Adirondacks Vs. White Mountains (In-Depth Comparison)

When going on an east coast hike, you’ll want to get your facts right about those Mountain ranges.

The Adirondacks and the White Mountains stand out for perfect Mountain hiking; however, they still differ from each other in unique ways.

I’ll use this guide to tell you what to consider about the Adirondacks and the White Mountains for a good hiking experience.

The two landscapes have striking differences that keep them at opposite ends, although they’re both great for hiking. The first difference is that the Adirondacks and the White Mountains aren’t in the same state in the US. Also, if you want true seclusion while hiking, choose the Adirondacks, but if you need a shelter site, please pick the White Mountains.

Adirondacks Vs. White Mountains; Which Is Bigger?

Adirondacks Vs. White Mountains

It’s okay for you to wonder which landscape is bigger to hike on; the Adirondacks or the White Mountains.

The Adirondacks cover a much larger area than the White Mountains in terms of square meters of land.

However, aside from the disparity in the landmass that separates the Adirondacks from the White Mountains, the two landscapes are somewhat similar.

Aside from the larger landscape that the Adirondacks have compared to the White Mountains, there are other differences between them.

Good knowledge of the individual specifications of the Adirondacks and White Mountains is necessary; that’d help you plan your hiking experience better.

This table summarizes some facts that keep the Adirondacks and White Mountains at opposite ends from each other.

AdirondacksWhite Mountains
Adirondacks has a lot of lakes that add to its spectacular beautiful scenery.The White Mountains don’t have lakes in them.
Adirondacks don’t offer as much ruggedness when hiking.I’ll give it to the White Mountains for their department in rugged grandeur.
The Adirondacks is in Upstate New York, United States.The White Mountains aren’t in New York but New Hampshire.
This landscape would give you full seclusion and enough space to breathe.The Whites don’t offer that much true seclusion.
This hiking landscape doesn’t offer shelter.The White Mountains offer shelter.

With those differences, your choice of which landscape to choose would depend on your skill level as a hiker.

Also, your access to specialized gears and tolerance can add to your decision to pick the Adirondacks or the Whites.

Which Is Easier To Hike; the Adirondacks or the White Mountains?

I’ll go with the Adirondacks if I’m a beginner and want easier hiking than the White Mountains; the Adirondacks have a beginner-friendly section of hike trails.

However, if you’re an expert in hiking and you’d like to explore the Adirondacks, you won’t have any issues; that’s because the Adirondacks offer trails for experts, just like the beginner’s trails.

The Adirondacks also have a lot of space available for you as a hiker, especially if you hike better in a more secluded space.

On the other hand, if you seek a more challenging hiking experience, please go with the White Mountains.

The White Mountains won’t give you the luxury of getting yourself together as a beginner; it’s rugged in all ramifications for a challenging hiking experience.

The White Mountains would challenge you with snow while you hike there; hence the White landscape isn’t for beginners.

If you’ve already planned to go to the Whites and are only a beginner at hiking, you might want to reconsider.

Hence, to summarize all I’ve said, the Adirondacks are far easier to hike than the White Mountains.

However, the beauty of hiking in the White Mountains is that you can be an overnight or a camping hiker; the White Mountains have huts available to shelter you for that experience.

Is the Adirondacks a National Park?

As much as I’d love to say yes, the Adirondacks isn’t a National Park. That’s because a major portion of the Adirondacks land runs under the operation of state ownership.

Because of that fact, you won’t find the Adirondacks park requiring services from the National Park Service Management.

Adirondacks park is located in the United States of America, precisely in New York.

The park is amazingly captivating, and when you visit there, you might get lost in the beauty of its fall foliage views.

The Adirondack park also has forested mountains for you to take advantage of via its hikers’ trail if you’re a hiker.

Adirondack park made its trails to cross the peaks close to the lake placid.

The Adirondacks park is the largest there is in New York, covering about one-fifth of the total landmass of the United States of America.

Adirondacks is so large that it’s the same size as Vermont by landmass; it’s also three times larger than a national park, Yellowstone National Park.

Even though the Adirondacks park isn’t a National Park, it functions far better than it would as a national park.

Sometimes I wonder if this park is so elaborate because of its ownership by the state of New York and the private sector.

One beautiful thing that differentiates the Adirondacks from a national park is that you won’t need a gate fee to enter; it’s open free of charge.

However, what influences the free entrance is that the Adirondacks have homes that people own for residential purposes.

Hence putting a gate fee means you’ll keep paying money to access your own home if you own one in the Adirondacks; that doesn’t make sense, does it?

What Are White Mountains Famous For?

