years ago, deepened the Seneca valley, creating rapids and waterfalls through layers of hard rock. The textures and shapes of the soft shales, sandstone and limestone – which erode at different rates – are gorgeous.
If you have ever visited a slot canyon, and marveled at the smooth, twisted, perfectly contoured curves, walk the Glen Creek Gorge Trail, where you can watch Mother Nature working her magic.
We don’t waste time after arriving at the Six Nations Campground in the park in the afternoon, in order to take advantage of the beautiful sunlight. So we drop out things and rush down to the Gorge Trail for a taste of what we will see more completely the next day.
In the course of a 1.5 mile stone trail, with 800 steps and beautiful stone bridges you see 19 incredible waterfalls.
The waterfalls range from those that flow from dramatic heights of 200 foot-high cliffs, to those that cascade; you see waterfalls coming in together from different directions, cutting through the sedimentary rock of shale, sandstone and limestone, making exquisite, remarkably perfect shapes and cuts that are astonishingly precise and straight or curved, and cascades of falls that twist.
In this “hanging valley,” we also see “hanging gardens” – the tender mosses, ferns, mosslike plants (liverworts) that drape over the rocks and down the rock walls, the delicate plants that stubbornly grow, albeit slowly in crevasses in the rock walls. They depend on continuous moisture trickling down, and you can see differences in ecosystems based on the amount of sun, shade and moisture that a section of the rock wall gets. (Visitors are told not to pick anything.)
You are enveloped by a feeling of perfect peace – the sound of the flowing water, the cool of the green moss and moist rock, the fresh smell, the late afternoon light that turns the tops of the trees into shades of yellow and gold. The gorge is fairly narrow, so you feel cocooned in this primal, Jurassic Park-like setting.
Looking down into where the water flattens out at one point into soil what appeared to be a giant fossil skeleton, exposed in the low water. It is exciting to imagine.
We walk back to Mile Point Bridge where we follow the trail back into the Six Nations Campground, after this brief survey mission.
Back at our campsite, we set up our tents and go downtown to where John, who checked us into the campground, had recommended as the best place in Watkins Glen for sunset: the marina on the southern tip of Seneca Lake. There is a rock wall that is very popular for people to walk out to watch. We opt to go to the Village Marina for dinner where we can dine outside and take in the sunset.
The colors that blaze through the sky, reflect back in the water, after the sun went behind the hills, are spectacular.
The next day, we stroll down from our campsite to the Gorge Trail.
We enter the Gorge Trail at Mile Point Bridge, giving us our first stunning view. We walk the half-mile to the end, at Jacob’s Ladder (a set of 180 stairs that goes to the Upper Entrance), and then return, choosing to go back along the Gorge Trail rather than connect to the Indian Trail that goes along the rim for views down into the Gorge. Going back this way on the Gorge Trail we go down in elevation towards the Main Entrance in the village (many people who don’t want to do the 1.5 mile trail both ways start park up here, hike down, and take a shuttle bus back, $5).
Just beyond the Mile Point Bridge is Frowning Cliff, a gorgeous waterfall, then the climatic scene, Rainbow Falls (most dramatic from the other direction on the way back; you walk behind the falls along the trail), aptly named because, on some afternoons, the sunlight comes at just the right angle to create rainbows.
On to the Central Cascade (plunging more than 60 feet, this is the highest waterfall in the Gorge), Glen Cathedral (the horizontal layers of shale were formed 380 million years ago; ripples in the rock were created by wave action at the bottom of an ancient sea floor that eventually turned to stone), then a steeper descent, through the Spiral Tunnel (hand cut in 1927) to the Cavern Cascade, where you again walk behind the waterfall) and across Sentry Bridge (look for a round flume hole in the rock where, in the 1800s, water was once diverted to power a mill where the visitor center now stands) to the new Visitor Center and main entrance on Franklin Street in Watkins Glen.
Along the way, we meet up with a park ranger who we tell about seeing what appeared to be a giant fossil. He tells us that it was exposed only two days before and might well be a titanoboa – a giant sea snake that could be as big as 45 feet long. This exciting news passes from one to another as people come to that spot to view it. Another park ranger tells us that a naturalist is coming to investigate.
For awhile, visitors to Watkins Glen State Park that morning had an extra thrill beyond the breathtaking scenery: the prospect of seeing a newly discovered fossil of a prehistoric sea snake, Monster in the Glen.
We finish walking the trail, have a delightful lunch at the Harbor Hotel on the lake. By now it is the afternoon and markedly less crowded (everyone seems to come out early for the walk) as we walk back on the Gorge Trail.
By the time we get back to where the “titanoboa fossil” would have been, we see the naturalist has etched in the soil, “Not a Fossil,” and smudged the image completely away, having revealed the fossil to be a hoax (people had remarked on what they thought were footprints leading to it).
So, if we didn’t witness a major fossil discovery, we were witness to the hoax. ow the mystery is: Who created the hoax? How? Anyway, it got everyone buzzing that day.
Also, on my walk I saw in black rock what looked like an ammonite. That too was smudged away on our return.
This stunning gorge has been visited by tourists since 1863 and was privately operated as a tourist resort ($1 admission per person, equivalent to $34 today) until New York State acquired the property, in 1906 for a state park. (It is named for Samuel Watkins; “glen” comes from a Greek word meaning “small, narrow, secluded valley”.). After the 1935 flood destroyed the trail, it was rebuilt with a stunning series of stone walks, staircases (there are 800 steps altogether), bridges and tunnels cut through the rock, by Franklin D Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps between 1935-1940. (You can do the trail one way and take a shuttle bus, $5, back).
Capping this experience is the beautiful Six Nations Campground – beautiful trees, excellent restroom facilities, and a glorious Olympic-sized pool. There are also a couple of pavilions that can be rented for groups and even the Iroquois Lodge, which is essentially a house that can be rented instead of a campsite (altogether, you can imagine a wedding here, with photos in front of waterfalls; there are also lovely accommodations in town including a luxury Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel, right on Seneca Lake, where we enjoy lunch). Where we camp, we are just a short walk down to the Gorge Trail.
Six Nations Campground is named for the Haundenosaunee Confederation, more commonly known to us as Iroquois (Haundenosaunee means “They made the house”), a reminder of whose land this was before the European colonists came. The loops of the campground are named for the nations of the Confederacy: Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca and Tuscarora. The Haudenosaunee Confederacy, the park brochure notes, is renowned for its organization and democratic system, one of the first of its kind (Ben Franklin is said to have drawn upon the Iroquois Confederation for our US Constitution; suffragist Melinda Gage drew upon the Oneida’s matriarchal structure, in which women could be chiefs, own property, have custody of their children in a divorce, to set out demands for women’s rights in 1848).In 1842, what remained of the First Nations were relegated to the Six Nations Indian Reserve. (More information is available at nearby Ganondaganb State Historic Site, 7000 County Rd. 41 (Houghton Hill Rd), Victor, NY 14564).
There are seven moderate trails in Watkins Glen State Park ranging from 0.7 to 7.6 miles and from 479 to 1,171 feet above sea level, but we focus all our time on the Gorge Trail (1.5 miles), captivated by the views and the enchantment of the place. Other trails – the Indian Trail (2.4 miles) and the South Rim Trail (2.6 miles) provide views of the Gorge from above. You can connect from the Gorge Trail to Lovers Lane Loop which takes you to a Suspension Bridge for a view above the gorge. You can also do a Gorge Trail, Outer Rim and Finger Lakes Trail combination (7.6 miles, about 3 hours) (see alltrails.com for more detail). (The trail is closed in winter.)
It’s about 3:30 in the afternoon when we return to the campsite. We go to the gorgeous, Olympic-sized pool to refresh before returning to the campsite for an amazing steak dinner David and Laini prepared over the campfire they built for our second night camping.
It is no wonder that Watkins Glen State Park was awarded the third best among 6,000 state parks nationwide in 2015, and is consistently among the state’s top parks.
Watkins Glen State Park, 1009 N Franklin St, Watkins Glen, NY 14891, 607-535-4511, https://parks.ny.gov/parks/watkinsglen/maps.aspx.
There is so much to do in Watkins Glen, in the heart of the Finger Lakes, you could easily make this your base for a week.
Auto enthusiasts know Watkins Glen for its famous NASCAR races. The pavement is dotted with names of winners throughout the years, the crosswalks painted like the race start/finish. Auto racing is still sacred here, with much of the quaint village (the downtown was a recipient of New York State’s $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative award) themed for autos.
Wine enthusiasts know Watkins Glen as the southerly point of Seneca Lake, from which you can drive up Winery Trails on both sides.
Nearby is the Corning Museum of Glass; about 1 ½ hours drive away is another jewel, Letchworth State Park, “The Grand Canyon of the East,” where we camped and hiked last year; a half-hour away is Ithaca.
The Finger Lakes region has over 1,000 waterfalls and gorges, 650 miles of shoreline, more than 16,000 acres of National Forest, and over 2,000 miles of hiking and biking trails. There is plenty to explore indoors at museums, art galleries, historic sites, theaters, wineries, breweries.
With summer turning to fall foliage season (which is amazing here), plan early and secure tickets and lodging.
Excellent planning aids are available from The Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance, 309 Lake Street Penn Yan, NY 14527, 315-536-7488, 800-530-7488, www.fingerlakes.org.
New York State Begins Weekly ILoveNY Fall Foliage Reports; New Interactive Map
The 2021 fall foliage season is underway in New York State. Fall is one of the most popular travel times in New York, attracting visitors from around the world to explore the state’s unique communities and support local businesses. To help travelers and foliage enthusiasts plan a fall getaway, I LOVE NY has begun issuing its weekly fall foliage reports and will now include a new enhanced interactive progression map (www.iloveny.com/foliage).
The foliage report is compiled each week using the on-location field observations from I LOVE NY’s team of volunteer leaf peepers. More than 85 spotters extending across the state’s 11 vacation regions are tasked with keeping track of the color change in their area as leaves progress each week. Reports detail the predominant leaf colors, approximate percentage of change, and how much color change has progressed relative to peak conditions.
New this year, I LOVE NY is introducing an enhanced, interactive map that tracks weekly foliage change and progression across the state throughout the season. The map, located on the I LOVE NY foliage website, showcases great foliage viewing locations in each of the various regions throughout the state. Visitors can also use the map to see what the foliage is like during peak viewing in a given area, and learn about nearby, must-see attractions.
Thanks in part to its size and location, New York State has one of the longest and most colorful foliage seasons in the country. On any weekend from late September through mid-November, part of the state is likely experiencing peak foliage.
Travelers are also invited to share their photos of New York State’s amazing foliage on social media by using the #NYLovesFall hashtag. Photos submitted to this hashtag have a chance of being featured on the I LOVE NY fall foliage website and official I LOVE NY social media accounts reaching nearly two million followers. Reports and the new interactive map are updated Wednesdays throughout the season at www.iloveny.com/foliage.Reports are also available toll-free by dialing 800/CALL-NYS (800/225-5697) from anywhere in the U.S., its territories and Canada. For more information on how to volunteer for as an I LOVE NY leaf peeper, e-mail your name, address and phone number to [email protected].
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, when so much was locked down and out of reach, New York State parks and outdoors were a godsend, providing needed respite. Indeed, the state’s parks received a record number of visitors, even as measures were in place to control capacity. And throughout the year, the state consistently made improvements and found ways to be available to more people.
The improvements are part of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s NY Parks 100 initiative, which renews the historic commitment to investing and expanding the State Park system by committing at least $440 million over the next four years.
