This Long-distance Trail Is New York’s Oldest — and It Has Backcountry Swimming Holes and Overnight Shelters

Long-distance hiking takes the concept of “getting off the beaten path” literally. The goal is to see a part of the world that most people never get to see; to bring what you need on your back and to get by without the things you want. These special routes provide peace, solitude, and the chance to reconnect with nature. 

The Northville-Lake Placid Trail in upstate New York is one such trail. It travels 138 miles through Adirondack Park, a six-million-acre wilderness area that is the largest publicly protected area in the contiguous United States. The wild landscape has thousands of lakes, rivers, streams, wide-open fields, and dense forests. Along the way, hikers are treated to quiet, backcountry swimming holes, impressive suspension bridges, and several historical sites. 

“This trail traverses the most central part of the Adirondack Park — it takes hikers to areas that they would never otherwise see,” Joe Dadey, executive director of Adirondack Hamlets to Huts, a nonprofit that aims to connect hikers with lodging, said.

Courtesy of Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism

The expansive park is also home to 105 small towns and villages, some of which are intersected by the Northville-Lake Placid Trail. These pockets of civilization provide thru-hikers with the chance to replenish their supplies and enjoy a little luxury — be it a hearty meal or a night in a real bed. There are also 12 lean-tos on the northern stretch of the trail, between Lake Placid and Long Lake.

Completing the full 138 miles of the Northville-Lake Placid Trail takes most thru-hikers 10 to 14 days. That said, the trail is predominantly used by day hikers and weekend backpackers. For shorter excursions like these, popular segments include Wanika Falls, a 14-mile round-trip journey that leads to a backcountry waterfall, and Duck Hole (via Upper Works), a 14-mile round-trip journey that passes by several backcountry lakes. In the winter, when the trails are covered in snow, the trails become cross-country ski and snowshoe routes.

Courtesy of Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism

The Northville-Lake Placid Trail was built in 1924 by the Adirondack Mountain Club. This year it is 100 years old, making it the oldest long-distance trail in the state of New York. To celebrate its 100th anniversary there will be guided and self-guided hut-to-hut hiking based on routes curated by Adirondack Hamlets to Huts. 

Those who are interested in the history of the Northville-Lake Placid Trail can visit The Museum on Blue Mountain Lake, which is hosting a special two-year exhibit that dives into the history of the trail. The museum also runs a series of “Tuesday Trail Talks” featuring Northville-Placid Trail experts. 

The Northville-Lake Placid Trail runs from Northville, New York in the south to Lake Placid in the north.

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