The White Mountains are famous for having high mountain elevations and for holding a lasting record of the fastest surface wind gust.

The White Mountains generate a surface wind gust of 231 miles per hour, approximately 372km/h. However, that record came up in 1934 and is still that way to date.

Another reason the White Mountains are popular is that Mount Washington is part of the presidential range, a line of summits.

They are called the presidential range because they are named after US presidents alongside prominent personalities.

Apart from the presidential range, the White Mountains include other ranges, such as the Franconia range and sandwich range, amongst others.

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The White Mountains have a famous mountain, Mount Washington, with a total elevation of 6,288 feet.

That gives an approximate value of 1,917m and stands out in the Northeastern US.

The White Mountains are in New Hampshire with a total number of 48 peaks; however, there’s one peak, the Old Speck Mountain, located in Maine.

The Old Speck Mountain is about 4,000 feet above ground level, approximately 1200m.

Because of that peak height, Old Speck Mountain is called the Four Thousand Footers.

Apart from its elaborate variety of ranges, White Mountains is unique in providing shelter for its hikers.

So if you’re seeking a landscape for a hiking experience with good shelter availability, White Mountains would serve.

The White Mountains have a wide array of huts known as the alpine huts for you to stay at while having your hiking escapades.

I’d mention that there’s no way the White Mountains can’t be popular with their elaborate system of alpine huts.

Also, the Appalachian Mountain Club operates the alpine huts to ensure their continuous availability to you as a hiker.


The Adirondacks and the White Mountains are unique in their special ways. However, they have qualities that keep them apart.

Those two landscapes are located in the United States; while you’ll find the Adirondacks in Upstate New York, the White Mountains are located in New Hampshire.

Also, while the Adirondacks are beginner-friendly, the White Mountains have a rugged grandeur.

Top 10 Interesting facts about the Adirondack Mountains

Top 10 Interesting facts about the Adirondack Mountains

These mountains are New York’s most expansive landmark; they are not only historic but also spectacular. The Adirondack mountains sit on 6 million acres of land filled with beautiful flora and fauna.

Whether you are in New York, Montreal, Boston or Philadelphia, you can get to these mountains in a few hours. There is a lot of activities to do here, a perfect getaway, hiking, fishing, white water rafting, swimming, camping or glamping too.

The mountains cover a vast land the consists of public land, protected wilderness and private land too.

A quick fact before we dive in into the top 10 interesting facts, the Adirondack mountains are not part of the Appalachian Mountains, their geological formation is different.

Let’s get started on the interesting facts about the Adirondack mountains.

1. The Largest Lake in America is found at the Adirondack mountains

The Adirondack Park surrounding the mountains is home to over 3,000 lakes and ponds. There are more than 99 miles of shoreline and 19 islands in the park.

Raquette Lake is the largest natural lake within the Adirondack Park. The lake was named after a massive heap of racquets was found on a hill at the southern side of the lake. Its shoreline is more than 100 miles long and is lined with beautiful pine trees.

This lake is the centre of attraction to all that visit the park, its cool waters have drawn many to take relaxing boat rides, swim. During the winter, many flocks the lake for exciting winter activities.

The picturesque lake and its history have left many that visited the park with memorable experiences.

2. The Adirondack Mountains are over 5 million years old

Photo by Delphine Beausoleil on Unsplash

The Adirondack Mountains have in existence for more than 5 million years. It is considered to be one of the landmarks that survived the ice age.

Despite being more than 5 million years, the mountains are said to be pretty young and new because its dome was formed later than most of the rocks in the mountain.

It all started as a small glacier that carved its way through the New York landscape. With constant glacial deposits, the mountains were formed.

As the glaciers broke, they formed depressions and melted away leaving ponds also known as kettle holes that extended below the water table.

These mountains do not form a connected range which is the case of the Rockies and the Appalachians. Rather, the Adirondack mountains are made up of 100 plus peaks and 160-mile dome.

3. The mountain is home to several species of flora and fauna

As mentioned earlier, the mountains are home to a variety of birds and plants thanks to its weather patterns. It is a paradise for researchers, birdwatching fans, explorers and curious nature lovers.

The mountains have provided beautiful homes to blue herons, the painted turtle that lives in the lakes, grouse, bald eagle, the great horned owl and loons. There are hardwoods, fir, spruce that make up the sheltered forests.

Migratory birds call the forests home mostly during fall and spring. This is when the birding festival is held at the park to celebrate the annual event.

You will be lucky to catch the bald eagle which is a rare sight. But all the same the other birds and animals are a sight to behold.

