It is the nature of many hiking aficionados to set their hearts on ambitious treks and high summits. At times it seems that is all what hikers aim for. But there are many other ways for hiking lovers and their families to get out and enjoy some beautiful trails, if only for an hour, a day, or a weekend.

My family and I love the diversity of experiences that the trails along the Adirondacks have to offer. With 6 million acres of territory, the area offers of many activities, from fishing to camping, as well as trails to accommodate all levels, including those needing wheelchair access.

The region is about 4 hours from New York City and is a great way to explore what else the state has to offer when you visit. If you drive, make sure to download one of their Adirondack Scenic Byway brochures with information and guides through historic towns and picturesque roads and highways. If you take the Amtrak train, have your camera ready. The ride has been recognized as one of the most scenic train rides in North America.

With over 2,000 miles of hiking trails and so many wonderful spots, deciding where to get started might be a bit difficult.

Here are some of my favorite hiking options to get you on the trails and enjoying the outdoors.

Viewfinder Tip: Go prepared! The true success of any hike depends on how well you are dressed and prepared for the natural elements you will encounter.

For starters

There are plenty of easy hikes for beginners in the area. Baker Mountain, in Saranac Lake, is less than 2 miles long with two loop options for the hiker who wants to push themselves just a little.

Another favorite spot of ours is Lake George, where Buck Mountain pushes the hiker on a bit of a more moderate hike and rewards them with spectacular lake views in return.

Stewarts Ledge, also in Lake George, is a short 40-minute hike, but is uphill all the way. This is a great option for hikers wanting to test their ability levels before taking on a more difficult trail.

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Looking for a challenge

One of the most challenging hikes to take on is what locals call “The 46 peaks.” These peaks make up the Adirondack High Peaks and are a little over are 4,000 feet each. They are in the Lake Placid region, which in itself is a gorgeous town with tons to do off trail as well. Some people can take on more than one peak a day, but I would allot a few days to accomplish this goal at a steadier pace, with camping in between, as some of the peaks have rougher trails to navigate through. The views are stunning and the thrill of having done all 46 is rewarded. Those who complete the hike are included among the 46ers. You even get a badge to prove it.

Somewhere in between

Not a beginner but also not looking for the ultimate challenge? The Saranac Lake 6er is one that you can do with family or friends over a weekend’s time. There are six mountains—the shortest no more than 2,340 feet, the tallest no more than 3,861 feet—around beautiful Saranac Lake. If you climb all six, you receive a hikers patch. If you climb them in both winter and spring all in one day, you become an Ultra Sixer.

The wonderful thing about hiking is that you can doing it any time of the year. As the seasons change, so do the trails making each excursion feel like a brand new experience. Even on the most challenging hikes, you are bound to meet fellow hikers who are always happy to offer tips, share information, and even give support to help you along the way. It’s both a physically and spiritually rewarding experience that doesn’t require a lot of money and can be done alone or in the company of loved ones. Either way, do it once and you are bound to be hooked forever.

Happy trails!

What are your favorite outdoor activities?