How to Spend a Day in the Adirondacks for Under $50

Enjoying the park, its culture, and its cuisine does not have to cost a fortune

Story and photos by Jaime Thomas

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Hiking trails in the Adirondacks range from very easy to advanced.

As the economy continues to worsen, many people are staying home and straying away from traveling. Taking advantage of our very own Adirondack wilderness, though, can easily be done on a budget. If you plan accordingly, you can cover a good chunk of the park in one day and still have cash in your wallet when you go home.

Drew Haas, who works at the Mountaineer, an outdoors store in Keene, N.Y., says it is quite possible to spend a cheap day in the Adirondacks, regardless of what you’re looking for.

“There’s everything from easy, flat walking trails to technical mountaineering—we’ve got it all,” Haas says.

Whether you’re looking for a relaxed tour or a challenging feat, there’s a day trip for you. Because the park is so expansive, it’s best to pick a destination and plan your trip in the same general area. Below are some sample itineraries.

Starting off in Ticonderoga, make your way to Fort Crown Point on Lake Champlain. Here you can park across the street and explore the grounds to your heart’s content for no cost at all. Historical markers and a free museum are on the site as well. You can wander in and out of the stone barracks and sit and watch the lake.

Don’t forget to check out the lighthouse near the parking lot, which holds a bust made by famous French sculptor Auguste Rodin.

Should you choose to stay here long enough, you can bring a picnic lunch and eat in the many shady or sunny spots on the grass.  Otherwise, Frenchman’s Restaurant is only about 10 minutes away.

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Many beautiful roads weave throughout the park.

“Typical sandwiches with a side range from $4.95 to $7.25. Our daily lunch specials are generally under $7,” says chef Fauna Monroe. The many sandwich options include barbecue pulled pork and portobello mushroom and cheese.

“There are hundreds of other options to take throughout the Adirondack Park.”

From here, you can head south toward the Lake George region.  Scenic views and pull-offs along this route include the lake, mountains, and farmland. If you don’t mind tourists, stop for a slice of pizza at Capri in Lake George Village. Ice cream is abundant in this area if you want a cone for the ride home.

Gas: $10-15   Lunch: $20   Dinner: $15   Ice Cream: $5 Total: $50

Play and Drive
Begin your day with an early hike up Owl’s Head Mountain in Keene. The hike is short and not too steep, but has highly rewarding views. Many of the high peaks are visible from the summit, making it a great spot for a snack, lunch, or a long sit.

Among the many picks for restaurants in the area, Baxter Mountain Tavern is the closest and has a reasonably priced but gourmet lunch menu, with many items under $10.  

Next, head to Lake Placid to look at photography, paintings, and other artwork at A Point of View Gallery. Walk around the town or the lake a bit and then try out a sweet or savory crepe at Simply Gourmet before heading back to the Northway.

Gas: $10   Lunch: $20    Dinner: $20    Total: $50

Adventure Packed
Pick a High Peak that can be done in half a day, such as Giant Mountain, and get an early start. Be sure to bring plenty of snacks, water, and something hearty for the summit. You’ll enjoy fabulous views of most of the Adirondack Park once you get to the top. The hike should take you into the afternoon.

When you’re back at the trailhead, consider heading to nearby Chapel Pond for a dip. Here you can enjoy an incredible swim, surrounded by mountains and rock-climbing areas.

After you’ve dried off, go for dinner or late lunch at the Noon Mark Diner, a must-try if you’ve never been. Homemade pies and bread make a delicious meal after a big workout. “It’s definitely a great conversation starter. Most people that hike and ski—it doesn’t matter what time of year it is—they all at some point end up here for pie,” says Trisha Otis, who works at the restaurant.

“They all at some point end up here for pie.”

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There are hundreds of budget-friendly options for rain or shine.

Along the way to and from the diner, you’ll enjoy panoramic views of mountains and fields that are as true to the Adirondacks as they come.

Gas: $10   Lunch: Varies    Dinner: $ 25   Total: $35

These are just a few suggested routes, but there are hundreds of other options to take throughout the Adirondack Park. Free museums and art galleries are abound, as are free historical sites. Bringing some of your own food and drinks for snacks, and small meals can also greatly reduce costs.

Spending as much time as possible outdoors is free as well! Additionally, picking one area to stick to allows more time to enjoy what you’re doing and saves gas money.

So pick up a map and take a day off in the Adirondacks!

Prices start at the relevant exit and are based on a car that gets 30 miles per gallon.




What else can you do for cheap, or even free, in the Adirondacks?

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