4. The Adirondack Mountains are massive

By Mwanner – Wikimedia

It is estimated that the Adirondack mountains occupy at least 6 million acres of land. To give you a clear picture, it is the size of Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Glacier and the Great Smoky Mountains put together.

Due to glacial erosion that occurred, the mountains have formed a dome that is about 260 kilometres wide and 1,600 metres tall.

There are more 3000 lakes found in the park, the rivers and streams flowing through the park are at least 30,000 miles long. You will also find several swamps, marshland and ponds around the mountains.

The mountain terrain of the Adirondacks is made up of foothills and peaks between 1000 to 4000 feet high.

5. The Name Adirondack is a tribal name of the native’s habit

The Mohawks and Algonquin tribes used to occupy the area around the mountains long before white settlers came. The Algonquin would resort to eating tree barks during the famine. So, the Mohawks called them Haderondah, meaning tree bark eaters.

As the white settlers came, they pronounced it as Adirondack. A French missionary, Joseph-François Lafitau, wrote in 1729 that the term was used against the Algonquins as a derogatory term for their lack of food during winter.

The Mohawks were crop farmers, therefore, had enough food throughout the seasons.

Since the two tribes did not have a written language, the missionary used various phonetic spellings to arrive at the current name.

The mountains were initially known as Deer hunting Country, in 1761, before being named Adirondack mountains in 1837 by Ebenezer Emmons.

6. The Adirondack mountains are the Source of the Hudson River

By Juliancolton – Wikimedia

The famous Hudson River that snakes through New York City has its source up the mountains. Hudson River is a tributary of Lake Tear of the Clouds, on Mount Marcy.

The Hudson River flows through Newcomb, New York and New Jersey making it a total of 215 miles long. The river is known by different names as it leaves its source. From the start, it forms the Feldspar Brook flowing into Opalescent River, feeds Calamity Brook next to Henderson lake then emerges as the Hudson.

It forms the boundary between New York and New Jersey. The waters of the river flow up north to the city of Troy.

7. A Catholic Saint Was the First European to Travel Through the Mountains

The first European man to traverse the mountains was Isaac Jogues who was from France. His experience was not voluntary though, he was captured by one of the tribes living close to the mountain.

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He was taken deep into the forest and was tortured, the tribe pulled out his fingernails and even cut two fingers from his right hand.

Jogues was then taken to present New York, through Lake Champlain, and Saranac Lake. This made him the first outsider to see the inside of the Adirondack Park.

Dutch merchants saved him after being in captivity for more than 13 months. After going back home and getting a hero’s welcome, Jogues returned to the Adirondacks as a government official in 1646.

The Mohawks weren’t pleased with his return and accused him of witchcraft. He was beheaded. To honour his memory and service, Pope Pius XI canonized him in 1930 as a saint.

8. The Adirondacks Draw More Tourists than the Grand Canyon

It is estimated that at least 7 million people visit the Adirondack mountains and park annually. The mountains became popular mid-1860s after William Henry Harrison Murray published a book about camp life in the Adirondacks.

That summer, tourists from Boston and New York, flooded the mountains after reading his book and wanting to experience the wilderness.

This was followed by the construction of hotels, campsites and resorts that offered accommodation to hikers, campers and other nature lovers.

Due to the emergence of several lodges, New York state constituted the land as a forest preserve that shall forever remain as wild forest lands.

9. Adirondack Park is made up of both Public and Private Land

By Mwanner – Wikimedia

50% of the land around Adirondack park is privately owned. 2.5 million acres of the park has been set aside by New York state for conservation. This is the only forest reserve that is protected under its state’s constitution in the US.

The private owners are, however, under a regulatory category that prevents them from deforestation and further development.

They have been designated for forestry, agriculture, and open space recreation. At least 130,000 people live in small towns and villages around the park.

10. Esther Mountain named after a 15 yr. old that was the first female to climb the mountain

By Mwanner – Wikimedia

Esther McComb was the first female climber to ascend the peak of the Adirondacks when she was 15-years old in 1839. She was attempting to peak the higher whiteface mountain.

In her honour, it was named Esther Mountain and is the only peak in the Adirondacks that is named after a woman.

This mountain is the 28 th highest peak and is found in Essex county.


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A Beginner’s Guide to the Adirondacks, The Mountains in New York

A Beginner’s Guide to the Adirondacks, The Mountains in New York

The hiking in the Adirondack Mountain Range is some of the best hiking in New York State – no doubt about it. Sure, the state might be best known for the bright lights and urban metropolis of New York City, but honestly, you only have to drive a few hours north to reach some truly stunning hiking trails. For starters, there’s the fantastic Catskill Mountains two hours north of NYC, but drive another two hours further and you’ll get to the truly remarkable Adirondack Mountain Range – where you’ll find 46 high peaks ranging from the 3820ft/1164m Couchsachraga Peak to the highest point in both the Adirondacks and in New York State, the 5344ft/1628m Mt. Marcy.

