One-Night Stands: Adirondack Mini-Excursions

by Adirondack Life | June 2023, Recreation

Photograph by Carl Heilman II

Sometimes an extended getaway can seem like such a commitment. What if you’re only in the mood for a quickie? Whether you’re down for some easy-access backcountry or you prefer a bed at the end of the trail, we’ve got you covered with these one-night outings—just enough to recharge your batteries with a dose of vitamin nature without a long-term engagement.

Pine Lake, Essex Chain Lakes Complex

This 3.7-mile trek into Pine Lake is light on drama—more of a pleasant stroll through the woods than a hike—but the journey leads to a beautiful backcountry lake that you’ll probably have all to yourself. There’s one designated tent site at the shore, with a picnic table and open-air privy. (A site across the lake is reserved for floatplanes.) Bring your fishing pole—the Department of Environmental Conservation reports that there are brook trout gliding through these waters.

For a bonus trip to another pretty shore, take the detour to Clear Pond that intersects the trail after about a mile. It’s 0.3 mile to the water’s edge.

If You Go: The trail to Pine Lake starts at the end of Chain Lakes Road, in Indian Lake. The route—once a Finch, Pruyn logging road—is open to bicycles, though there are some hills to navigate. Follow the blue trail markers until the junction with Cedar River trail at 2.7 miles; take a left and follow the yellow markers for the last mile.

Moss Lake Loop, Fulton Chain Wild Forest

This popular 2.5-mile loop asks for little in the way of effort but gives a lot in return. The trail provides a pleasant mix of both woodsy and water scenes, with a sandy beach and wildlife viewing platform near its start. Primitive campsites with privies are scattered around the loop; the two closest to the parking area are ADA accessible. 

If You Go: From Route 28, in Eagle Bay, turn onto Big Moose Road. The parking area will be another 2 miles on the left. 

Lake Lila/Frederica Mountain, William C. Whitney Wilderness

Though this stunning 1,400-acre lake is completely surrounded by Forest Preserve, it’s still close enough to civilization for a quick in and out. To get the most from your visit, add a 3-mile round trip to the top of Frederica Mountain for lovely lake-and-mountain views. 

There are 24 primitive campsites with privies around the lake; the Frederica Mountain trailhead is closest to sites 8 and 9. 

If You Go: From Route 30, take Sabattis Circle Road 3 miles to Sabattis Road, then continue 4.5 miles to Lake Lila Access Road. Parking is 5.6 miles down the rough dirt road. The put-in is a 0.3-mile carry from the parking area.

Cheney Pond, Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest

To enjoy the feeling of deep wilderness without all the bother of getting there, try this little paddle near Newcomb. It’s just a half-mile walk (or drive, if you have a sturdy, high-clearance vehicle) from the trailhead and there are a handful of shore-side camping spots, including one paddle-in site with a lean-to and nice sandy beach.

If You Go: Take Exit 29 off I-87 and follow Blue Ridge Road toward Newcomb for approximately 13.5 miles. Parking is on the left. 

OK Slip Falls, Hudson Gorge Wilderness Area

For a manageable day-trip with an over-the-top reward—a 200-plus-foot waterfall—take the 6-mile round trip to OK Slip Falls, near North River. If you’re up for more adventure—and you have the chops—you can add the more strenuous 0.8-mile hike across OK Slip Brook above the falls and down the gorge to the river.

After a day on the trail, rough it in style in one of North River Hobby Farm’s tricked-out platform tents. There’s a communal fire pit, plus grills and a shared kitchen space. Bonus: you can soak away the day while you take in the views from the cedar hot tub, which can be rented by the hour.

If You Go: To hike to OK Slip Falls, park on Route 28, 7.5 miles east of the hamlet of Indian Lake. The trailhead is 0.2 mile west of the parking area. Follow trail signs for 3.1 miles to the OK Slip overlook. North River Hobby Farm (518-812-7770, is 4.5 miles from the trailhead, at 83 Cemetery Road, in North River.

Debar Mountain, Debar Mountain Wild Forest

Climbing Debar Mountain is a project, which is why it’s good to have a site at Meacham Lake State Campground reserved for the end of the trail—especially if it’s appointed with a well-stocked beer cooler. (This climb is thirsty work.) The hike is 3.7 miles one way, with a steep final half-mile to the top. But the view of the northwestern Adirondacks makes it all worthwhile, and you can follow the workout with a dip at the campground’s beach.

If You Go: Find Meacham Lake Campground on Route 30, 12 miles north of Paul Smiths. The trailhead for Debar Mountain is near site 37; turn onto a sandy road and keep to the right. You will reach a gravel pit on your left after about a half mile. Park at the pit and sign the trail register.

Bear Mountain, Cranberry Lake Wild Forest

A much easier—and kid-friendly—option is Bear Mountain’s 2.4-mile loop, with a bird’s-eye view of Cranberry Lake. The outing is short and sweet, leaving plenty of time to take in the scene at Cranberry Lake State Campground.

If You Go: Find Cranberry Lake Campground on Route 3, just east of the hamlet of Cranberry Lake. The Bear Mountain trail starts near site 27.

Bushnell Falls, Eastern High Peaks Wilderness

Getting to Johns Brook Lodge, a 28-bed no-frills hostel in the heart of the High Peaks, is a journey by itself—a 3.5-mile tramp from the Garden parking lot, in Keene Valley. For an overnighter, that doesn’t leave much time for more exploring. Luckily there’s Bushnell Falls waiting a mere 1.5 miles from the lodge, with its pristine—and picturesque—swimming hole. Back at the lodge, you can look forward to a family-style dinner and an evening of story swapping with your fellow adventurers. 

If You Go: From Route 73, in Keene Valley, turn onto Adirondack Street. Follow signs to the Garden parking lot, about 2 miles from Route 73. Take the yellow marked Phelps trail from the trail register. Past Johns Brook Lodge, a spur trail leads to the base of the falls. Reserve a bunk in the lodge at

Viall’s Crossing Trail, Westport

This 2.5-mile Champlain Area Trails (CATS) trek can be hiked on its own or as part of the 5-mile Westport Trail loop that begins and ends in the village. There’s history here: Asa Viall, whose family settled Viall’s Crossing Farm, drove the wagon that took his friend John Brown’s body to his final resting place in North Elba.

If you base yourself at the Westport Lakeside Motel, the trailhead is a mile stroll through this quiet Adi­rondack community. The trail ends on Sherman Road, where you can hike the Woods & Swale trail or take the road back to the motel. Find a map at or pick one up at the CATS office, 6482 Main Street, in Westport. 

If You Go: The south trailhead is behind Westport Storage & U-Haul. The Lakeside Motel (518-962-4501, is at 80 Champlain Avenue.  

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