A Gilded Vacation in the Adirondacks, New York

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14256A, Lodge


  • Enjoy a multitude of outdoor activities: hiking, canoeing, kayaking, whitewater rafting
  • Stay at a former early 20th-century resort hotel (now a college camp)
  • Learn about Adirondack history by touring an "Adirondack Great Camp" and the renowned Adirondack Museum


  • Sleeping cabins
  • All meals


DatesSep 7–12, 2014
StaffGail Tooker

Trip Overview

The Trip

The Adirondack State Park boasts several "largest" designations: it is the largest park in the United States, comprising an area the size of Vermont, and it is larger than the national parks of Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Glacier, and Great Smoky Mountains combined.  It is also the largest state-level protected area in the lower 48 states and the largest National Historic Landmark.

The Park contains more than 3,000 lakes, approximately 30,000 miles of rivers and streams, and over 100 mountain summits accessible to hikers.  Of these, 46 mountains belong to the "Adirondacks High Peaks" club, distinguished by elevations of over 4,000 feet. Two mountains have summits over 5,000 feet (Mount Marcy, 5,344 feet and Algonquin Mountain, 5,114 feet).

The area comprising Adirondack Park once formed the traditional territory of the Mohawk group of the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) Confederacy (also known as the Six Nations).

The era of the "Great Camps of the Adirondacks" began in the late 1800s when the "robber barons" of the "Gilded Age" wanted to escape the heat and pollution of the big cities of the east.  Vastly wealthy people like the Vanderbilts, J.P Morgan, and Huntington bought up vast tracts of undeveloped land in the Adirondack Mountains and constructed vacation homes that "fit" well with the natural surroundings. Built from natural materials such as local timber and birch bark, these camps were responsible for the rise of the "Adirondack style of architecture."  Birch bark ceilings, granite fireplaces, and twig top tables illustrate this style and can be seen on the Great Camps tour during this outing.

Today, the Adirondacks are accessible to everyone, regardless of economic status.  As early as 1864, influential individuals began to talk about protecting the area from exploitation. In 1892, much of the area officially fell under state protection and was known as the Adirondack Forest Preserve. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) is responsible for the care, custody, and management of the 2.7 million acres of forest preserve (public land) within the Park's  boundaries. This agency has established over 2,000 miles of hiking trails in the Park, the largest trail system in the nation.  The Forest Preserve continues to grow as a result of purchases from preservation groups, such as the Nature Conservancy, and from private citizens.

There have always been privately owned lands within the Park boundaries, with approximately 130,000 year-round residents living in the small towns and rural areas inside the Park today. In 1971 a special government body, the Adirondack Park Agency (APA), was created to oversee private development in the park. This agency reviews all proposal for development within the park to make sure that it would be compatible with the Park's overall mission.

This unique management arrangement between the NYSDEC and the APA has been used as a model for establishing parks in India and other countries around the world.


The following activities will be offered by the outing. With the exception of the whitewater rafting trip on the Indian and Hudson Rivers (on Tuesday, September 9), the exact schedule of all other activities will be determined by the weather.

Day 1: The outing officially starts with dinner at 6:00 p.m. at the Antlers dining room. Trip participants may check into their rooms anytime after 2:00 p.m.

Day 2:  We will kayak approximately one mile to Long Point to tour Huntington Memorial Camp (formerly Camp Pine Knot, the first of the Adirondack Great Camps). We will also hike woodland trails on the property and visit St. Andrews Church, built circa 1880. The four miles of trails are flat, well marked, and maintained. On our return kayak trip back to Antlers, we will explore a bit more of Raquette Lake. You can read more about Huntington Memorial Camp at: http://www2.cortland.edu/off-campus/outdoor-education-facilities/raquette-lake/camp-huntington/

Day 3: Today we will take a rafting trip on the Indian and Hudson rivers, run by Beaver Brook Outfitters (http://www.beaverbrook.net/whitewater/). This will go rain or shine.  The 17-mile trip will travel over mostly Class 3 to 3.5 rapids (Class 5 rapids are the most scary). The outfitters will provide transportation to the site, lunch, dinner, and all necessary gear, such as helmets and wet suits.

Day 4: Weather permitting, we will climb West Mountain.  We will take a side trail, accessible only by boat (boat ride provided by Antlers Camp staff) that joins the main West Mountain Trail. This will give us a 6.5-mile round-trip hike to the summit of the mountain and back. This hike is rated as moderate to strenuous, with an elevation gain of 1,125 feet, the steepest section approaching the summit. Outstanding views overlooking Raquette Lake will make the climb worth it. As this trail is one of the least traveled in the Adirondack Park, it will be a real treat to be able to avoid the crowds that typically hike the more popular mountains. Trip participants not wishing to take this hike will be provided with alternative activities.  More information about West Mountain is available at http://www.cnyhiking.com/WestMountain.htm

Day 5: Today we will visit the renowned Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake. The museum contains excellent exhibits on the natural and human history of the Adirondack region. For more information on the museum, visit: http://www.adkmuseum.org/

Day 6: The outing officially ends after breakfast today.  