Climb all of those high peaks and you can proudly call yourself a member of the exclusive ranks of the Adirondack 46ers – but beyond that challenge, the number of high peaks in the Adirondacks really just shows how much hiking there is to be done in the mountain range. Naturally, some of the 46 are pretty challenging hikes, while others are relatively straightforward, and there are plenty of hikes in the Adirondacks outside of the 46 high peaks for those after a gentler walk – plus an array of welcoming, beautiful little towns and communities to explore.

Here, we’re going to look to answer some of the most common questions asked about the Adirondacks, and then go on to suggest some possible hiking routes.

Adirondacks Map | High Peaks

So, the Adirondacks, where are they exactly? The Adirondacks cover around 5,000 square miles in northeastern New York, in a circular dome about 160 metres in diameter, loosely on the boundaries of Adirondack Park.

We thought we’d start off with a map, because all good guides should have a map, and we know a few of you are probably wondering where the Adirondack Mountains are in the United States. Here you can see the rough layout of the high peaks across the Adirondacks, and if you zoom out, the relation of the Adirondacks from New York City, and its geographical position on the map.

It takes about four and a half hours to drive from New York City to the Adirondacks, and unfortunately at the time of writing, there’s not currently a direct train. The mountain range is also within a day’s drive of much of the northeastern United States, and also from Ontario and Quebec.

Adirondacks Weather & When to Visit the Adirondacks?

A panorama of the Noonmark summit in the Adirondacks in winter

A panorama of the Noonmark summit in the Adirondacks in winter. Photo: Getty

When to visit the Adirondacks really depends on what kind of weather you want when you get there. You get true seasons in the Adirondacks with cold winters and warm summers. Summer runs from May-August, and is the best time to go if you’re looking for good weather and long days, perfect for spending all day in the mountains. You lose a little bit of the light, but you also lose a lot of the crowds if you come in September, and you’ll also see that Fall beauty, though some places will be shutting up for winter. Come the snowy season, expect to see the white stuff in abundance, and the ski season take over from November to April.

If you’re interested in local events, check out the I Love Barbecue festival, which we think is fairly self-explanatory, and the Ironman Lake Placid challenge, as well as the stunning Adirondack Balloon Festival, which is usually in September.

For temperatures? In summer you’re looking at highs of 29°C/84.2°F and lows of 13°C/55.4°F and in winter, highs of around 7°C/44.6°F and lows of -12°C/10.4°F. Yup. Pack the big coat.

Where to Stay & Local Towns

A panoramic view of Mirror Lake in Lake Placid, New York

A panoramic view of Mirror Lake in Lake Placid, New York, on a sunny Autumn day in Fall. Photo: Getty

Okay, so where should you stay? There are an absolute abundance of welcoming towns and communities in the Adirondacks region. Here, we’re just going to very quickly outline a few of the most popular options. Starting with.

Lake Placid: The best known of the Adirondacks towns, Lake Placid is the perfect place for hiking lovers, as it’s right in the heart of the high peaks. It was also the site of the 1932 & 1980 Winter Olympics. Lake Placid is the gateway to so many of the great hikes in the Adirondacks, so if you’re visiting for the first time then it’s hard to overlook it, and even if you’re just after gentler hikes, there’s plenty in the area. When you add in the lakes and the Olympic history, there are really no shortage of views nor heritage in Lake Placid.

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Female hiker taking in the view from Black Mountain Summit, overlooking Lake George in the Adirondacks

The view from Black Mountain Summit overlooking Lake George in the Adirondacks. Photo: Getty

Lake George: Not just the original vacation spot in the Adirondacks, Lake George can actually lay claim to being the “original” vacation spot in all of the United States. In 1868 a preacher from Boston called William H.H. Murray introduced the Adirondacks to the general public, publishing a book about his travels. Half travel guide, half short-story collection, he inspired people to come from far and wide to visit Lake George and the Adirondacks. It’s still as beautiful as ever now, and is a town where many of the events in the region take place.

Saranac Lake: Sensing a theme here yet? A lot of the towns in the Adirondacks are based around lakes, and Saranac Lake is another which is simply fantastic for hiking. The Saranac 6er is a challenge which asks anyone who’s keen to try and climb the six mountains which surround the town in one 24-hour period. It’s a hell of a challenge, but showcases how much there is to do around the town. The town is also home to an iconic winter carnival.