“This critical period of revitalization will culminate in the 2024 celebration of the 100th anniversary of the State Park Act, which first created our nation-leading State Park system in 1924 under Governor Al Smith. NY Parks 100 will continue crucial investments in park infrastructure while enhancing opportunities to reach the full range of New York State’s recreational and cultural offerings, including local parks and trails, regional flagship parks and historic sites, and vast wilderness parks. The initiative will focus on creating places to recreate locally, relieving overcrowded parks, welcoming new visitors, and protecting New York State’s environmental and historic legacy. This new plan will ensure people from all communities and across all ages and abilities can fully experience our outdoors, our culture, and our heritage,” the state said.
Here are some of the improvements that will welcome visitors this year:
New York State has formed a new public-private partnership for a new tent camping service with 45 sites at four State Parks in the Hudson Valley. Tentrr’s fully outfitted campsites are available to reserve at the Sebago and Silver Mine areas of Harriman State Park in Orange and Rockland Counties; Taconic State Park and Lake Taghkanic State Park in Columbia County; and Mills-Norrie State Park in Dutchess County.
The service provides tents, sleeping accommodations and an array of equipment needed for camping at each site. All items are set up and ready to use upon arrival for added convenience and sites are maintained by Tentrr staff.
All locations include a 10-foot by 12-foot, canvas-walled tent atop a raised platform. Each site is outfitted with a queen-sized bed and memory foam mattress, a propane heating source, a solar-powered “sun” shower, a camp toilet, water container, Adirondack chairs, a fire pit, grill, and a picnic table with storage and benches.
Guests have the option of single, double, and triple sites. Singles sleep up to six (two occupants in the main tent and four occupants in a provided pop-up tent). Double sites – or buddy sites – sleep up to 12 (two occupants in each of the two main tents and four occupants in each of the two provided pop-up tents) and triples can accommodate group camping.
Sites are $135 per night, with a portion going toward the maintenance and stewardship of New York State Parks.
While Tentrr’s sites are naturally socially distanced, Tentrr adheres to state guidelines for maintaining and sanitizing the sites. Tentrr will continue to keep sites clean and wiped down with high-grade sanitizers and encourages guests to follow recommended COVID requirements and protocols. For more details on Tentrr’s COVID-19 protocols, visit here.
To make a reservation, visit tentrr.com/nysp. Reservations can be made up to six months in advance.
Through the Reimagine the Canals initiative, Camp Rockaway, a New York State based outdoor excursion company, is managing the site at Lock C-5 on the Champlain Canal in Schuylerville between Memorial Day weekend and September 8, with possible extension through early October. The glamping site will offer vacationing New Yorkers an opportunity to experience the vast history and bucolic landscapes of one of New York’s oldest canalside communities by enjoying luxury camping on the banks of the Canal.
Reservations are now being accepted for a glamping experience on the Champlain Canal that will attract visitors to the State’s historic upper Hudson Valley and boost the local economy that is still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.
This new glamping experience is the latest innovation from Governor Cuomo’s $300 million Reimagine the Canals initiative that is revitalizing the Canal corridor as a tourism and recreation destination while simultaneously boosting economic development and the resiliency of canalside communities.
Parks & Trails NY is offering its sensational eight-day, 400-mile biking adventure along the Erie Canalway for a 23rd year in 2021, after a hiatus in 2020. Riders will leave Buffalo July 11 and reach Albany on July 18. Registration is open for spots, limited this year to 350.
The route follows the legendary Erie Canal passing locks and aqueducts and winding through historic villages and rural farmlands. Over the course of the eight days, cyclists enjoy stunning pastoral scenes, fascinating history extending 400 years in which the story of how America came to be unfolds, and some of the best cycling in the United States. Covering between 40 and 60 miles per day, cyclists travel along the Erie Canalway Trail, which is now more than 85 percent complete and the east-west axis of the statewide 750-mile Empire State Trail.
Designed as a supported camping trip, accommodations are provided with showers, toilet facilities, some with pools or lakes for swimming; eight breakfasts and six dinners; two daily refreshment stops along the route; evening entertainment including music and historical presentations; guided tours of the Canal, historic sites, museums and other attractions including the Women’s Rights National Historic Park, Erie Canal Museum and Village, Fort Stanwix National Monument and a boat tour through the Lockport locks; kick-off reception and end-of-tour celebration; Cycle the Erie Canal t-shirt; baggage transport; SAG wagon and mobile mechanical support; daily maps and cue sheets; painted and arrowed routes; pre-departure info packet including training tips. Other amenities available (at additional fee) include fresh daily towels, gourmet morning coffee, tent and air mattress rental and set up (for those who don’t want to pitch their own tent).
With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the safety of riders, volunteers, staff, vendors, and local community members is at the forefront of planning. With this in mind, the tour is limited to 350 participants and volunteers; all registrations will be for the full eight-day option; and to keep everyone safe and meet state and local COVID-19 regulations, registration fees have increased this year.
The price up until June 7 is $1200/adult, $650 youth (6-17); $290 child (5 and under); shuttle is $100.
The PTNY coordinators are following the guidance from New York State, and will be prepared to follow all regulations in place in July. Registrants will be notified of any updates or changes. Visit New York State’s COVID-19 Travel Advisory to stay abreast of restrictions that might impact your travel plans.
Can’t do the Parks & Trails NY’s Cycle the Erie ride? Among the bike tour companies offering the trip, Wilderness Voyageurs offers a self-guided inn-to-inn tour (https://wilderness-voyageurs.com) and Classic Adventures (https://classicadventures.com/) and Womantours (www.womantours.com) offer guided itineraries.
Another way to enjoy the Erie Canal is by boat – and bring a bike along. Erie Canal Adventures’ fleet of 11 custom-designed Lockmasters sail from Macedon, near Rochester, NY, and with enough time, you can cruise some 200 miles from Buffalo to Lake Oneida in Syracuse along the canal. Besides sailing along the Erie Canal (as far as , you can also sail on other waterways, taking spurs south to the Finger Lakes, or north up the Oswego canal to Lake Ontario. Erie Canal Adventures, 315-986-3011, www.eriecanaladventures.com.
With all these marvelous ways to enjoy the Canalway, the trail system was more popular in 2020 than any prior year, according to the 2020 Who’s on the Trail report from PTNY and the NYS Canal Corporation. The system saw a record 4.2 million visits in 2020, with 3.97 million visits made to the 360-mile Erie Canalway Trail between Albany and Buffalo and 288,000 visitsto the 90-mile Champlain Canalway Trail between Waterford and Whitehall.
And now, the 353-mile long Erie Canalway, from Buffalo to Albany is linked and part of the state’s Empire Trail Network – 750 miles of interconnected off-road and on-road biking and recreational trails and lanes from the tip of Manhattan to the Canadian border.
Empire State Trail Open
New York’s ambitious Empire State Trail, now the nation’s longest multi-use state trail, is now fully opened. The trail network spans 750-miles total, 75 percent of which is off-road trails ideal for cyclists, hikers, runners, cross-country skiers and snow-shoers. The new recreational trail means you can go from New York City north-south through the Hudson and Champlain Valley to Canada, and east-west from Albany to Buffalo along the Erie Canal on a safe and incredibly scenic pathway, discovering fascinating historic and cultural sites along the way.
The Empire State Trail website provides quick and easy access to trail information including segment descriptions, access points, trail distances, parking areas, restrooms, and nearby amenities and attractions. The website’s responsive and user-friendly design allows users to access interactive maps from mobile devices, zoom in to specific location of interest, and download/print maps of trail segments. Cyclists can print “cue sheets” with highly detailed directions for following a selected trail segment. The site also features information about the variety of activitiesand destinations on or near the trail such as campgrounds, parks, historic sites, and popular stops among the local communities. (empiretrail.ny.gov/)
To promote the opening of the Empire State Trail, the state has formed a partnership with the nationally-known Boilermaker race to create the “Empire State Trail Challenge” virtual race where participants can register and log their miles to reach milestones tied to virtual progress along the Empire State Trail, through July 31.
Participants can register now and begin logging their miles walking, running or cycling. Participants would complete the mileage of at least one leg of the Empire State Trail: either the Hudson Valley Trail: 210 miles (New York City to Albany); the Erie Canalway Trail: 350 miles (Albany to Buffalo); or the Champlain Valley: 190 miles (Albany to Canada Border at Rouses Point). Participants can sign up as teams or individuals. For more information or to register, visit the website.
Although people are encouraged to the explore the actual Empire State Trail, participants can run, walk, or ride anywhere geographically, on local trails and running/bicycling routes near where they live to log and complete the challenge.
Each entrant receives a t-shirt with their $25 entrance fee for a single leg of the trail. If interested, participants can register for additional legs at the time of registration or any time during the race period at $5 per leg. Challenge participants will enter their mileage on an online platform over the duration of the race window, reaching milestones tied to virtual progress along the Empire State Trail, and have the ability to share their experiences on social media.
State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, “The Empire State Trail Challenge is one of the ways we are building back better at our state parks and trails. Our parks and trails have been safe and healthy outlets for everyone during the pandemic. Whether enjoying a fun nature break with friends and family, or truly testing their limits, the Empire State Trail Challenge offers participants of all ages and abilities a rewarding and socially distanced opportunity to enjoy New York’s outdoors.”
The Empire State Trail website provides quick and easy access to trail information along the 750-mile route including segment descriptions and an on-line map identifying off-road trails connecting on-road sections, trail distances, designated parking areas, restrooms, and nearby amenities and attractions. (https://empiretrail.ny.gov/)
Discovery Bicycle Tour on Empire State Trail
Here is what well may be the first bike touring company to come out with a guided, inn-to-inn trip along the recently completed north-south section of the Empire State Trail in New York State: Discovery Bicycle Tours’ has introduced a six-day itinerary that rides from the very tip of Manhattan, to Albany.
The six-day trip rides 200 miles of the newly completed Empire State Trail, which actually extends 750 miles from Manhattan to Canada and from Buffalo to Albany.
The Discovery Bicycle Tour goes through a wide variety of landscapes in New York State. Cycle passed the Freedom Tower and Manhattan skyscrapers, through forests, along lakes and rivers, with a triumphant finish in Albany, the state capital. You can be one of the first to enjoy this full section of the newly finished Empire State Trail, which allows cyclists to traverse the state almost entirely on dedicated hike/bike paths and routes.
Many miles are on dedicated rail-trail. And the riding is fairly flat with gentle hills. Look for vistas of the Catskill and Shawangunk mountains as you follow the gorgeous Hudson River Valley — favorite subject of Hudson River School landscape painters in the mid-1800s. As a bonus, you cycle across the Walkway Over the Hudson, the world’s longest elevated pedestrian bridge, and the iconic Rosendale Trestle.
Rated Level 1 (easier), daily cycling mileage ranges from 28 to 47 miles.
Accommodations are in casual and historic inns and a stylish boutique bed-and-breakfast.
The tour includes: 5 nights’ lodging, 5 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 4 dinners (you are on your own for 1 dinner in Rhinebeck), cycling routes with detailed maps and/or app-based navigation for those interested, plus bicycle, helmet, tour guides and van support, free week-long parking for guest cars in Hawthorne, NY. Free transfer on final day to either the Rensselaer Train Station (Albany) or take the van transit back to Hawthorne.
Meanwhile, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that the state has acquired 1,263 acres of land in the Warren County town of Johnsburg in the southern Adirondacks. The parcel includes Huckleberry Mountain, an elongated peak that tops 2,400 feet, with spectacular cliffs on the ridge’s south and southwest face.
“Through the Environmental Protection Fund, New York State continues to invest in land acquisitions that conserve open space and preserve the natural beauty of this great state for future generations to visit and enjoy,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said. “Preservation of the spectacular Huckleberry Mountain lands will benefit the region for generations to come, providing new opportunities for visitors to explore the outdoors.”
