Road Trips: California | New York | North Carolina-Tennessee | Utah
New York's Adirondack Park—a six-million-acre (2,428,114-hectare) patchwork of public and private land larger than any state park or preserve—is ideal for a "drive less, play more" family road trip. Here, backcountry wonders sit close to creature comforts; lakes and mountains come kid-size; and the thrills are big enough to help adventure-starved parents rediscover their mojo.
Back to Road Trips Main Page >>
1) HIKE: Algonquin Peak
Alpine scenery In the northeast is, in a word, scarce: The entire Adirondack chain contains a scant 82 acres (33 hectares). To find the mother lode, hike to the mayflower-covered meadows atop 5,114-foot (1,559-meter) Algonquin Peak, the second highest point in Adirondack Park. It's only 4.3 miles (6.9 kilometers) to the summit, past waterfalls and a ghostly white-birch forest, but the elevation gain is 2,939 feet (896 meters), making it a full-day event with the kids. Pick up the Algonquin Peak Trail just a few minutes from the four-person family bunkhouses at the Adirondack Mountain Club's Adirondak Loj, on Heart Lake.
2) CANOE: St. Regis
No motorized vehicles. No houses. No video games. Such is life inside the St. Regis Canoe Area, the largest wilderness paddling reserve in the Northeast: 18,000 acres (7,284 hectares), 58 ponds. To see it at its best, secure a 16-foot (5-meter) Kevlar ultralight canoe (40 pounds, 18 kilograms) from Adirondack Lakes and Trails Outfitters and set out on the nine-mile (14.5-kilometer) Seven Carries Route, a paddle (and portage) trail that starts in Little Clear Pond, 53 miles (85 kilometers) north of the Adirondak Loj. "Every pond is different," says Lakes and Trails owner Steve Doxzon. "Hike down into some and you'll feel like you're the only one who has ever been there."
3) RAFT: The Hudson
By late summer the Hudson River's Class IV and V waters drop to a kid-friendly Class II and III. Adirondack Rafting Company leads trips from Indian Lake and accommodates families with children as young as eight. "They play in waterfalls and swim in pools along the way," says owner Bob Rafferty, who has an ample supply of child-size life vests and smaller paddles for this 17-mile (27-kilometer) day trip. Bed down at the Lewey Lake Campground, near your take-out in Sabael.
4) CLIMB: King Phillips Spring Wall
"When one-of-a kind Adirondack Park was created in the 1890s," pontificates Ed Palen, owner of Adirondack Rock and River guide service and inn, "it rocked the world." So begins the child-appropriate history lesson that comes with a day of basic rock climbing instruction on 70-foot (21-meter) King Phillips Spring Wall. Before class, settle in at Rock and River's Adirondack-style lodge in Keene, 85 miles (137 kilometers) southwest of Sabael. Palen and his guides have all the necessary gear—helmets, harnesses, and shoes—for adults and kids ages five and up.
Outfitters: Adirondack Lakes and Trails Outfitters ($45 a day for a canoe; www.adirondackoutfitters.com); Adirondack Rafting Company ($75 for a day-long rafting trip; www.lakeplacidrafting.com); Adirondack Rock and River ($110 for a climbing lesson; www.rockandriver.com)
Lodging: Adirondak Loj ($50; www.adk.org); Lewey Lake Campground ($19; www.dec.state.ny.us); Adirondack Rock and River ($70)
Stay low to the ground—and away from the pump—on your family expedition, in the Saab 9-5 SportCombi ($35,820; www.saab.com). Its 260-
horsepower, turbocharged engine gets 29 miles (47 kilometers) per gallon on the highway, and it zipped along twisty backroads better than any other sports wagon we tested. Activate the XM Satellite Radio for your own Adirondack sound track.
Prepare for this complaint from the backseat: "We're there already?" Drive time passes in fast-forward with the Archos AV 700 ($500; www.archos.com). At seven inches (18 centimeters) it's one of the widest portable video players available.
Bring the downsized organic Clif ZBar ($3; www.clifbar.com) and you can bribe the children with sweets without fear of sugar-induced mutiny. Stuff the glove box. Open in case of emergency.
The Mobile Café
With the Kelty Carport Deluxe shelter ($300; www.kelty.com), pounding rain and harsh sunlight only set the mood for your family's alfresco dining. It clips directly to your roof rack and can be propped up in a flash using six-foot (1.8-meter)poles. The banquet's setting is up to you.
More Energy-Smart Adventure Road Trips and Gear
California: The Green Miles >>
Utah: 4x4 Required >>
North Carolina-Tennessee: Motorcycle Diaries >>
Back to Road Trips Main Page >>
Map by Steve Stan Kiewicz
Pick up our August 2006 issue for America's best hikes and drives, including 11 undiscovered trails and four energy-smart road trips; Africa's top safaris; and a border odyssey along the Devil's Highway, by writer Tim Cahill.
Subscribe now and save!