Want to zoom to the top?Then drive up Whiteface ($8 for car and driver, $4 per passenger), the fifth-highest peak in the park. Veterans Memorial Highway, built in the thirties, climbs eight miles, starting at a stone gatehouse and ending at a granite castle. From there, it's a short hike (or elevator ride) past balsam firs, known as flag trees for their wind-whipped branches, to the alpine summit. On good days the panorama extends 125 miles, taking in a sweep of plush- and shag-carpeted hills that surround silvery ponds.
The Essential Guides
ADIRONDACK MOUNTAIN CLUB
Before you strike out on foot, spend some time with the club's Adirondack Mountain Forest Preserve Guide to the High Peaks. For weather conditions, call its hot line (518/523-3518). Or stop in at its High Peaks Information Center (on Adirondack Loj grounds, Adirondack Loj Rd., Lake Placid; 518/523-3441), nine miles south of Lake Placid, where you can buy equipment, trail grub, maps, and guides, and sign up for courses on glacial geology and the proper use of a map and compass.
MAPS BY ADIRONDACK MAPS INC.
Even non-hikers appreciate these topographical maps, as beautiful as they are informative. Available at Eastern Mountain Sports, nationwide.
LAKES AND STREAMS
In the Adirondacks, if you're not headed up, you're headed out—across the water. The same dome that elevates the mountains spawns streams that run into some 2,800 ponds and lakes. Taking to the water is easy: most resorts put a variety of boats at guests' disposal. Nearly every kind of vessel can be rented, including ultralight Kevlar canoes and the region's own Adirondack wooden guide boats (a cross between a canoe and a rowboat).
Five Ways To Get On The Water
Don't miss boarding one of the boats evocative of a time in the Adirondacks when the best transportation byways were liquid:
- Nothing compares to cutting a fluid swath in a sexy mahogany runabout, such as a reproduction 1929 HackerCraft. Given the opportunity, seize it. Hint: The Point has a fine fleet of antique vessels (skippers available, too).
- Tour Raquette Lake on the William West Durant, a double-deck cruiser (Raquette Lake Navigation, Pier 1, Raquette Lake; 315/354-5532; tickets from $5.00). Or get an even closer view of the camps and cottages by accompanying the Mail Boat (Bird's Boat Livery, Rte. 28, Raquette Lake; tours from July 1 to Labor Day; 315/ 354-4441; $8 adults, $4 children) on its two-hour morning rounds.
- For a one-hour tour of Lake Placid, make a date with Doris, a mahogany cruiser, departing from Lake Placid Marina (Mirror Lake Dr., Lake Placid; 518/523-9704; $6 adults, $4 children).
- The St. Regis Canoe Area is the largest wilderness region in the Northeast open only to motorless boats. You can paddle from pond to lake for weeks without crossing your own wake. For rentals, try St. Regis Outfitters (Floodwood Rd., Lake Clear; 518/891-1838).
HUNGRY TROUT FLY SHOP
Rte. 86, Wilmington, 518/946-2217; and Francis Betters Adirondack Sport Shop Rte. 86, Wilmington, 518/946-2605. Check in with these outfitters, just two sources among hundreds for guides, to find out what's biting where.
THE MOUNTAINEER SCHOOL OF FLY FISHING
Rte. 73, Keene Valley; 518/576-2281. In addition to offering fishing instruction, the Mountaineer is a good place to equip yourself. Rock-climbing gear and guidance are available as well.
NORTHERN REGION FLY-FISHING HOTLINE
For a daily report on weather conditions, which fish are where, and upcoming courses, call the DEC Region 5 Fishery Staff's hot line (518/891-5413). The message ends with a "Good luck, sportsmen!"
"The Adirondack Book" by Elizabeth Folwell (Berkshire House)—The only guide you'll need.
"The Adirondack Reader," edited by Paul Jamieson (Adirondack Mountain Club)—A literary anthology with entries by everyone from James Fenimore Cooper to E.L. Doctorow.
"Great Camps Of The Adirondacks" by Harvey Kaiser (David R. Godine)—An inside look at rarefied camping.
On the web
Online Travel Guide for Upstate New York (http://www.roundthebend.com)—An overview of attractions in the Adirondacks and other upstate regions, along with listings of places to stay.
I Love New York (http://www.iloveny.state.ny.us)—The state's official tourism site is a little skimpy on hard facts, but has links to good local tourism pages.
Adirondack Mountain Club (http://www.global1.net/adk/)—Information on hiking, camping, lodges, and backcountry guidebooks.