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation purchased this property from the Open Space Institute for $770,000 using resources from the State’s Environmental Protection Fund. Permanent conservation of this land will enhance recreational access in the region and offers opportunities to connect New Yorkers with nature, protect crucial watersheds, and improve important wildlife habitat in this part of the Adirondack Park. The newly protected land adjoins Wilcox Lake Wild Forest, which includes Crane Mountain, a popular, publicly accessible mountain peak that also provides access to exceptional cliffs for climbers. The Huckleberry Mountain parcel contains a wide range of wildlife habitats, including a high quality cold-water stream—Crystal Brook—that is excellent for brook trout, cliff faces that are a preferred nesting place for the endangered peregrine falcon, and a wetland complex home to an active heron rookery.
The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees more than 250 parks, historic sites, recreational trails, golf courses, boat launches and more, which were visited by a record 78 million in 2020. To book a spot in a New York State campground, go to https://newyorkstateparks.reserveamerica.com/. For more information, call 518-474-0456 or visit www.parks.ny.gov.
On what must have been one of the busiest ski days of the season at Gore Mountain – the last day of Presidents’ Week, bluebird sky, no wind, crisp and comfortable temperature in the 20s and gorgeous powder after a couple of snowstorms – we were among the delighted downhillers, having snagged capacity-controlled lift tickets, easing into the COVID-19 routine to enjoy a sensational day on the slopes.
Winter resorts provide refuge, revitalization and renewal, especially in this time of COVID, and understandably, the three New York State-owned Olympic Regional Development Authority ski areas – Gore Mountain and Whiteface in the Adirondacks, Belleayre in the Catskills – sold out their Ski3 season passes early on. Lift tickets, capacity controlled, should be booked online to make sure there is still space. So the day we visited was one of the busiest of the season because the tickets were sold out. Even so, the mountain was gloriously uncrowded, even on the busiest day. And it was heavenly.
The modifications for COVID safety in facilities and services are pretty seamless, even ordinary, by now. In fact, they have led to improvements, like the ability to order food online from the lift and pick up at the Base Lodge, and RFID direct-to-the-gate ticketing.
I went through the rental process – the large room kept as open and as uncrowded as possible, with minimal transactions and the attendants behind a plexiglass protective screen.
The base lodge had no tables or chairs inside to minimize the amount of time people stay inside, but you could still purchase grab-and-go items at the food court (we brought peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and water to have on the mountain). You are urged to use your car as your personal base lodge but that wasn’t necessary. Other concessions to COVID this season: there isn’t day care for non-skiing kids or ski school, but private lessons are available (families and pods okay).
There was a line to get on the lifts from the base – the Northwoods Gondola and the Adirondack Express quad – with people generally keeping a social distance (skis helps provide natural distancing), wearing masks as required. Even though the lines were a bit longer because of the policy to keep non-affiliated individuals on separate chairs, it moved quickly enough under the watchful eye of a couple of ski ambassadors, who pleasantly supplied a trail map upon request and answered any questions.
There are new RFID readers so no person needs to click or read the lift ticket – the gate opens automatically as it reads the lift ticket in your jacket pocket.
The ride up the 7109-foot long Adirondack Express was so delightful, depositing us right at the Saddle Lodge at mid-mountain, where, peeking in, there did seem to be a lot of people standing around, but in their own groups, socially distanced from other groups. The restrooms were extremely clean, with a sign posted that only two people should be inside at any one time.
To warm up, I started down Sunway, a 2.2-mile long green, back down to the base, and back up.
From there, we hopped on Upper Wood-In, a blue-trail, to get to the High Peaks chair – new this season! – which brings you all the way up to the summit. The High Peaks chair replaced a double chair which deposited you lower down, and you would ski to the Streetbrook Quad to get up to the summit. Now, I was able to take the High Peaks chair to the top of one of my favorite blues on the mountain, Cloud, where you have the spectacular view from the Gore’s summit at 3,600 feet altitude.
As a perennial blue-trail/intermediate skier, Gore Mountain is one of my favorite places – while Dave and Laini love the black diamond trails and the glades (Gore was one of the first Eastern ski areas to develop gladed terrain!). Nestled in the Adirondack Mountains, it offers expansive views of a real wilderness. And with a vertical of 2,537 feet, you actually feel as if you were in the Rockies.
It is surprising to realize that Gore is the biggest ski destination in New York State (and New York, with 50 ski areas and resorts, has the most in the nation!), with the most skiable acres (439 acres), 121 trails (10% beginner, 50% intermediate and 40% advanced), including 110 alpine trails, 28 glades, 8 freestyle areas and 11 cross-country and snowshoe trails, serviced by 14 lifts including a gondola (a year-round attraction, they cleverly post fun historical notes in each car). Besides the stunning views, the wilderness, what I love best is the long cruisers – the longest run is 4.4 miles and six of the trails are longer than 1 ½ miles. In all, Gore offers 42 miles of skiing. There is even night skiing (at North Creek Ski Bowl).
With a vertical drop of 2537 ft. from the summit at 3600 ft. down to the base at North Creek Ski Bowl (998 ft.), Gore also offers the 6th greatest vertical in the East – a greater vertical drop in fact than such famous mountains as Stowe (2360), Sunday River (2340), Okemo (2200), Jay Peak (2153), Mount Tremblant (2116), Mad River Glen (2037), Stratton Mountain (2003) and Mount Snow (1700) – and comparable to ski resorts in the Colorado Rockies (Copper Mountain’s vertical is 2600 ft.)
Gore Mountain skiing consists of nine faces across four mountains: Gore Mountain is the biggest and highest, at 3600 ft., Bear Mountain rises to 3200 ft., Burnt Ridge Mountain rises to 2735 ft. and Little Gore Mountain goes up to 1900 ft. The areas are so well laid out and contoured, you can easily move among them, and it’s simple to get back to the base lodge and food-court or the mid-mountain Saddle Lodge to grab a bite or warm up.
And besides having outstanding variety, Gore is an ideal a family-friendly ski destination, with a lot of natural separation of skier abilities; even the way the trails merge together – in most cases flowing together instead of having fast skiers fly down a black and crossing over a green or traverse trail– which makes it a lot more pleasant.
Each of Gore’s four mountains have their own features and character, and among them is an astonishing array of terrain, not to mention views and the fact that if conditions are not the best in one area or are too crowded (not likely because of the way skiers are dispersed), you can simply move to another. Gore has seven distinct areas:
Northwoods on Bear Mountain is the biggest area, with 29 trails, 5 glades, on 146 acres, and has the lion’s share of green (easiest) trails, including the delightful Sunway that goes into Lower Sunway, a total of 2.2 miles of absolutely marvelous skiing, down to the base. The concentration of beginner trails are accessed by a new Sunway chair. It has the most gorgeous cruisers, including Twister, a long, wide and forgiving blue, lined with trees and providing gorgeous views of the Adirondacks. There are four black diamond trails including three that have free-style (Lower Sleighride, Wild Air and Pot Luck). The area is served from the base by the Northwoods Gondola, the Adirondack Express high-speed detachable quad, a double and four surface lifts.
The High Peaks Area, known as “The Dark Side” (“where experts like to hide”) offers “Classic Adirondack” skiing with 12 trails (9 blue, two blacks and a double black, Lower Steilhang) and 4 glades on 31 acres. It is accessed by the new High Peaks chairlift which now goes all the way to the summit and the top of Cloud.
It was enjoyable to take Cloud to Headwaters, both blue trails, to the Straight Brook Quad, back up to the summit. Here, though, are a group of some of Gore’s more challenging trails, Chatiemac, Hawkeye, Open Pit and the double-black trails, The Rumor, Lies and Upper Darby.
Straight Brook on Gore Mountain offers a variety of challenging terrain and glades and is where you will find two double-black runs, The Rumor and Lies, rumored (unconfirmed) to be the steepest train in the East. Chatiemac, a black, is one of Dave and Laini’s favorites on the mountain. There are also a couple of intermediate trails – like Cloud – which connects to other blues and greens to ski the whole way down. In all, this area has 10 trails, 4 glades and 55 acres accessed by the Straight Brook quad.
Topridge is where Dave and Laini go for southern exposure diamonds with views of Gore summit, plenty of pitch and sunshine. It offers five trails (3 blue including Tannery and Lower Uncas) and two blacks, on 45 acres, accessed by the Topridge triple chair.
The North Side – called “Natural North” because they keep it natural – is off the beaten path, and offers an array of easy-going cruisers and gorgeous views. It’s great for families, with uncrowded trails you feel you have to yourself (9 trails, 2 glades on 37 acres serviced by the North quad).
Burnt Ridge is noted for its geology and great views of North Creek Village and the Hudson River. Its seven trails, five glades (The Cirque is one of the longest glades in the East) on 76 acres are serviced by “one of the most luxurious rides” on the mountain, the Burnt Ridge high-speed quad. This area has Sagamore, another one of Dave and Laini’s favorite black trails on the mountain.
North Creek Ski Bowl, which is owned by the town of Johnsburg but managed in partnership with Gore, is where two triple chairs access a surprising variety of trails – two greens, four blues, three blacks including a half pipe and skier/boarder X, and a double black, 46er – on 47 acres on Little Gore Mountain. The trails are relatively short, with a vertical of just under 1000 ft. A new Hudson chair lift connects Gore to the Ski Bowl (open for twilight skiing on weekends and holidays). There also is a shuttle bus between the two bases.
North Creek Ski Bowl also has the Nordic ski area, with 5k network of trails (3.7k with snowmaking and night lights) and snowshoeing (also “uphilling,” which is snowshoeing up the ski mountain).
The Ski Bowl has a long and storied history – when it opened in 1934it was one of the first commercial ski areas in the nation; skiers from New York City came up by train to North Creek. (Gore’s lift ticket is valid, and you can use it for twilight skiing; a Nordic trail pass is $20.)
We had focused on the upper part of the mountain for much of the day to avoid lines on the Adirondack Express or the Gondola at the base.
By the afternoon, the mountain really emptied out (it was Sunday at the end of President’s Week, after all, and people were probably not lingering over lunch), and we hit Twister which proved my absolute favorite – a long, winding blue, not intimidating, but enough of a challenge to make you feel like a real skier and bump up your skill. It turns out it is just about everybody’s favorite trail. It was no problem to come down to the base (there are two relatively steep drops at the end, but the conditions made it okay) and it was so great, we went back up again for a final run before heading out.
State-owned Gore Mountain, along with Whiteface in Lake Placid and Belleayre in the Catskills, has benefited from significant capital investments in improvements– including enhanced snowmaking, new and improved lifts and lodges – but also for year-round appeal.
In warm weather, enjoy rides on Gore’s gondola and chairlift, hiking, mountain biking and special events.
There isn’t a set closing date for skiing – so far the season has been exceptional – but typically, skiing is open until after Easter, or mid- to late April.
Gore began as a destination ski area – after all, it wasn’t that easy to reach. But over time, especially as the New York Thruway and Northway made it so easy to reach from Albany, Saratoga Springs and Glens Falls and even Montreal, Gore can be a day trip.
But Gore Mountain and the Adirondacks have so much to offer, longer stays are warranted. The landscape is breathtaking, and significantly, still wilderness. You also have some marvelous resorts and lodging – the grand, historic Sagamore Resort on Lake George is 45 minutes away (they offer a shuttle bus to Gore), and in North Creek, the Copperfield Inn is as intimate as an inn (only 31 rooms), but with all the services of a luxury hotel (Copperfield Inn, 307 Main Street, North Creek, NY 12853, 518-251-9808, www.copperfieldinn.com).
North Creek is a charming village with several delightful bistros and shops, and the village offers a free shuttle bus to the mountain, less than 10 minutes away, every 20-30 minutes throughout the day, in season.
Gore Mountain, 793 Peaceful Valley Road, North Creek, NY 12853, Snow Phone: 518-251-5026, info 518-251-2411, goremountain.com.
Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
Less than a half hour from Lake George Village, in upstate New York, you can discover cultural and artistic venues in smaller hamlets in the Adirondack State Park all year long without the crowds usually found in the Village. The draw to the small town shops and restaurants are in the quality of locally sourced products they sell and use in food preparation.
Check out some of the Adirondack State Park towns we discovered while driving around Lake George and following the Hudson River:
North Creek, NY – in addition to this town being the location of Gore Mountain ski resort, it is taking off as the art center of the Gore region in the State Park. To get to North Creek, we drove north of Lake George on Rte 9 and Rte 28 for about 35 minutes. The short journey took us along a shallow, yet scenic section of the Hudson River. We found glassblowing, mosaics, local artist exhibits, and regional foods – we spent a day here, but we could easily have stayed over at a local hotel to do more in town and in the surrounding mountains.
Widlund Gallery at Tannery Pond Center – also called the Adirondacks Art Center (228 Main St, North Creek, NY 12853; 518-251-2505 x128; https://tannerypondcenter.org ), runs exhibits by local artists continuously throughout the year (even during ski season). Each exhibit runs for 6-7 weeks. Check out the Center’s site for upcoming exhibits. Socially distanced, outdoor events will begin early Spring, 2021.
We toured the oil paintings of Elizabeth MacFarland whose art reflects local, natural settings. We purchased a beautiful poetry book for our granddaughter from the Center — Butterfly, Dragonfly – Poetry for Children, which was both written and illustrated by Ms. MacFarland – you can also find this book on Elizabeth’s website (https://www.elizabethmacfarland.com/).
The Center is handicap accessible, with parking spots across the street and a ramp leading up to the main entrance. The main floor contains the exhibits. A performance hall on the lower level can be reached by an elevator. Expect to wear masks while visiting.
North Creek Mosaic Project – just a couple of blocks from Tannery Pond Center, we found artist Kate Hartley working on the last major section of the 180-foot long mosaic relief along Main St. For the past 10 years, this project has been a labor of love for Hartley who conceptualized covering the retaining walls on this street with beautiful mosaic scenes representing activities in the Adirondacks. A project of this scale has drawn more than 2000 volunteers to help place pieces of tile, glass, and stone on the walls with Hartley’s guidance. Laurie is now one of those volunteers, by adding one of the last pieces to the mosaic that day. The Mosaic Project, now fully tiled, can be easily viewed from your car, but we recommend walking up to the walls to see close up the variety of materials used to build it. (For more information about this project follow https://www.facebook.com/northcreekmosaicproject/, or go to http://visitnorthcreek.org/project/the-north-creek-mosaic-project/.)
Artist-in-residence, Gregory Tomb (https://www.gregorytglass.com) – Reserve a 1-2 hour glassblowing class when Gregory returns to the region as Artist-in-Residence from late spring through late September 2021. For a private class, contact Gregory at 530-318-9413 or [email protected]. Gregory’s temporary studio is located at the North Creek Railroad Station Complex (21 Railroad Place, North Creek, NY 12853). Gregory helped Laurie learn to use glassmaking tools to create a beautiful paperweight; Marty learned to blow hot glass and shape it into a bud vase. The building is handicap accessible with parking on a gravel lot, but no bathroom is located on premise.
Hudson River Trading Company – across the street from the North Creek Mosaic Project, the 7,000 sq. foot, multi-level store (292 Main St., North Creek, NY; 518-251-4461) is filled with items for sale which represent Adirondack life and culture. The store has souvenirs distinctive of the region, including NY State maple-covered nuts and confections, accessories and wares for every room in your house, accessories for pets, and clothing for all ages.
As we toured the store, owner Laurie Prescott Arnheiter explained to us how she preserved the original 1898 walls and floors from its days as a livery and stables and later a butcher shop. Look for the posts and numbers where the horse’s yolks were hung on the walls of the lower room. The retail store also has a kids’ section to keep them occupied while their parents shop – there is a puppet stage, a small piano, and a reading corner (note to us, bring our granddaughter next time). We purchased an Adirondack hoodie sweatshirt for our daughter, an apron for Laurie, some dog treats, local honey, and NY maple-coated peanuts and candies.
Arnheiter also owns the small gourmet shop next door — The Hungry Crow — which is also in a historic building, and offers all locally made shelf and refrigerated food, such as cheeses, ground coffee, chocolates, and pastas. She even scooped for us berry-infused ice cream freshly made from a local dairy. Check the website, https://hudsonrivertradingco.com, for spring reopening and hours.
Gore Mountain – this Adirondack ski resort offers downhill and cross-country skiing and snowboarding. Gore Mountain remains open the rest of the year for activities such as scenic hiking trails, a mountain skyride, downhill mountain biking, and nine-hole disc golf. The 2020/2021 season pass packages start from $499/adult. The pass applies to some of the summer and fall activities, and includes an additional ticket for sharing a winter activity. (793 Peaceful Valley Rd, North Creek, NY 12853; 518-251-2411, https://goremountain.com)
Bolton Landing, NY – this lakeside hamlet is just 15 minutes north of Lake George Village, as you drive along the lake. Beautiful views of Lake George and shopping in small businesses with plenty of parking was a huge draw for us to stop and spend an afternoon here. Bolton Landing is also the home of the historic luxury hotel, The Sagamore Resort.
Lake George Adirondack Winery – for a fun and educational wine tasting experience for up to four people, book online or call any of their three locations in the region: Bolton Landing 518-708-6672; Lake George Village 518-203-2597; Queensbury 518-668-9463, https://www.adirondackwinery.com/. We opted for the Bolton Landing location.
This family-owned winery uses northern New York State and Canadian fresh grapes and fruit to create delicious red, pink, white, and ice wines. Adirondack Winery also effectively infuses semi-sweet red and white wines with seasonal fruit. The Adirondack Winery shops and production facility are open seven days a week for wine tasting and shopping – confirm hours online.
For the “Original Wine Tasting Experience” (just $8/person) we each selected seven different wine samples from a choice of 32 Adirondack Winery prepared wines. We added the “Locavore Sampler” and the “Cheese Lover’s Sampler” for an additional $10/person, which allowed us to sample local Adirondack cheeses along with the wines. Our platter included a mild goat cheese, a champagne-infused cheddar which paired deliciously with Adirondack Winery’s very own “Berry Breeze wine-infused” jam, locally made chocolate truffles, and crackers and pretzels to eat with them. We finished off the wine tasting with a refreshing wine slushy of the day (additional $5/person). Masks and social distancing are still required in the wine-tasting room, even though masks may be removed when you are sitting for the tasting experience. Based on our sampling, we chose four different, full-bodied wines to take home, a block of the champagne cheese and the “Berry Breeze” jam — they were a big hit with our multi-generational family.
Adirondack Extreme Adventure Courseis perfect for a multi-generational family with over 100 obstacle courses and 15 ziplines for adults and older kids, and two courses and a playground for younger children. Whether you are a newbie to ziplining, treetop climbing and swinging obstacle courses, or an experienced adventurer, this aerial park offers something for everyone to spend a thrilling day in the wonderful mountain air and beautiful views of the Lake (5 Westwood Forest Ln., Bolton Landing, NY; 518-494-7200, https://adirondackextreme.com)
The aerial adventure park reopens in April 2021. Check the website for hours of operation, pricing of course packages, and minimum age requirements. Reservations and payment in advance by phone or online are required. Masks are required at check-in, during harnessing procedures, and walking throughout the park; masks are not required while climbing the courses. Social distance between separate groups is expected.
North River, NY – a small hamlet on the banks of the Hudson River, North River is the home of the world’s largest, commercial-grade garnet deposits found on Gore Mountain. In 1969, Governor Nelson Rockefeller officially named the ruby red Barton garnet as New York State’s gem stone.
Garnet Mine Tours – currently closed due to Covid-19 restrictions; check the web site (garnetminetours.com) to learn when they will reopen for tours of the historic Barton Mines (1126 Barton Mines Rd., North River, NY).
Garnet Hill Lodge – just 15 minutes from the center of North Creek and around 45 minutes from Lake George, this rustic, Adirondack wood lodge, high up on a mountain, boasts a scenic canyon view of Thirteenth Lake from the resort’s meadow.
The Garnet Hill Lodge is a perfect one-stop resort for four seasons of outdoor activities. During winter months, the Lodge offers 35 miles of groomed cross-country ski trails and six different snowshoe trails starting immediately outside the lodge and its Outdoor Center. Every stay at the lodge comes with complimentary trail passes. The full service ski shop assists guests with equipment, clothing, repairs, rentals, and lessons.
Throughout the rest of the year, lodge guests can enjoy the mountain’s hiking trails, the resort’s tennis courts, sign out complimentary mountain bikes, canoes and kayaks, and enjoy the Lodge’s staff-attended private beach on Thirteenth Lake. While walking around the mountain, in addition to looking out at the beautiful Adirondack mountain scenery and looking up at the beautiful clean sky, try looking down – you just might find a rock with garnets! (garnet-hill.com; 39 Garnet Hill Road, North River, NY 12856; 518-636-1652)
With continued Covid-19 flying and quarantine restrictions continuing throughout the country and world, this secluded, Adirondack State Park lodge and resort is ideal for a destination wedding. Pre-Covid, Garnet Hill was able to accommodate up to 120 guests for an outdoor or indoor ceremony and reception from June through October, and up to 80 guests between November and May.
A two-night minimum booking for guests at the Lodge included food and beverages in the lodge’s full-service restaurant and pub, the Bobcat Bar and Grill. Guests have complimentary use of the lodge’s outdoor equipment in all seasons, including the lake beach and well-marked hiking and mountain biking trails. Contact Nicole at 518-251-2444 to discuss current capacity limitations, to book a getaway, or a visit and tour of Garnet Hill Lodge for a potential wedding or other group event. Nicole will assist with planning all aspects of a destination wedding or event within state guidelines and restrictions.
Reclining in zero-gravity chairs, wearing street clothes and covered up with warm, fluffy throw covers, we took off our masks, closed our eyes, and breathed in the medical-grade salt that was being released into the room. Listening to relaxing music, we immediately fell into a deep sleep. Forty-five minutes later, owner Dawn gently woke us. We walked out of the room feeling quite relaxed, with Laurie commenting that she no longer had the acid reflux cough she came in with, and Marty left with clear sinuses. The experience was a success for both of us! We have one recommendation: the room is cool even with the warm comforter, so be sure to wear layers: long-sleeved shirt, jacket, or sweater, socks or booties, long pants.
The Wellness Center is a holistic healing arts center which also offers Swedish massage, Shiatsu, Reiki, Esthetician services, therapeutic reflexology, and other massage therapy services. Owners Dana and Greg Russell renovated a 123-year old collar and shirt mill, built out therapy rooms and the large “salt cave” room while preserving the original wood floors, brick walls, and tall windows for lots of natural light in the waiting area. Over 7,000 lbs of Himalayan salt blocks went into creating the long, beautiful, backlit wall that is the focal point of the man-made “salt cave” room. They also built out the front desk and the base of the benches with salt blocks. For pricing of services and packages and to make an appointment, visit adirondacksaltcave.com, call Dana at 518-798-2343, or email her at [email protected]. Please tell her that Laurie and Marty sent you! (11 Broad St., Glens Falls, NY 12801).
Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
Our 2020 intimate July destination wedding and honeymoon in Maui were coming together perfectly by March, until our plans were completely squashed due to COVID-19 limitations. Every potential reception venue that was on our list closed abruptly. Since March, our fears filled our heads – not just with the stress any normal bride and groom would have months prior to the wedding, but now this deadly virus was spreading throughout the whole world!
July 22nd 2020 was our 10th anniversary of dating so getting married on that day was something we would not let be postponed. After having a little ceremony with the immediate family in our backyard (the rabbi on Zoom!), we decided to take a getaway honeymoon during the pandemic. Our focus was finding a place where we could discover beautiful and romantic scenery, night life, a cute town to walk around and to be near the water.