If trip participants have some extra time, the following sites are recommended for a visit:

  • The Old Forge Hardware Store in Old Forge (the Adirondacks' most general General Store)
  • Hoss's Country Corner Store in Long Lake Village (a tree is growing right through the middle of the store!)
  • The Wild Center in Tupper Lake (excellent natural history museum)
  • Additional Adirondack Mountain trails are available in the vicinity, including Blue Mountain and Bald Mountain



Getting There

The nearest major airports serving the Adirondack region are:

  • Syracuse, NY airport: Approximately 2.5 hours by car from airport to Antlers Camp
  • Albany, NY airport: Approximately 2.5 hours by car from airport to Antlers Camp
  • Burlington, VT airport: Approximately 3 hours by car to Antlers Camp, but requires a ferry crossing across Lake Champlain
  • New York City airports (LaGuardia, Kennedy, Newark): Approximately 5.5 hours by car from any of these to Antlers Camp
  • Boston airport: Approximately 5.5 hours by car to Antlers Camp

The main driving route is NY Rte 28. Precise driving directions to Antlers Camp will be sent to trip participants.

Sierra Club encourages carpooling, but cannot be responsible for setting them up.  Carpool transportation is at the sole risk of the participants, both drivers and passengers.

Accommodations and Food

The outing will be based at the Antlers Camp on Raquette Lake, owned by the State University of New York at Cortland. The Antlers facility was originally a summer resort hotel built in the 1880s.  Several of the original resort buildings have been maintained and are still used today for their sleeping, dining, and meeting areas. All have been modernized to provide electricity and indoor plumbing. Sleeping cabins contain private bedrooms, each with two beds.  Participants will need to supply their own bed linens (sheets or sleeping bag and pillowcase), towels, and washcloth. The camp provides one pillow and one blanket for each bed.

To keep costs low, the camp asks that all guests help keep their sleeping and dining areas clean, and to serve on "kitchen duty" for meals. Depending on the number of trip participants, it is expected that each person will be responsible for serving on kitchen duty for one or two meals. Kitchen duty involves setting tables, delivering food to the tables for "family style" dining, clearing away tables after the meal, helping work the dish washing machine, and sweeping the dining room floor. 

All meals will be prepared by professional cooks and will be served as follows:

8:00 a.m.: Breakfast

12:00 noon: Lunch (or packed lunches, with materials available at breakfast)

6:00 p.m.:  Dinner

Most dietary restrictions or preferences can be accommodated.

You can read more about the Antlers camp at the college website: http://www2.cortland.edu/off-campus/outdoor-education-facilities/raquette-lake/antlers/

Trip Difficulty

Overall, this trip will be relaxing and relatively "easy." The one exception to this will be the hike up West Mountain, which is rated as moderate to strenuous, depending on the physical condition of the hikers. Alternate activities will be provided for trip participants not wishing to take the West Mountain hike.  The whitewater rafting trip on the Indian and Hudson Rivers can be undertaken by all trip participants.

Equipment and Clothing

A detailed equipment list will be sent to all approved participants.  Basically, you will need good, sturdy, hiking boots with ankle support for the West Mountain hike; low "light hikers" are acceptable for other shorter hikes. Water shoes or sandals are necessary for the rafting trip. Trekking poles and rain gear are advised.



  • Schatz, Scherelene L., The Adirondacks: Postcard History Series. Arcadia Publishing, 2008. 
  • Stoltie, Annie, Explorer's Guide Adirondacks: A Great Destination: Including Saratoga Springs. 7th Edition. Countryman Press, 2012.
  • Williams, Donald R., The Adirondacks: 1830-1930. Arcadia Publishing, 2002.


  • PBS Home Video. 2009. The Adirondacks.


Sierra Club is actively involved in both conservation and sustainability of resources, both locally and globally. Our work is accomplished by volunteers and salaried staff, and encourages grassroots involvement. Our outings seek to empower participants toward greater understanding, advocacy, and participation in the goals of the Club.

We will discuss the challenges that the Adirondacks area has faced through the years and will continue to face into the future.  Logging, mining, resort development, and roads have all affected the environment. Acid rain, created by industries in the Midwest, have impacted the Adirondack forests and lakes. This outing will include guest speakers from the Adirondack region who will address these issues and discuss how the Adirondack Park Agency and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation are dealing with them.

In 2014 America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The Sierra Club, various other organizations with a wilderness focus, and the four federal wilderness management agencies are vigorously planning this celebration. The goal of the effort is to assure that a broader public knows about the concept and benefits of wilderness. Sierra Club Outings is a vital part of the celebrations for wilderness.
While the Act was far in the future when our outings program started, we were already promoting the principle behind it: to forever set aside from human developments certain special places, by civic agreement. This is the basic principle on which the Sierra Club was founded. The wilderness anniversary gives us an opportunity to highlight our organization’s leading role—in publicizing this principle, in passing the 1964 Act, and in achieving more designated wilderness since then.

Sierra Club National Outings is an equal-opportunity provider and will operate under a permit from Adirondack State Park.



Dr. Gail Tooker is a semi-retired professor of Science and Environmental Education at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Cortland. She has been active in Sierra Club trips since 2003 and has served as assistant leader or leader for outings in Maine, Vermont, Oregon, Texas and upstate New York. Dr. Tooker received her advanced degrees from the University of Maine at Orono and lived in that state for nearly 20 years before moving to upstate New York in 1996 to work for SUNY. In her spare time, she likes to travel, both abroad and in the U.S., cross-country ski, go hiking and back packing, work in her gardens, and walk her dog.

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