This is just a snapshot of three of the many wonderful towns in the Adirondack region. There are plenty of other beautiful spots, from Speculator to Long Lake and Cranberry Lake to North Creek and Inlet, which is home to the Fulton Chain of Lakes . We hope this gives you an idea or two over where you might start!

Adirondacks Camping

A campsite in the Adirondacks

There are an abundance of camping spots in the Adirondack region. As with anywhere, be sure to camp responsibly. Photo: Getty

Planning to get out the towns and spend some nights beneath the stars in the mountains? Then you’re probably wondering if you’re allowed to camp in the Adirondacks. Good news: you are.

There are certain spots for it – New York State designated tent sites, which you’re encouraged to use, but in general though, you can camp anywhere on Forest Preserve lands as long as you’re more than 150ft from the nearest body of water, road or trail. Some sites are marked as prohibited for camping. Obviously don’t camp in those and make sure you leave no trace, and camp mindfully and sustainably, with care for nature, the environment and the wildlife within it.

What Kind of Wildlife is in the Adirondacks?

A black bear in the Adirondacks

Adirondack Park is home to more than half of the black bears in all of New York State. Photo: Getty

There are over 50 species of mammals in the Adirondacks alone, ranging from black bears and enormous moose to moles, white-tailed dear, coyotes, bobcats, squirrels and chipmunks. Adirondack Park is actually home to more than 50% of all the black bears in New York State. They’re commonly sighted in the Adirondacks, though of course, you can never guarantee a sighting of any animal. You should also keep your eyes open for porcupine, raccoons and beavers.

The rivers and lakes of the region are also packed with fish, and the forests, hills and mountains are a birdwatcher’s dream. Bluebirds, chick-a-dees, sparrows, robins and red-headed woodpeckers are common, and the rare Bicknell’s Thrush is often sought out by birders. If you look to the sky you might see raptors from the American kestrel to the bald eagle, or hawks, peregrine falcons or ospreys. Great horned owls and barred owls are also commonly spotted.

Best Hikes in the Adirondacks: 5 Routes for a Variety of Abilities

Mount Marcy, the highest point in New York state

A scenic spot close to the top of Mount Marcy, the highest mountain in New York State. Photo: Getty

To finish, we’re going to list a few hikes in the Adirondacks region which give you an idea of the variety of hiking trails in the region, and what to expect if you head out on the trails. It’s also worth checking out our feature on the best hikes in New York State, where we go into a bit more detail on a couple of those included here – namely the Great Range Traverse and the three-summit hike on the MacIntyre Range.

1. Hike the Great Range Traverse

Looking to summit Mt. Marcy? It’s the highest point in both the Adirondacks and in New York State. Getting up there is no mean feat, but if you’re really looking for a challenge, and you really want to see what the Adirondacks have got, take on the Great Range Traverse. Not only will you summit Mt. Marcy, you’ll also summit seven other peaks about 4000ft. It’s not easy, but this is one of the best hikes in the Adirondacks for sure – just think of all those panoramas!

An epic weekend summiting 8 peaks of the Great Range Traverse, New York State; one of the most challenging short hikes in the world

2. Climb Mount Arab

A simple hike near Tupper Lake, the trek up Mount Arab might only stretch out for a mile but it’s one of the most beautiful viewpoints in the entire state when you get up to the top. Not so much effort. lots of reward! Up the top you’ll find a fire tower and a museum too, so it’s a great spot for a day out with family or friends.

3. Auger Falls Loop

Near Inlet, this hike is a short one along the Sacandaga River to the beautiful Auger Falls, and shows that you don’t have to go up a hill or a high peak in order to get some natural beauty in the region. You’ll feel more remote than you actually are, hear a lot of wildlife in the woods and see some beautiful waterfalls too.

4. Hike the MacIntyre Range

A 15-minute drive from Lake Placid you’ll find the Adirondack Loj, a historic lodge and the starting point for so many great hikes in the mountain range. This one will take you up through some forest, and to the summit of Wright Peak, Algonquin Peak, which is the second highest mountain in the Adirondack mountain range at 1559m / 5,115ft, and Iroquois Peak. It’s a beautiful route with rugged views and a great loop trail that will take you back via a lake.

Take on the impressive MacIntyre Range hike in the Adirondack Mountains – learning winter mountaineering skills as you go

5. Climb Baker Mountain

Remember we mentioned Saranac Lake and the Saranac six challenge? Mount Baker is one of those six mountains, and is right in the village of Saranac Lake. It’s an out and back of 1.8 miles with 900ft up and down, and it might be the most straightforward of the 6ers to climb, but it’s real beautiful, with views of McKenzie Mountain, Lake Flower and the High Peaks from the peak.

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