Hiking for Beginners in Hamilton County

Beginner-friendly trails

Have you been day dreaming of a new life on top of a mountain? Conquering trails and crossing streams, becoming one with nature? You know you should be out mapping your own Everest, but there’s just one problem: you’ve only hiked one or two trails before, ten years ago. Every adventure starts somewhere, and the Adirondacks are the perfect environment for newbie hikers to get comfortable scaling these green giants. The Adirondacks are home to all sorts of trails for every kind of traveler. From quiet foliage-covered walking paths to steep High Peak passageways, there are a multitude of ways to catch stellar views and rewarding climbs. Before you try your hand at a High Peak, why don’t you ease into your exploration with a gentler climb. In Hamilton County, the local mountains offer easier inclines, unique landscapes trailside, and charming small towns at the base.

A woman stands on top of a mountain with lakes below.

Castle Rock- Blue Mountain Lake 

Castle Rock stands proudly above Blue Mountain Lake, overlooking the lake and nearby peaks and valleys. With an elevation of 2,430 feet and a round-trip of three miles, this trail is perfect for beginners and families. There’s no need to wait for the top to find your reward. Nestled along the trail is an amazing section of rock walls, caves, and formations. There’s even a trail through a small cave that comes out the other side. Find every nook and cranny around the caves, take a snack break, and finish the last stretch of the climb to the cliffs of Castle Rock. 

A view from a fire tower of nearby green mountains.

Owl’s Head Mountain - Long Lake 

Owl's Head Mountain is part of the Sargent Ponds Wild Forest, which covers an impressive approximate 45,000 acres. This rather prominent peak in the Long Lake area is made up of four separate summits, two of which are referred to as the horns. These horns give the mountain the look of an owls head, moreso a great horned owls head. With 3.1 miles to the summit and an elevation gain of 1,114 feet, Owl’s head will take a bit longer to climb, but offers a gentler incline than other hikes in the region. In addition to unique clearings, open hardwood forests, and wet areas with walking boards, Owl’s Head is also home to a fire tower. Fire towers were utilized in the olden days to spot, well, fires! The tower became inactive in the 1970s, but with the help of volunteers it has been restored and is open to the public. Fire towers sit at the top of several mountains throughout the Adirondacks and Hamilton County, making up the Hamilton County Fire Tower Challenge. If climbing a tower isn’t your vibe, the mountain still offers incredible views from the summit cliffs. 

A man and woman sign into a trail with gear on for a hike.

Plan ahead 

For beginners and hikers of every experience, planning ahead is essential. While you may think because you’ve hiked one summit you’re ready for any trail, think again! The Adirondacks have an impressive track record of inconsistent weather, and depending on where you are on the trail, you can experience multiple seasons in one day. It’s essential to research your trail beforehand, and plan your attire accordingly. Pack extra layers, even if you may be sweating at the trailhead. Depending on the season, the days may be shorter or longer, so also prepare to be on a trail in the dark, headlamps are a great tool, as well as extra batteries! Don’t be afraid to bring that ridiculous jug of water, and a healthy pack of food. Hiking burns serious calories, and the longer you’re on the trail, the more fuel you’ll need. Last but not least, tell someone where you are going, when you plan to leave, and when you plan to get back. Having someone off the trail aware of your whereabouts is key in cases of emergency. 

an aerial picture of a small lake town in fall.

Life on the trail

Now that you’ve been given the tools to embark on your new hiking passion, get out on the trails! The Adirondacks offer endless opportunities to climb, and with fun trails, comes mountain towns brimming with life at the base. Shop for supplies, carbo load before you embark, or simply chit chat with the locals, you might learn something new about your favorite trail. 

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