By now you know I am obsessed with the mountains. Truly my happiest place. Don’t get me wrong I love the turquoise of waters and white sand beaches, island life and sipping a coconut, especially in places like Belize, just as much as the next person. But. There is something to be said for the way being immersed in nature makes me feel. Hearing that crunch of the earth beneath by boots, listening to the sounds of leaves rustling and birds chirping, and the seemingly endless trail ahead. Its poetic. And don’t even get me started on what this feels like when you get to share it with another person. It’s beautiful in a way that is indescribable by common words.
Mt. Van Hoevenberg and Rainbow Falls are just two of the Adirondack/Lake Placid hikes I went on while visiting the region. I chose to highlight these two because the reward at the end was surely worth the work.
My Two Favorite Lake Placid Hikes
Mt. Van Hoevenberg
Just a 20 minute drive outside of the center of Lake Placid is the trailhead for Mt. Van Hoevenberg. You’ll drive Route 86 and Route 73 in Lake Placid, follow Route 73 east toward Keene. Continue for 3.3 miles and turn right on Adirondack Loj Road. Follow that for nearly 4 miles to South Meadow Road on the left. Parking is tricky, I recommend parking at the end of South Meadows Rd. near the boulder (you will see it when you get there) during peak season they will ticket unauthorized vehicles. The walk to the trailhead from that parking spot is about a quarter mile.
At the trailhead there is an outhouse, clean and definitely usable! Once you’re ready to start the first half of the trail is super easy. Mostly flat with very little incline. There are beautiful fern fields so be sure to keep a look out. The trail begins to decline leading to Beaver Pond (a beautiful wide open marsh area). Once you’ve taken in the views, bear left and follow the edge of the pond as it curves. When I visited, the trail was pretty washed out due to rainfall so just beware of this heading into it.
Once you leave the pond, the real fun starts. A gradual ascent into the hardwood forest as you climb Mt. Van Hoevenbergs ridge. The trail will begin to steepen and then level out once you’ve reached about 1.6 miles. Then it’s a few ups and downs until you begin the steepest ascent. Once you reach the top, you’ve got 180 degree views of surrounding high peaks like Mt. Marcy and Algonquin and below you is South Meadow valley.
- Elevation gain: 892 feet
- 4.3 mile loop – out and back
- Dogs are allowed but must be kept on a leash
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Time: Allow for 4 hours
What to expect on this Lake Placid hike
Aside from the obvious that is EPIC VIEWS, you can expect heaps of bugs, mud, shallow streams, rocky and steep inclines, and lush fern fields. If possible take a picture of the map of the trail – I found parts of it to be unmarked and slightly confusing.
Perhaps one of the most confusing trailheads to find. And not necessarily in Lake Placid, but close enough to consider it one of my favorite Lake Placid hikes. There are a few options to get to Rainbow Falls but I am going to cover the exact way I found the falls. Fresh off a day full of hiking the previous day, we had no intentions of going on another hike. We, collectively, climbed over 1,100 feet and trekked 8 miles or so, so it was going to be our rest day. Well, plans quickly changed when we learned of Rainbow Falls.
From Lake Placid you’ll head towards Keene. It is probably easiest to put St. Huberts Parking Area into your GPS. Without GPS, you’ll travel on Route 73 and head toward Keene, go through Keene and Keene Valley, and locate Ausable Club Road in Saint Huberts. It will be on the right side of the road. This will take you to the Adirondack Mountain Reserve access point. Don’t drive down the road you’ll see to your right. That is a private road and accessed only by Ausable Club members and is strictly enforced. Park in the designated lot, use the outhouse and begin your hike.
Essentially, this Lake Placid hike starts in the parking lot. You’ll follow the private road for about a half mile. You’ll pass homes, a different trailhead, tennis courts and a golf course. Just beyond the tennis courts you will take a left. You won’t see any signs for Rainbow Falls but this is the right direction. There will be a small ranger station- be sure to sign in here! I can’t stress enough the importance of marking your point and time of entry on a trail, especially one that is this non-descript. Once you sign in, keep walking straight down the hill. You’ll come to a gate and pass through.
This is a private dirt road (known as Lake Road), so be alert for cars driving (very fast). Stay to the right or left side at all times. There are mile markers on the trees labeled 1, 2 and 3. You’ll pass by other trailheads but just keep on keepin’ on. The last mile marker you’ll see is mile 3. You’ll continue on, the road will curve and you’ll come to a clearing just at the bottom of a hill. There you’ll find the first sign for Rainbow Falls and at this point you can hear the 150 foot waterfall. From here it is well marked. Take a right, at the sign, cross the wooden bridge, pass the dam and head into the forest. You’ll bear right for most of the trail over rocks and roots until you reach the falls. Around the last curve you’ll see the water plummeting from 15 stories above. Be sure to watch your footing while navigating over the boulders to reach the falls. Some are quite slippery!
- Elevation gain: about 502 feet
- 9.5 miles – out and back
- Strictly, no dogs.
- Difficulty: Easy/Moderate
- Time: Allow for 6 hours depending on how much time you want to spend at the falls.
What to expect on this Lake Placid hike
Expect a long dirt road with a few fast driving cars, marked trailheads and quite a few hills. Once you see the sign for Rainbow Falls there is a beautiful lake to the left that acts as a mirror to the surrounding mountains. The Rainbow Falls trail (not Lake Road) is rocky and rooty so pay attention when navigating. There are a few inclines on the trail itself so be prepared for that last push. It wasn’t super buggy but do wear bug spray in case! On a sunny day you’ll often see rainbows forming in the mist.
There you have it, my two favorite Lake Placid hikes. If you’re planning your own trip to the Adirondack region of New York, check out my other blog post for my itinerary!
I was invited to experience Lake Placid by ROOST, as always, my opinions are my own.