With a large lake surrounded by gorgeous views of the Adirondack Mountains, we found the perfect destination in Lake George Village and the Adirondack State Park, New York. Lake George is huge! It is 32 miles long with over 170 islands and home to 13 communities. 148 islands are state-owned and accessible by the public, with reserved camping allowed. This was our first visit to the Adirondack State Park region, as well as our first venture out after sheltering at home for months. With such a wide variety of attractions and activities to experience in the State Park, one trip did not give us enough time to do it all – we’re already planning future return visits.
We knew we could stay busy while remaining socially distant. Businesses in Lake George Village and in other Adirondack State Park hamlets are mandated to follow the state’s strict COVID-19 requirements: all customers and staff must wear masks when not eating or drinking, and enforce social distancing by spacing apart sitting areas and limiting the number of occupants. As we walked around town, we saw visitors, businesses and venue staff adhering to the COVID guidelines. So we felt safe, too.
Lake George Village is expecting to be very active in 2021, primarily from April through October. Contact the Lake George Chamber of Commerce at 518-668–5755 or email them at [email protected] for directions, maps, and customized itineraries and recommendations.
Check out how we explored The Village of Lake George:
1. Kayak or paddle board along the southern lake shore. Bring your own equipment, or reserve and rent equipment from local operators. Some of the hotels have private beaches and also offer equipment rentals.
On the private beach of the “Shore Meadows Lodge”, we rented kayaks from “Kayak Lake George”. Kayak Lake George offers hourly rentals for one- and two-person kayaks and paddle boards. Since this was our first time kayaking, the staff assisted us by giving us a demonstration. This short demo gave us the confidence to navigate along the bank of Lake George by ourselves without a guide. Kayak Lake George is in an ideal spot, the dock’s location allows you to either go one direction and explore the active village docks, or go another direction to find a more peaceful setting and travel around a small island. For Spring 2021 pricing and to reserve your kayaks, go to http://www.kayaklakegeorge.com or call 518-302-6005.
Some hotels and resorts around the lake also offer guests lake amenities including lake equipment rentals. Surfside On The Lake Hotel & Suites where we stayed has kayak and pedal boat rentals as well as an outdoor pool and private sandy beach, perfect for launching kayaks.
2. Parasail over the Lake– contact family-owned, local operators such as Parasail Joe’s (518-668-4013; https://parasailjoes.com/; 204 Canada St., Lake George) to reserve a 1-3 person parasail flight. Wear a bathing suit or casual comfortable clothes because you have the option to get dipped into the water. Parasailing is a thrill! Sailing up to 350 feet in the air, you have spectacular views of the lake. Parasail Joe’s operates annually from June through September, reservations are required. A regular parasail ride costs $80/person (5 years old and up; inquire about weight limits, and ask about daily specials).
3. Cruise the Lake – there are many opportunities for enjoying a cruise around the lake while following Covid-19 guidelines. Short day and evening cruising run from early Spring through the end of October.
Lake George Steamboat Co. has three ships in their fleet for a wide variety of midday and sunset cruising options available to adults only or for families. The ships follow the beautiful shorelines of the lake, starting in the southern section from the docks in the Village of Lake George. During the summer months and for October fall foliage viewing, the ships offer themed, family-oriented dinner cruises, such as a pirate cruise or a pasta dinner. Cruise times range for 1-2 hours for historic narratives with or without food and drinks, to six hours of full-lake sightseeing. Cruises with itineraries longer than one hour offer opportunities to see some of the 170 islands scattered across the large lake. Check online or call for available dates, pricing, and to reserve space: https://lakegeorgesteamboat.com/; 518-668-5777, ext.4.
Lake George Shoreline Cruises – We gathered for an hour-long sunset cruise which offered two complimentary drinks (beer, wine, soda). Coffee, tea, liquors and light snacks were also available to purchase. It is highly recommended to make reservations. Everyone was masked and maintained a social distance as we lined up to set sail for our 6 pm departure. Once boarded, you are free to sit wherever you want, and during the ride, you are free to walk around the boat and sightsee from any of the three levels. You are not bound to a seat, so grab a drink and enjoy the lake from different perspectives. This is a great way to get the night started! Once you return, you are right in the middle of town with a boardwalk area. Walk along the docks and restaurants that lead to the main Village streets featuring many stores, museums, parks and stunning views. Keep your Shoreline cruise ticket, as it offers a 10% discount for an entrée at the Lake George Shoreline Restaurant, across the parking lot from the dock. Call or check online for available cruise dates, pricing, and to reserve space: 518-668-4644; https://lakegeorgeshoreline.com. During peak season, you may also purchase and pick up tickets directly from the kiosk in front of the two ship’s docks at 2 Kurosaka Ln, Lake George.
4. Eat a hearty meal overlooking the lake at one of the Village’s upscale, yet casual restaurants. Restaurants you can’t miss:
Lake George Shoreline Restaurant (4 Kurosaka Ln, Lake George; (518) 668-2875) – a casual, surf and turf restaurant with a covered deck that provides a view of the dock where the Shoreline cruise boats come in and out. The restaurant has a wide variety of food that is freshly cooked with distinctive flavors. We shared mussels, corn and crab chowder, the restaurant’s famous burger and pasta primavera. Remember to show your cruise ticket to receive a discount on an entrée.
The Boathouse Restaurant at The Lodges at Cresthaven (800-853-1632; 3210 Lake Shore Drive, Lake George). The restaurant opens in early Spring. We experienced superb service while sitting at a window table that was literally at the lake’s edge. The staff was warm and friendly, and many of them being locals who grew up in town, were very knowledgeable of the area. They were forthcoming to welcome tourists to explore all Lake George has to offer. They recommended their favorite local activities and tips on how to make our honeymoon memorable!
Our compliments to Chef Paul — the portions of both appetizers (Margarita grilled shrimp, warm rolls, clam chowder filled with fresh clams), and our entrées (chicken parmigiana, a huge Tomahawk steak with homemade steak sauce and lobster tails) were all cooked to perfection, with generous servings! We also ordered flavorful mixed drinks and what became our new favorite locally brewed beer on tap, Adirondack Bear Naked Amber Ale..Check out the restaurant’s Facebook page for photos and current hours of operation:https://www.facebook.com/lakegeorgeboathouse/about.
Pizza Jerks (518-668-4411; 59 Iroquois St., Lake George, NY) – choose from over 25 specialty pizzas, including gluten-free crust, or build your own. Order hot or cold subs and wraps, and add an order or two of their garlic knots. Their motto is “awesome food for awesome people”– we’re vouching for that. Make sure you order the Jamaican Jerk and Sesame Teriyaki chicken wings (just two of over 14 flavors). Pizza Jerks is open year-round for delivery and pickup.
The Lagoon Bar & Grill (518-685-5009; lagoonlakegeorge.com; 204 Canada St., Lake George). This fun little establishment is all about over-the-top comfort food, such as the “Loaded Mac Grilled Cheese Sandwich” – sourdough grilled cheese stuffed with pulled pork and macaroni and cheese. The 8-oz. “French Mountain” Burger is piled with provolone cheese, grilled onions, mushrooms, and topped with bourbon glaze.
Adirondack Pub & Brewery (518-668-0002; adkbrewery.com; 33 Canada St, Lake George, NY). Hand-crafted lagers and ales using local, Adirondack ingredients are brewed and bottled on-site in this Lake George rustic, log-style building. The restaurant boasts a large, covered deck for outdoor seating. Menu options combine regular pub appetizers, with some rather interesting ones, such as: eggplant fries, East-ender fish and chips; Black and Blue burger with homemade gorgonzola horseradish creme sauce; and even craft-made, locally brewed root beer. Ask for their S’mores dessert! You can also enjoy their signature and seasonal beer at other restaurants around town and on the lake cruises.
5. Play a round of mini-golf at one of the many themed, outdoor golf parks. Surrounded by lush landscaped waterfalls, streams, and structures representing an 18th-century town overrun by pirates, the 18-hole Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf is a favorite activity for playing during the day or late into the evening (518-668-0493, 2115 U.S. 9, Lake George, https://www.piratescove.net/locations/new-york/lake-george/). Open daily from mid-April through late October, a round of golf costs $8.95/adult, $8.50/child 4-12 (kids 3 and under play for free).
6. Stroll or drive around the center of Lake George Village – with wide, clean sidewalks! The large town center offers many lively bars, restaurants and shops geared towards visitors. Each has its own unique souvenirs, clothes, antiques, novelties, and specialty treats like fudge, chocolates, local wines, even cotton candy and soft serve ice cream.
Walk along the southern Lake George boardwalk and docks – the concrete paths wind alongside bars, restaurants, and pristine waterfront parks. At night, the paths around the docks are brightly lit and visitors can walk around enjoying the nightlife on the lake.
Visit “The House of Frankenstein” Wax Museum (518-668-3377; 213 Canada Street, Lake George, NY). The two-story attraction houses rooms with animated wax figures that portray historic and literary scenes of horror and torture. We recommend it for kids and adults who can handle walking along darkened hallways and fake gore. General admission is $10.75/adult; $9.81/student 13-17; $6.07/kids (6-12). This attraction is open daily from April through early November. Check the hours of operation in 2021 from the museum’s website (https://frankensteinwaxmuseum.com/tickets/).
Travel back in time to the middle of the French and Indian War during the 1750s at Fort William Henry Museum (518-964-6649; https://www.fwhmuseum.com; 48 Canada Street, Lake George). Take a self-guided tour to hear about the role of the fort during this pre-revolutionary period, or learn from a military guide dressed in 18th-century period uniform. Demonstrations of musket and cannon firing are scheduled throughout the day. It is strongly recommended to call or go online to reserve when you will visit as well as to purchase tickets in advance. Plan to come for the fort’s special events. General admission (and for ghost tours) is $19.95+NYS tax/adult; $15.95+NYS tax/Senior; $9+NYS tax/child (5-15; under 5 free); Military/Veterans are free with a valid ID.
7. Explore the Adirondack State Park mountain roads above Lake George Village. One of our favorite drives is up the five-mile Prospect Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway which has a few overlooks to view the Village, the Lake George islands, and the beautiful, tree-lined mountains. Follow the road all the way up to the last overlook and park your car so you can walk up a rather steep but short hill to be 2,030 feet at the mountain’s summit. Here, you can view both local scenery of The Narrows, Lake George, and The Eagle’s Eye. Far in the distance on a clear day, you can also see mountain ranges in Vermont, New Hampshire and Canada – totally worth the trek up the mountain! Prospect Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway is open from May through Veterans’ Day, weather permitting.
8. Book a campsite or reserve your own private island in Lake George by visiting https://www.lakegeorge.com/camping/reservations/. There are plenty of ways to camp in the Adirondack State Park around Lake George, from tent camping, glamping, RV-rentals, or sleeping on a small docked boat! Kayak or boat to your private campsite on your very own island. Use the online resource, Lake George Camping Guide for tips, contact information and other ways to reserve these unique stays! Although we did not have the opportunity to stay at our own private island, we look forward to planning them for one of our future trips.
9. Rent a private boat for the day; Even if you do not own your own boat, you can still enjoy the day on the water! There are tons of vehicles you can rent while staying on the lake. Many boat marinas allow you to use rentals during spring months through fall. You need to be 21 years or older with a valid driver’s license in order to rent and drive a boat in New York. Visit https://www.visitlakegeorge.com/water/boat-rentals for more information on where to book your very own boat rental!
New York’s ambitious Empire State Trail, now the nation’s longest multi-use state trail, is now fully opened as of December 31. The trail network spans 750-miles total, 75 percent of which is off-road trails ideal for cyclists, hikers, runners, cross-country skiers and snow-shoers. The new recreational trail means you can go from New York City north-south through the Hudson and Champlain Valley to Canada, and east-west from Albany to Buffalo along the Erie Canal on a safe and incredibly scenic pathway, discovering fascinating historic and cultural sites along the way.
