Photograph by Nancie Battaglia

A roundup of Adirondack challenges

When bragging rights
and Instagram shots just aren’t enough, you can prove your outdoor prowess through well-earned colorful souvenirs. From Lake George to the Five Ponds Wilderness Area there is a wide variety of award programs tailored to Adirondack enthusiasts of all abilities.

The Adirondack 46ers

The granddaddy of all our peak and patch programs is the Adirondack 46ers, which began in 1925 when guide Herb Clark and George and Bob Marshall completed their eight-year quest to climb the park’s 46 tallest mountains. Today, more than 9,000 people have joined the club, earning spots on the roster and patches for winter or summer treks.

Tupper Lake Triad

Mount Arab (2,545 feet), Coney (2,280 feet) and Goodman (2,178 feet) Mountains are the featured summits, all of them gentle enough for family outings.

Round the Lake Challenge

Lake George Land Conservancy (LGLC) has a list of 30 “missions” designed to educate members about the landscape and local history. The goal is to complete 20 activities from the checklist: hike Sleeping Beauty, the Tongue Range and LGLC trails; paddle Jabe Pond and Northwest Bay; visit Bolton Landing’s Up Yonda Farm and historic sites in Ticonderoga and elsewhere.

Lake George 12ster Challenge

Climb a dozen peaks around Lake George—some 40 miles total and about 9,000 feet in elevation gain—and receive your accolades. Peaks, on both sides of the lake, include Sleeping Beauty, Black, Buck, Cat, Thomas and Erebus Mountains, plus the Tongue Range.

Inlet Outdoor Family Challenge

Hike, bike or paddle 12 of these 17 outings to earn a patch: Trips vary in difficulty from Rocky Mountain (10.6 mile round trip) to Cathedral Rocks (0.1 mile). The action centers around Inlet, Eagle Bay and Big Moose with some ponds in the Moose River Wild Forest included, plus the TOBIE bike trail (the name refers to the five communities it connects: Thendara, Old Forge, Big Moose, Inlet and Eagle Bay).

Cranberry Lake 50

This northwestern Adirondack trek involves backcountry camping in the remote Five Ponds Wilderness, traveling through deep woods and past pristine ponds. The circuit can be completed in three to six days or by hiking different sections over time. Access points are at Burnt Bridge and Peavine Swamp trailheads as well as east and west connector trails.

Saranac Lake 6er

McKenzie, Ampersand, Haystack, St. Regis and Scarface Mountains plus Mount Baker are the sextet near Saranac Lake village that have attracted thousands of hikers since the challenge began in May 2013. Because the total elevation gain is more than 8,000 feet with total mileage more than 30, this is a more grueling adventure than many listed here.

Waterfall Challenge

Hamilton County has many miles of rivers and streams that plunge down mountains and hillsides. Unlike the other local challenges, this one assigns points for the effort required to reach each of the 19 sites. For example, Death Falls, in Raquette Lake, earns one point, while visiting the three cascades on Groff Creek, in Hope, is good for four. Twelve or more points scores the patch.

Adirondack Fire Tower Challenge

Launched by the Glens Falls–Saratoga chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club, this program includes fire towers in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks, from Azure Mountain, near Lake Ozonia, to Hadley Mountain, overlooking Great Sacandaga Lake, and Vanderwhacker Mountain, in Minerva. To get a patch, 18 Adirondack locations and five Catskill towers are necessary, and there are different winter and summer awards.

Hamilton County Fire Tower Challenge

If bagging 23 fire towers is too daunting, Hamilton County offers a shorter version: visit all five towers (Blue, Owls Head, Wakely, Snowy and Pillsbury Mountains) and receive a patch.

Indian Lake Hiking Challenge

Pick up a map from the Indian Lake Chamber of Commerce on Main Street and select easy (green), moderate (blue) and more difficult (red) hikes around Indian Lake, Sabael and Blue Mountain Lake. Earn your badge by submitting a form plus photos of you atop each summit.

Adirondack Paddle Pursuit

Sponsored by the Cold River Chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK), members of any ADK chapter must paddle at least 10 large lakes, 20 small lakes and ponds and 18 rivers and streams, none of which require paddling skills beyond Class I water.

Warren County Cycling Challenge

Earn a completion certificate and a window decal by finishing a minimum of eight road- or mountain-bike rides around Lake George, North Creek, Schroon Lake and beyond.

Kids on the Trail

Young hikers who complete 16 family-friendly treks—two in each segment of the Adirondack Park—earn a nifty patch. Even better, they may develop a lifelong appreciation for the great outdoors.

See “The Chester Challenge” to read about another new hiking quest in the southeastern Adirondacks.

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