So, June is National #GreatOutdoorsMonth!
This got me thinking: I live in the Adirondacks near Lake Champlain -- New York’s mecca for outdoor recreation. So I asked myself, if I had to choose, what would be my top 5 picks for celebrating Great Outdoors Month on the Adirondack Coast?
Because, let’s face it. Here, we celebrate the outdoors every day – and the opportunities are endless.
So, without further ado, here are my top 5 things to do in the great outdoors of the Adirondack Coast!
1. Hike Saranac's New Land Trust
Why do I love the New Land Trust (NLT)? Well, I’m by no means a 46’er – but you don’t have to be to enjoy this 287-acre preserve. I like to stroll one of NLT’s 28 trails and take in the abundant wildlife and iconic scenery. The NLT trail map is easily accessible online. Or you can grab a copy on site at the clubhouse, a classic Adirondack lean-to, bunkhouse and even a few decorative outhouses – designed by a local artist.
I actually discovered the New Land Trust in the winter; the trails are groomed for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. While I was wandering the winter trails, I saw lots of families (including pets – yes, there are many pet-friendly outdoor rec opportunities on the Adirondack Coast!). And of course, you’ve got to stop and snap some pictures along the way!
Pack your bag this June with snacks and hiking equipment. There’s plenty to explore at this breathtaking preserve.
2. Paddle Lake Champlain and explore Valcour Island
In the last few years, I’ve made it my mission to explore the Adirondack Coast’s waterways. Did you know there are over 3,000 rivers, streams, and lakes in the area? If I was ever going to experience them all, I had to get my butt in the seat of a kayak and head to the bays, outlets and islands that are – quite literally – just around the riverbend!
By far, my favorite paddle on Lake Champlain is to Valcour Island. It’s a quick trip from the Peru Boat Launch!
While the island offers dry-camping, acres of paths to explore, sandy and rocky beaches and places to moor, its brightest highlight, by far, is the recently restored Bluff Point Lighthouse.
It’s no secret that Lake Champlain’s waters can get rough in a storm. This lighthouse was in service from 1874 and was one of the last manned lighthouses on the lake, closing in roughly 1930. Thanks to the Clinton County Historical Association (CCHA), you can tour it on Sunday afternoons in July and August. As someone who’s walked through it many a time, I can tell you , each time, I fall in love with the impressive views, one-of-a-kind historic architecture and display depicting its rich history. Brave souls can climb all the way up to the lookout (personally, I’ve chickened out more than a few times).
Each year, I grab a group of friends – we pack a picnic, our bathing suits and walking shoes and paddle to our favorite beach located on the south side of the island. We beach our boats, have some lunch and explore the island. I have been doing this for the last 8 years, and each time we wander on a new trail and find new topography to explore.
What’s great about the island is you can learn local history, recreate and relax all in one place!
Don’t have a Kayak? No problem! There’s an outfitter nearby that rents kayaks for the day.
See? No excuse! Go make some history.
3. Cycle along Lake Shore Road and Route 9 (with a wine stop or two)
I’ll be honest; getting me to ride a bike is quite the feat. I don’t do it – mostly ‘cause I lack… coordination. With that said, last year, I finally picked up a bike at a friend’s request and pedaled along Lakeshore Road in Chazy. Boy, am I happy I did! This scenic route follows Lake Champlain from the Canadian Border to Downtown Plattsburgh. With quiet roads and great shoulders, even novice cyclers like me can take their time, learn the sport and savor the views.
I had always heard cycling the Adirondack Coast is the best way to explore it, and I must admit, they weren’t kidding. It’s quiet, peaceful and tranquil.
And I’d be lying if I didn’t admit having a winery or two to pop into along the way certainly sweetens the deal.
4. Become a beach bum on one of our sandy beaches and parks
Having grown up in the area, I remember spending many summers at the extensive parks and beaches in the area. We’d camp at Ausable Point Campground, and I’d spend my summer days during high school sunning on the Plattsburgh City Beach, eventually wandering over to Cumberland Bay State Park to see friends who were camping and snag myself a few s’mores. All gorgeous beaches and treasured memories, but the one that always draws me back is Point Au Roche State Park.
I remember being a kid and exploring those miles of trails with my cousins or swimming in the shallow waters finding clay at my feet. We would collect tons of it and make sculptures on the picnic tables for hours. I thought I was a true artist! My poor parents – they would lug it all home and kindly admire it for days – ick!
We’d fire up the charcoal grills on site and fill the air with the smell of barbeque. I remember eating the most delicious sand-covered hot dogs! I mean, I was 10 – I didn’t care about some silly sand. Those were ideal, carefree summer days.
To this day, I still go with the family and re-create those fun childhood days – swimming, soaking up the sun (with SPF, of course) and eating hot dogs straight off the grill. We often have family reunions at the park and rent one of the pavilions. It’s funny to see my cousins return with their children! They play on the same playground I did and make those same… lovely… clay sculptures.
And at the end of the day, those kids crawl into the cars and fall asleep just as fast as I remember doing – after all, playing in the sun and sand is exhausting!
5. Discover caches along the Adirondack Coast Geotrail
I will honestly admit I am a newbie to this activity – a friend introduced me to it. I thought he was crazy, but then I started going on these “scavenger hunt” style adventures and fell in love with caching! The best thing about it is you can cache and explore all over the county; from mountain tops to orchards, there’s probably a cache nearby.
When we created the Adirondack Coast Geotrail, I thought, what a great way to get visitors to circulate throughout the area – but then I started doing it, too! I spent hours scouring the app on my phone to locate nearby caches. I wouldn’t leave the location till I found it!
Basically what you do is: download an app, look where someone has hidden a cache (essentially a box with treasures in it and a log to sign), find it and log your points for other cachers to see!
We were hunting around Ausable Chasm and the app notified us there was a cache located around a close by playground area. So the group I was with spent hours searching around the playground using the app’s clues.
Eventually, we looked under the stairs and found the box of goodies – we signed it and went on our way to the next one!
This one was more challenging – it was in the middle of a field. Really?! A field, oh yes, that would be easy.
We narrowed it down to a utility pole – like I said, they’re everywhere and anywhere. After a good 30 minutes of searching, our experienced cacher (thank goodness for him) remembered reading that they can be in wires. He found a “dead” wire that was placed there and unscrewed it. Lo and behold, there was the sign in sheet IN THE WIRE. Talk about a victory! We talked about it for days after.
Geocaching is a fantastic family-friendly and affordable activity. It can be done on its own or as part of a bigger adventure. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as finding that cache! No doubt, now that the snow has melted, I will get back out there and log some more finds. I mean, I need to earn my Adirondack Coast GeoTrail coin – and so do you!
I'm always coasting around the edge of the Adirondacks near Lake Champlain. Stay updated on my adventures when you follow the Adirondack Coast Visitors Bureau on social media!