The Empire State Trail is expected to draw 8.6 million residents and tourists annually and will be an economic boon to rural communities, in addition to providing opportunities for healthful activities promoting wellness among New Yorkers.
“Nearly four years ago, we announced plans to build the Empire State Trail and I am excited to announce it’s been completed on time and will open on New Year’s Eve,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said. “There’s no trail like it in the nation – 750 miles of multi-use trail literally from Manhattan to the Canadian Border, from Buffalo to Albany. Not only does it provide an opportunity to experience the natural beauty and history of New York, but it also gives New Yorkers from every corner of the state a safe outlet for recreation as we continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic. As we approach the holiday weekend, there is no better time than now to put on your mask and experience it for yourself.”
“During this unprecedented year, the Empire State Trail has been a lifeline for many, as local residents explored recreational opportunities in their backyards while remaining safe during a global health pandemic,”Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul said. “The completion of the 750-mile state trail not only makes physical connections between locations across the state, but it also continues to build on how we are reimagining our natural wonders and historic corridors as a source of recreation, economic development and tourism in New York State.”
Introduced in the Governor’s 2017 State of the State address, the Empire State Trail will be open year-round, including winter. It connects 20 regional trails to create a continuous statewide signed route. As part of the 58 distinct projects to complete the Trail on time, more than 180 miles of new off-road trail was created and 400 miles of previously disconnected, off-road trails were linked to eliminate gaps and ease engineering challenges such as railroad and water crossings in high traffic areas.
The New York State Department of Transportation improved 170 miles of on-road bicycle route sections to enhance safety and travel on low-speed rural roadways and city streets when possible. New York State also installed 45 gateways and trailheads along the route to welcome visitors and branded the trail with signage, interpretive panels, bike racks, and benches.
The Empire State Trail website provides quick and easy access to trail information including segment descriptions, access points, trail distances, parking areas, restrooms, and nearby amenities and attractions. The website’s responsive and user-friendly design allows users to access interactive maps from mobile devices, zoom in to specific location of interest, and download/print maps of trail segments. Cyclists can print “cue sheets” with highly detailed directions for following a selected trail segment. The site also features information about the variety of activities and destinations on or near the trail such as campgrounds, parks, historic sites, and popular stops among the local communities.
Recently completed projects that finalize the trail include:
Albany-Hudson Electric Trail: The Hudson River Valley Greenway constructed 36 miles of off-road and on road trails from the city of Rensselaer to the City of Hudson in Rensselaer and Columbia counties. The $45 million trail follows the historic route of an electric trolley which operated from 1900 to 1929. The corridor is owned by National Grid, which authorized New York State to build a trail on the route.
Maybrook Trailway: Metro-North Railroad constructed a new 23-mile rail-trail on its inactive “Beacon Line” corridor from Hopewell Junction in Dutchess County to Brewster in Putnam County passing through the towns of Pawling, Southeast, Paterson, Beekman and East Fishkill. Along the route, the trail winds through rural landscapes and wooded areas featuring seasonal waterfalls and crosses the Appalachian Trail. The $42 million Beacon Line was the first all-rail freight connection across the Hudson River north of New York City. It originally opened as a rail line in 1892 and served as a vital transportation link between New York and southern New England, carrying trains between Derby Junction and Maybrook, via the bridge over the Hudson River at Poughkeepsie that is now the Walkway Over the Hudson.
Hudson River Brickyard Trail: The City of Kingston constructed a new 1.5-mile Empire State Trail section along the Hudson River shoreline. The $1.4 million project was built with City of Kingston and Town of Ulster funds matched by state grants from the Department of State and Hudson River Valley Greenway.
Battery Park City Gateway: The $450,000 gateway marks the southern terminus of the trail in Lower Manhattan.
Erie Canalway Trail
The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Gateways: These four gateways in Western New York provide a welcoming connection for trail visitors at key access points in: Buffalo Harbor State Park in Buffalo; at the western entrance to the Erie Canal in Tonawanda; at Five Locks Park in Lockport; and in Genesee Valley Park in Rochester. The gateways include kiosks featuring local and statewide trail information, bicycle racks, and shaded granite block seating. Each gateway features a “Ralph C. Wilson, Jr.” memorial plaque honoring the late owner of the Buffalo Bills. The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation provided $2.6 million dollars for the gateways.
Macedon Bridge: NYSDOT restored a closed vehicle bridge over the Erie Canal. The $4.2 million investment created a bicycling and walking trail and created a local park.
Erie Blvd-Syracuse: NYSDOT constructed a 3-mile trail in the median of Erie Blvd, from East Syracuse to DeWitt. The project cost $23 million.
Loop the Lake Trail-Syracuse: Onondaga County constructed a new 1.5-mile trail on the south shore of Onondaga Lake, including a new bicycle/pedestrian bridge over CSX’s rail line. The project was funded with County and federal funds.
Utica: New York State Canal Corporation constructed a new 3.5-mile trail east of Utica for $9.3 million
Herkimer County: New York State Canal Corporation completed a new 2.2-mile trail section Lock E18 to Route 167, a new 1.3-mile trail section Frankfort to Ilion, and a new 2-mile trail from Ilion to Mohawk. These projects totaled $16.4 million.
Fort Edward to Fort Ann: The New York State Canal Corporation constructed two adjacent trail sections. The $14.3 million investment created a 12-mile trail from Fort Edward to Fort Ann.
Fort Ann to Comstock: NYSDOT built a new 0.75-mile off-road trail in Washington County and designated a 7-mile route on local roads and cost $2 million.
“The Empire State Trail is a testament to Governor Cuomo’s vision to make New York State an unmatched destination for outdoor recreation,” New York State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said. “Everyone from the most experienced long-distance cyclists to family groups with children will enjoy this pathway. People can take a quick bike ride or walk close to home, or they can plan a multi-day adventure to take them from one end of the state to the other.”
“Governor Cuomo’s vision for the newly-completed Empire State Trail merges economic development with the beautiful views along the Canal system to create exceptional outdoor recreation opportunities, both for residents of canalside communities and for visitors from across New York and beyond,” New York State Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton said. “The Erie Canalway and Champlain Canalway Trail segments of the Empire State Trail reintroduce New Yorkers to the historic towpaths of our state’s storied waterways and connect a new generation to the rich heritage of the New York Canal system.”
“Completion of the 750-mile Empire State Trail is a truly historic achievement for New York State that demonstrates the intricate connection between investments in transportation infrastructure and the vitality of our communities,” New York Department of Transportation Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez said. “This breathtaking trail will allow countless generations of New Yorkers and visitors to explore the world-renowned natural wonders and beauty of the Empire State and provide unparalleled recreational access to users of all ages and abilities – all while promoting environmental responsibility, tourism and economic development. The New York State Department of Transportation is proud to have played a significant role in fulfilling Governor Cuomo’s vision. Excelsior!”
“New York’s landscape offers extraordinary opportunities to explore the outdoors and experience the state’s world-class natural resources while still being able to recreate locally,” New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “This exciting milestone for the Empire State Trail enhances one of New York’s premier recreational opportunities and demonstrates Governor Cuomo’s commitment to showcasing our state’s diverse communities, boosting their local economies, and connecting more New Yorkers to our environment.”
“The completion of the Empire State Trail further demonstrates Governor Cuomo’s commitment to invest in canalside communities and compliments the Reimagine the Canals initiative,” New York Power Authority President and CEO Gil C. Quiniones said. “Together, these investments safeguard the Canal’s role as a driver of economic growth. The Empire State Trail also will improve the quality of life of New Yorkers while simultaneously showcasing the historic beauty that already exists in the landscape surrounding the canals.”
“I want to thank Governor Cuomo for his vision, and our talented and dedicated Metro-North project team for giving new life to this area along Metro-North’s Beacon Line,” President of Metropolitan Transportation Authority Metro-North Railroad Catherine Rinaldi said. “This project ensures that New Yorkers and outdoor enthusiasts alike will be able to enjoy the trailway for decades to come.”
“Governor Cuomo’s Empire State Trail announcement completes New York State’s vision to create a Greenway trail between New York City and the Erie Canal, and it caps the efforts of communities up and down the Hudson Valley to develop an iconic multi-use trail,” Hudson River Valley Greenway Executive Director Scott Keller said.
Empire State Trail Brewery Passport
In addition, a virtual passport program showcases the 200 craft breweries closely surrounding the Empire State Trail, in partnership with the New York State Brewers Association. The Empire State Trail Brewery Passport, made available through the NYSBA’s existing New York Craft Beer App, will encourage New Yorkers to visit breweries within 10 miles of the Empire State Trail.
At each brewery along the Trail, visitors can digitally check-in on the app, earning a stamp on both of the app’s passport programs – the Think NY, Drink NY Passport and now the Empire State Trail Brewery Passport.
Exclusive rewards are awarded at levels determined by the number of stamps received on the Empire State Trail Brewery Passport, from neck gaiters, to shirts, to backpacks and more. By checking-in at 200 breweries and completing the Empire State Trail Brewery Passport, visitors will receive a branded cooler backpack and a t-shirt stating, “I completed the Empire State Trail Brewery Passport.”
The New York Craft Beer App is the first state-wide beer app in the country and is available for both Apple and Android devices. The app gives craft beer enthusiasts access to a map containing every brewery across New York State, searchable by region, and includes directions to breweries and allows users to build and save a personal tour of selected breweries. (https://thinknydrinkny.com/the-app/)
Parks & Trails NY’s Cycle the Erie Ride
Meanwhile, Parks & Trails NY, a long-time advocate and activist for repurposing trails and byways for recreational use, is hoping to offer its 23rd annual 8-day 400-mile, Buffalo to Albany biking/camping Cycle the Erie trip July 11-18, 2021. PTNY is taking wait-and-see to offer the trip, which had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, and is delaying registration until March 1.
“We continue to plan for a potential ‘in person’ 2021 CTEC event while remaining flexible in our options, given the uncertainty of the months ahead in terms of the pandemic and state regulations,” write the ride directors.
Three of the best ski areas in New York are actually owned by New York State and operated by the Olympic Regional Development Authority – Whiteface and Gore Mountain in the Adirondacks and Belleayre in the Catskills. (Among the improvements ORDA has made is new RFID technology for direct-to-lift access and online purchasing so you can go directly from your car to the slopes; the ticket can be renewed online.)
Top of the list for ski areas with a world-class reputation is Whiteface, site of the 1932 and 1980 Olympics, where in addition to skiing, you can visit Olympic venues and even participate (biathalon, anyone? skate on the Olympic Oval, drive a coaster down the bobsled track).
Whiteface offers the greatest vertical, 3430 ft. from the summit at 4867 ft, of any lift-serviced mountain in the Northeast. This is a serious mountain – actually three mountains, Whiteface summit is a 4,867 ft.; Lookout Mountain tops at 4,000 ft.; Little Whiteface at 3,676 ft. – with more expert terrain, more long, rolling groomers (including the longest single intermediate run in the Northeast, the 2.1 mile-long Wilmington Trail) in the East. It offers 300 skiable acres: 89 runs (24% beginner, 44% intermediate, 33% advanced) and 53 acres of glades and 5 terrain parks, serviced by 13 lifts, including the gorgeous Cloudsplitter Gondola Ride that cuts an aerial path through the Adirondack Mountains on its way to the peak of Little Whiteface.
Whiteface is my favorite ski destination in New York, largely because of Lake Placid, the ambiance and the extraordinary activities.
