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Escape to the Adirondacks for a Family-Friendly Train-cation

Popular races like Ironman Lake Placid aren’t the only draw to this picturesque region.

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There’s a reason that Ironman Lake Placid is a perennial favorite for triathletes. For one weekend every July, the area becomes a magnet for multisport athletes and their families, who enjoy this town’s postcard-perfect setting in New York’s Adirondack region. But while Placid is the obvious draw to the ‘Dacks, there are plenty more places to train and explore throughout the six million acres of protected parkland—all just about 250 miles from New York City.

This summer, explore the full Adirondacks, whose boundaries roughly correspond to Adirondack Park extending in northeast New York to the Vermont border. The full region spans eight counties, covering a swath of mostly forested land punctuated by a cluster of mountains and nearly 3,000 lakes and ponds. In short, it’s a perfect place for a family (or friend) train-cation. 

Swim

Jump from the dock on Raquette Lake, New York, USA. (Photo: Jumping Rocks/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

The aptly-named flat and sparkling Mirror Lake, which serves as the site of Ironman Lake Placid’s swim, is known for its calm, clear waters—and for a submerged cable stretching a quarter-mile across the lake, making navigating a breeze. Some 45 minutes away is Raquette Pond and Little Wolf Pond, both just north of another option, Tupper Lake (the launching point for the 40-year-old Tinman Triathlon), and both with public beach access. Wherever you swim, wetsuits are usually a must: Water temperatures in the area don’t often get above 70 degrees F, even in the warmest months. 

Bike

Athletes compete during the cycling portion of Ironman Lake Placid on July 25, 2021 in Lake Placid, New York. (Photo: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

A spin along the rolling 23-mile stretch of Route 86 from Wilmington to Saranac Lake will introduce you to the notorious trio of hills affectionately known as the “three bears,” which many an Ironman finisher has grown to know and love. Local cyclists also hit up Route 30 between Tupper Lake and Long Lake, offering a wide, flat shoulder, plus the occasional glimpse of local wildlife, like bears and moose. 

Up for a longer and more leisurely ride? Check out the Adirondack Wine Trail, a 60-plus-mile journey that passes seven wineries along the “Adirondack Coast,” hugging the western shores of Lake Champlain. 

Run

Warren County Bikeway, a 10-mile asphalt trail between Glens Falls and Lake George State Park, is just as popular with runners as it is with cyclists (tack on the Feeder Canal Park Heritage Trail in Glens Falls for some extra mileage).  The highly anticipated Adirondacks Rail Trail—a $22.9 million project that has been years in the making—will be another draw for runners in the area; the first segment between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake is scheduled to open in September, while the complete trail should be complete in 2025. 

For an off-road run, Paul Smith’s College Visitor Interpretive Center, a 3,000-acre swath of land on the campus, has 25 miles of trails through woodland and marshland, by ponds, brooks, and bogs. The 6.8-mile Sargent Ponds Loop in Long Lake also ribbons through a lush forest; on a hot day, you can cool off with a quick dip in the shallow pond. 

Stay 

(Photo: High Peaks Resort)

Tucked in the shadows of the Adirondack Mountains on the shores of Mirror Lake, the High Peaks Resort is a luxe spot popular among Ironman participants, particularly for its convenient location to the race venue. About 30 miles from there is The Point, a sprawling property on Upper Saranac Lake that was originally built by the Rockefellers in the 1930s. Today, it’s a peaceful and well-appointed resort offering high-end accommodations; all 11 guest rooms have lake views.  

For a more low-key vibe, the Keene Valley Lodge, 20 minutes from Lake Placid, is a charming (and recently renovated) B&B minutes away from trailheads to many of the Adirondack High Peaks and the Great Range. Bringing the family or looking to stay with a big crew? Long Pond Cabins in Willsboro offers waterfront cottages with private docks, while you can get the wilderness resort experience at Elk Lake Lodge, surrounded by the High Peaks in North Hudson.  

Do

For a quick hike head to High Falls Gorge, a 22-acre nature park near Whiteface Mountain in Wilmington, where you’ll find four waterfalls spilling into a deep crevice, groomed paths and nature trails, glass floor walkways, and steel bridges to cross. Closer to the shores of Lake Champlain, the Ausable Chasm, also known as the “Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks” is a prime place for raft floats, hiking, rock climbing, and mountain biking (admission to the Chasm is $18; excursions, like rafting, are extra). 

Break

Take a drive with a view up Veterans Memorial Highway to the top of Whiteface Mountain. After parking, you can make the short climb (a little less than a half-mile) to the very top, and on a clear day you’ll be able to see many of the region’s lakes. Just want to chill at a coffee shop? Origin Coffee Company, with locations in Lake Saranac and Lake Placid, is an inviting place to hang, and also has a menu of tasty bites including toasts, paninis, salads, and baked goods. 

Traveling with kids in tow? The Wild Center in Tupper Lake has a four-story treehouse plucked from a storybook, a pond perfect for a paddle, and several other places to play while learning about the natural world. Fort Ticonderogathe site of the first offensive victory for American forces in the Revolutionary War, offers an eventful place to spend the day and soak up local history.  

Eat 

In town, the Lake Placid Pub and Brewery is a local institution. In addition to its award-winning locally brewed beer (there are 10 craft brews on tap and plenty more bottles to choose from), it’s a mostly pub-style menu (think: burgers and fries). Fiddlehead Bistro in Saranac Lake has an ever-changing menu that includes gluten-free and vegan options with locally-sourced ingredients. Later, satisfy your sweet tooth at Donnelly’s Ice Cream at the intersection of Routes 86 and 186, which has been serving up scoops since 1953.

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