Experience the thrill of what it was like to be an Olympic Bobsledder during the 1980 Winter Games on the new Cliffside Mountain Coaster at Mt. Van Hoevenberg, which boasts being the longest year-round mountain coaster in the USA. You control the ride – you have the ability to go as slow or as fast as you’d like. Race your family & friends alongside the 1980 bobsled track to the bottom. During the scenic ride to the top of the Cliffside Coaster you learn about the inspiring Olympic history of the Lake Placid Sliding Center.
Other attractions and recent upgrades to the Olympic Sites include the new Sky Flyer Zipline at the Lake Placid Olympic Jumping Complex, the new SkyRide Experience, an 8-person gondola that brings guests from the Olympic Jumping Complex’s base lodge to the 90-meter and 120-meter ski jump towers, a new glass-enclosed elevator ride to the top of the ski jumps for a panoramic vista of the Adirondack High Peaks (and to experience what the jumpers see as they start to accelerate towards the end of the ramp!), new Nordic trails at Mt. Van Hovenberg (where you can try your hand at the biathalon).
In Lake Placid village, visit the Olympic Center, skate at the Herb Brooks Arena and on the Olympic oval, and visit the Lake Placid Olympic Museum.
There is no lodging on the mountain (it’s a wilderness area, after all), but many lovely inns, bnbs, hotels and resorts nearby, including the Whiteface Lodge Resort & Spa and Mirror Lake Inn Resort & Spa. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort, conveniently located in Lake Placid village, walking distance to everything, and accessible to a convenient shuttle bus to the mountain (www.golden-arrow.com).
Also High Peaks Resortwhich offers three unique lodging experiences overlooking Mirror Lake and the Adirondacks: The Resort, a traditional hotel featuring 105 guest rooms and suites (newly renovated in March 2020); the modern retro-vibe Lake House with 44 guest rooms; and the private and serene Waterfront Collection, featuring 28 guest rooms including 10 suites on the shores of Mirror Lake. Amenities available to all guests include the Spa & Salon at High Peaks Resort, two indoor and two outdoor heated pools, an indoor Jacuzzi, an on-site fully-equipped fitness center, and a full-service restaurant, Dancing Bears, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Guests also enjoy private access to Mirror Lake with complimentary use of skates, along with admission to Lake Placid’s full-service Nordic Center, Cascade Ski Center, with more than 12 miles of groomed trails for cross country skiing and snowshoeing (complimentary use of showshoes). Dogs are welcome, with special canine-friendly treats and amenities. (High Peaks Resort, 2384 Saranac Avenue, Lake Placid, NY 12946, 518-523-4411, 800-755-5598, www.highpeaksresort.com)
The newest additions are The Lake Placid Inn (opened July 2020) and the Saranac Waterfront Lodge, an eco-luxe independent boutique hotel that opened Nov. 1, 2020.
As a perennial blue-trail/intermediate skier, Gore Mountain is one of my favorite places to ski. Nestled in the Adirondacks, it offers expansive views of a real wilderness. You actually feel as if you were in the Rockies.
Gore Mountain is New York State’s largest ski and ride resort with. 439 skiable acres, it spans four mountains, including Gore, Bear Mountain, Burnt Ridge Mountain and Little Gore Mountain, a vertical drop of 2,537 feet from the summit at 3,600 ft, 121 trails (10% beginner, 50% intermediate and 40% advanced), including 110 alpine trails (longest is 4.4 miles), with 28 glades, 8 freestyle areas and 11 cross-country and snowshoe trails, all serviced by 14 lifts.
This season, Gore is unveiling two new lifts: a new quad replaces the High Peaks chair to deliver skiers toGore’s true summit, opening up fresh access to all four peaks and the entire Straight Brook Valley; and the Sunway Chair has been upgraded to a quad. The Cutoff trail in the Northwoods Area has been lengthened and redesigned to become an easier-rated trail. “Pete’s Paradise” now is an additional beginner option. There is also a significant increase in snowmaking capacity.
There is no on-mountain lodging, but there is the delightful Copperfield Inn (www.copperfieldinn.com/) in nearby North Creek which we enjoyed one Christmas; for a grand, luxurious stay, The Sagamore, in Bolton Landing on Lake George is 45 minutes away (www.thesagamore.com).
In addition to skiing and snowboarding at Whiteface in Lake Placid and Gore Mountain in North Creek, there are plenty of other ways to embrace the cold in the Adirondacks: hiking (including five fire tower trails in Hamilton County that travelers can visit and climb even in the winter!), cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, dogsledding, pond hockey, ice skating and ice fishing.
Mirror Lake has plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy on the ice, including skating, cross country skiing, toboggan rides, dog sledding and skating on the Olympic Oval, just as the Olympians did. The Wild Center in Tupper Lake transforms into a winter playground once the snow hits – Winter Wild Walk, a learn-to ice-fish program, snowshoeing, and some other outdoor winter programming and activities. Oak Mountain (about 2 hours from Lake Placid) is a small family-friendly ski resort ideal for avoiding crowds and offers skiing, snowboarding and tubing along with disc golf and free snowshoeing. Ausable Chasm, the Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks, offers winter tours of frozen waterfalls and spectacular sights, less than an hour from Lake Placid. And at the end of the day, Main Street Lake Placid has plenty of boutique shops and restaurants to welcome visitors in from the cold.
The Adirondack Wayfinder, a new virtual service that showcases the park through thematic road trip itineraries, takes the guesswork out of planning where to go by allowing users to search through a variety of curated itineraries that appeal to different interests, from outdoor recreation, wide-open spaces and family-friendly itineraries to dining, brewery tours, and more. (www.adirondackwayfinder.com)
New York State is not only home to the most ski areas of any state (50), but also some of the best, which makes them particularly desirable this year when being outdoors – skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing –are some of the most healthful activities you can do, are driving distance accessible, and because you are staying within New York State, you don’t have to quarantine for 14 days on returning.
New York has been intense about COVID-19 protections, and has instituted regulations governing reduced capacity to afford social-distancing, mask-wearing (except for actively skiing or eating), instituting such things as cashless transactions, rules for riding the lifts, and limiting time in lodges and restaurants, and in some instances advance ticketing and reservations. But it also has meant pleasant modifications – more outdoor dining with heat, for example, plus cashless transactions.
But with the great demand for New York skiing, Scott Brandi, president of the NY Ski Areas Association recommends “Know before you go.” Check the sites in advance to check conditions and availability and book lift tickets and rental equipment in advance – for example, most holidays and weekends as well as season passes are sold out for ORDA areas but there may be availability for midweek visits (ISkiNY.com).
In just a few hours, downstate New Yorkers can be on the slopes in the Catskill Mountains, where three of the state’s most popular ski resorts are located:
Windham Mountain Resort, which began as a private club and preserves much of that same feeling, is a year-round destination in the Great Northern Catskills of Greene County, NY, less than three hours north of New York City, and now is part of Alterra Mountain’s IKON Pass program, which means passholders get priority in reservations during this period of on-mountain capacity restrictions.
Windham offers 1,600 vertical feet from a summit of 3,100 feet. Its 54 trails and six terrain parks provide 285 skiable acres, accessed by 12 lifts including a new high speed six-passenger detachable lift and two high-speed quads. Windham also offers night skiing on six trails (45 acres). In the last 3 years, the resort has spent $12 million to improve the guest experience and offers beginner packages, lodging, dining options, an Adventure Park, and full-service Alpine Spa.
Among the improvements this season:
Lift capacity out of the base area continues to increase at Windham. C Lift, a fixed grip triple chair serving beginner and intermediate terrain on the lower half of the West Peak has been upgraded with the relocation of the high speed quad.
A portion of Wildcat, a trail in the Wilderness Bowl area added in 2015, has been widened.
Improved snowmaking and grooming
A new European-inspired “Umbrella Bar” with room for 125 guests in enclosed, heated comfort is the centerpiece of a reenergized patio area.
A new a ski and snowboard simulator that offers guests the chance to ski or ride downhill race venues from around the world virtually while supporting the Adaptive Sports Foundation. This building will also house a new equipment valet and quick tune up station.
An upgraded booking system with new software that will allow guests to bundle lodging stays with lift tickets, lessons and rentals in one easy transaction.
An expanded Guest Services department and on-site call center.
Accommodations are plentiful in the area: Windham has renovated rooms at The Winwood Inn, a quaint lodging property in the village of Windham owned and operated by the mountain. The restaurant, Tavern 23, has also been “renovated and reinvented” and features classic American comfort food.
New: Whisper Creek condominiums, high-end ski-in/ski-out lodging located steps away from Whisper Run on Windham Mountain. Building amenities include heated pool and hot tubs, club room and fitness center, ski locker-room with boot dryers and heated parking. Units comfortably accommodate 8 – 10 people and are perfect for extended family gatherings, wedding parties and special events. Whisper Creek is a short stroll away from the Alpine Spa and the Windham Mountain base lodge and within walking distance of the Mountain Bike Park and Scenic Skyride in the summer. (518-734-3000)
Now part of Vail Resorts, Hunter Mountain, a legendary New York State ski resort and the closest major full-service resort to New York City, is also part of the EPIC pass, and among the COVID-19 precautions and protocols that limit capacity on the mountain, EPIC Pass holders get priority in making reservations.
Four separate mountain faces encompass a wide variety of terrain which caters to skiers and riders of all ability levels.
Hunter rises from 1600 ft base to 3200 summit, a 1600-ft vertical drop, 320 skiable acres (expanded from 240), 67 runs (up from 59; 25% beginner, 30% intermediate, 30% advanced and 15% expert) ) serviced by 13 lifts (increased from 12). It offers 4 gladed areas, 4 terrain parks.
Hunter also has a 1000-ft long tubing hill, one of the longest in NY, with its own Magic Carpet surface lift.
In response to COVID-19, Hunter has “reimagined” the resort experience, consistent with the policies and programs across the Vail Resorts brand.
Skiers are encouraged to use their own vehicles as their personal base lodge, since capacity is restricted. Transactions will be cashless; face coverings required at all times except when actively eating (EpicMix app makes it easier to manage Time to Dine). On-mountain restaurants are open but not bars. The equipment rental process has been streamlined, with seamless online booking, complimentary delivery service (so you skip the rental shop altogether).
On-mountain accommodations include The Kaatskill Mountain Club at Hunter Mountain (condos) and Liftside and Pinnacle condos in the village. There are many nearby bnbs, inns, lodges.
We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the Fairlawn Inn, just a quarter-mile away from Hunter’s entrance. The historic, Victorian inn has been restored with modern amenities while keeping the charm and character of the original property. It is operating now with strict COVID-19 safety protocols. (7872 Main St (Hwy 23A), Hunter NY 12442, 518-263-5025, fairlawninn.com).
About three-hours drive from New York City, Belleayre Mountain is the nearest of three ski areas owned and operated by New York State’s Olympic Regional Development Authority, and included on ORDA’s pass programs. The ski area has been dramatically improved, turned into a four-season mountain destination. Among the improvements, the first gondola in the Catskills.
What I love best about Belleayre is its natural separation of beginners (from the mid-mountain to the base, with long beginner trails) and more advanced skiers. It affords a 1404 ft vertical drop from a 3429 ft summit, 51 runs on 175 skiable acres (longest is 2.2 miles; 22% beginner, 58% intermediate, 10% advanced, 10% expert), serviced by 8 lifts. Intermediates will enjoy Deer Run, which meanders through a beautiful part of the mountain. The ski resort also features five glades, one terrain park, one progression park and one X-course. Cross-country skiers can enjoy 9.2 kilometers of ungroomed, unpatrolled trails.
Skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing in the brisk fresh air of greater outdoors will be salvation to get through this dark winter of isolation. Fortunately, New York State, with 50 ski areas (more than any other state), is gearing up, putting in the protocols to keep everyone safe and healthy, doing what will be the safest and healthiest way to be active this winter. Just being outdoors will be a tonic for body and soul.
ISkiNY.com (Ski Areas of New York) is a sort of one-stop online place to learn about the various mountain resorts and ski areas and overall New York State policies to address (and contain) COVID-19. All areas are under capacity constraints (50% of their busiest day last season) and visitors must follow rules for wearing masks (an actual mask, not a gaiter) at all times except when actively skiing or eating. Most require or strongly recommend purchasing tickets online in advance (and are selling out because of limits) – even season pass holders, who have priority, may be required to make advance reservations. Also, areas are limiting time that can be spent indoors in the lodges (recommending using your own vehicle as a kind of base lodge), and with limited après-ski opportunities, are promoting day-trips to ski areas within driving distance. Fortunately, with 50 areas throughout the state, just about everyone lives within 2 ½ hours of a ski area and staying in-state means that New Yorkers won’t have to quarantine after returning from a long-haul ski trip. (See more at ISkiNY.com).
Because of reduced capacity and super-charged demand the best known, most popular full-service resorts like Whiteface (Lake Placid), Gore Mountain, Belleayre, Hunter (now part of Vail, on the Epic pass) and Windham (part of IKON pass), may well be at capacity especially for the holidays and weekends. So this will certainly be the season to explore some new ski destinations – areas, often that have been operating for decades, that are wildly popular with locals.
And with this incredible blizzard that dumped a huge base of snow, just about everywhere in the state has great conditions, in time for opening day.
All but the three ski resorts that are owned by New York State’s Olympic Regional Development Authority (Whiteface, Gore, Belleayre) and Hunter (now owned by Vail Resorts) are independently owned, many going back decades, and offer their own particular personality, character and sense of community. Most are ski areas, not full-service resorts, but that may be just the ticket this year, for a quick day’s getaway on the slopes, no need to hang around for après-ski.
All have made accommodations to keep as much outside as possible – ticketing (many are cashless, and require advance reservations), setting up outside warmers, limiting time inside for dining, encouraging people to use their own vehicles as their base lodge. But all of the areas have made marvelous accommodations and innovations to bring more activities outdoors, continue to offer ski school, snow tubing, added firepits and grab n’go food, to preserve the spirit and joy of schussing down the slopes.
“While our number one goal is to run a safe operation this season, it is also our goal to ensure that our guests do not incur any additional stress or inconvenience when they visit West Mountain”, said Spencer Montgomery, Co-Owner and Managing Member of West Mountain in Queensbury.
“Sure, things will be a little different operationally this year, but our staff is here to provide an enjoyable and stress-free environment. People have already been through so much this year; skiing and riding is a chance to simply enjoy being outdoors with friends and family.”
“We are looking forward to welcoming our guests this winter to enjoy the outdoors”, said Sara Montgomery, General Manager of West Mountain. “With so many families at home doing virtual learning this year, getting on the mountain and getting exercise will be a much-needed activity and escape!”
“Know before you go,” Scott Brandi, President Ski Areas of New York, recommends. Check ahead for conditions and availability.
Here are just a few of the ski resorts and areas to explore:
The Greek Peak Ski Resort is a full-service, four-season resort and the largest ski area in Central New York. It has a 952 ft. vertical drop from a 2100 ft summit. It’s varied terrain (220 skiable acres) offers 56 runs (35% beginner, 29% intermediate, 27% advanced, 9% double-black diamond, 4 terrain parks and half pipe), serviced by six chair lifts and two carpet lifts; the longest run is 1.5 miles, plus night skiing. There’s also 8 km of Nordic terrain (natural, so depends on conditions) and snowshoeing.
The Adventure Center has a mountain coaster, guided zipline tours even in winter (by reservation), snowtubing (10-12 lanes).
Located in the Finger Lakes, Greek Peak offers an Adirondack-style lodge, Hope Lake Lodge (151 rooms, sleeping 4-10 people) as well as log home (sleeps 14, across from slopes), outdoor heated pool, indoor water park with wave pool (water slides and hot tubs are currently closed under COVID-19 regulations).
Open, all year, Greek Peak is already compliant with COVID-19 restrictions and made the adaptations.
Dining inside is limited to 50% capacity. Children’s programs are exclusively outside (no nursery); there are new family lessons
“We are already seeing new people, who want to get outside and want to learn to ski,” says Drew Broderick, VP of sales & marketing.
They’ve added food and beverage service outside, “fresh tracks” which is a ski in/out grab n go, adding menu items to the waffle shack and may add food carts.
Since being acquired in 2015 by John and Christine Meier, the resort has made more than $1.5 million improvements including adding a high-speed detachable quad, new groomers, snowmaking (78 guns added this year), the “Big Bear Activity Zone” at Cascades Indoor Waterpark, a 41,000 sq. ft. park with 500 ft. of slides, wavepool and hot tubs, open year round.
Privately owned and operated by the Vajtay family, Plattekill Mountain in the northwestern Catskills, with 38 trails and terrain, offers “authentic mountain experience.” Powder Magazine (Dec. 2018), described Plattekill as “The Alta of the Catskills.” It offers wide variety for skiers and snowboarders: 38 runs ranging from 2-mile long beginner cruisers to steep double black diamonds with 1100’ vertical from its 3500 ft. high summit, accessed by 4 lifts (20% easier, 40% intermediate, 20% black, 20% double black), a “natural terrain park” nestled in the woods between the Lower Face and Shredded Mozzarella trails. “Big mountain terrain, small mountain charm.”
New this season: widening, clearing beginner and intermediate trails; installation of new snowmaking pump to improve snowmaking; new wireless technology; new “Platty Shack” with outdoor deck for quick grab and go items; new ‘order online’ option in cafeteria; new online shopping for tickets and rentals eliminating lines at rental shop.
Catamount Mountain Resort is a four-season resort straddling the NY/Massachusetts border just about 2 hours from NYC. “With its sister resort, Berkshire East, Catamount is one fun mountain with some of the best steeps in southern New England and some of the best beginner and intermediate terrain.” Catamount has undergone a stunning transformation since the summer of 2018: new lift, new lodge, hundreds of new snow guns, four snow making ponds, miles of pipe, and countless other upgrades which make Catamount one of the best small ski areas on the East coast.
It has a 1,000 ft vertical from the 2000 ft summit, 38 runs on 133 skiable acres (40% beginner, 35% intermediate, 15% advanced, 10% expert); longest run is 2 miles, and intermediates get to ski 1.25 miles from summit to base on turnpike Upper and Lower Sidewinder; for advanced, the double black Catapult is the steepest trail in the Berkshires and its Upper/Lower Glade to Off Stage provides a half-mile of moguls; night skiing on 15 trails (more than 4 miles worth)
Catamount also boasts North America’s longest zip line, one of the largest aerial adventure parks on the East Coast.
Nestled at the foot of the Adirondack Mountains, conveniently accessed just off I-87, West Mountain towers over Glens Falls in Albany’s backyard, and with night skiing, is popular with people getting in a few runs after work.
Family-owned and operated, West Mountain continues to evolve to meet the needs of families as well as skiing and riding loyalists and year-round outdoor enthusiasts.
West Mountain offers a 1010 vertical drop from the 1470 ft. summit, 31 trails on 124 skiable acres (36% beginner, 55% intermediate, 9% advanced, one terrain park), accessed by four lifts, with night skiing on 105 acres. Also a tubing park with 10 lanes of tubing for all ages and abilities. 6-packs are for sale now that provide 6 tubing tickets, lift tickets or aerial treetop adventure tickets for the price of 5.
The mountain staff has been focused on creating new, safe and innovative operations and programs to run this season including: a new Freestyle Development Program; a new Alpine Racing Academy for U12+ athletes; Learn to Ski and Snowboard packages for youth and adult first-time beginners. During non-holiday periods, West Mountain will offer popular ticket promotions such as Monday and Tuesday 4-hour ticket specials and breakfast or lunch plus lift ticket specials.
The resort has been open throughout COVID-19 pandemic offering safe, outdoor and socially distanced activities. For this season, there are additional outdoor eating and seating areas, warming tents, grab-n-go food and beverage windows, additional outdoor restrooms and controlled capacity at the two separate base-lodge areas (Main Base Lodge and Northwest Base Lodge).
West Mountain, 59 West Mountain Road, Queensbury, NY 12804, 518.636.3699, WestMountain.com
Mount Peter, set in picturesque Warwick Valley, is the oldest operating ski area in New York State, and one of only a few remaining family-operated ski areas in America. For more than 80 years, Mount Peter has been a wintertime destination for skiing or snowboarding on 14 expertly groomed trails, 600-foot tubing run (separate Little Tikes tubing for kids under 42”), and night skiing.
Bristol Mountain, in Canandaigua, opened for their 56th season of operation. Located in the Western Finger Lakes Region, it offers 38 trails on 138 acres of skiable terrain and a 1200’ vertical drop from a 2200 ft. summit, accessed by six lifts including two high-speed quads. The terrain accommodates all ages and ability levels with 32% reserved for beginner, 50% intermediate and 18% advanced, including 97% lighted for night skiing terrain and 97% snowmaking coverage; the longest run is 2 miles.
Bristol Mountain has a top notch learning center, as well as two terrain parks that cater to all ability levels and 3 km of Nordic trails.
Bristol Mountain’s North Star Village Townhouses offer affordable ski-in/ski-out lodging with built in deals with their Ski & Stay programs.
Capacity at the mountain will be monitored and limited on busy days or when the mountain has limited terrain (i.e. early season). Reservations will be required for card products and lift ticket sales but currently will not be required for season pass products that allow direct- to-lift access (picture passes).
Lodge capacity will be limited this winter. Guests are asked to limit their time in the lodges to 15-30 minutes to warm up and use the restrooms. The mountain requests that guests arrive prepared and use their vehicle as their base lodge.
Thunder Ridge Ski Area, located in Patterson, NY, may be the closest and easiest ski areas to reach from NYC, just 60 minutes drive from and accessible on Metro North (shuttle from Patterson train station). Thunder Ridge offers 100 percent snowmaking coverage on its 22 trails on 100 acres (40% beginner, 40% intermediate, 20% advanced, the longest run is 0.4 miles). A gentle mountain, it has a 500 ft drop from the summit at 1270 ft. Night skiing.
Holiday Valley, Ellicottville, NY (50 miles south of Buffalo) is Western New York’s largest year ‘round resort featuring 60 slopes and trails, 13 lifts, 3 base lodges, slope side lodging and dining, conference facilities, a tree top aerial adventure park and a mountain coaster, and 18 hole golf course.
Holiday Valley is in compliance with New York State’s COVID restrictions on operating the ski terrain and indoor services. Masks are required at all times except when skiing down the slope or while seated to eat or drink. Reduced capacity in the lodges and eating areas, as well as spacing in the lift lines and on the chairlifts will allow for proper social distancing. Advanced purchase of lift tickets online is encouraged, especially on holidays and busy weekends. Cleaning and sanitizing practices have been stepped up in the lodges, in the food service areas and in the restrooms. Guests are encouraged to limit their time spent indoors.
Holimont, nestled in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains, is a private ski area with member families from the United States and Canada. Non-members may use the facilities on non-holiday weekdays, and new members are welcome. It offers a 700 ft. drop from 2260 ft. summit, 55 trails on 135 skiable acres (25% beginner, 31% intermediate, 44% advanced, ), 3 terrain parks, longest run is 1.5 miles, (100% snowmaking)
Located near Naples, New York (near Rochester), Hunt Hollow Ski Club offers 400 acres of accessible winter recreation space. With an 825-foot vertical drop from a 2030 ft. summit, it offers 19 trails over 400 skiable acres (32% beginner, 21% intermediate, 37% advanced, 11% expert), accessed by a triple-chair, double-chair, T-bar and a surface lift service (100% snowmaking). There is night skiing. Also, 2.5 miles of Nordic trails and a terrain park.