While not quite as extensive as the similar Whiteface Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway in Lake Placid, the Prospect Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway in Lake George is definitely worth the visit! Lake George is a small village in the Adirondack Mountains that is popular for its stunning mountain views, hikes, and quaint downtown.
When you reach the 2,030 ft. summit, you will be treated to the 1,000 mile view stretching from the Adirondack High Peaks to Vermont’s Green Mountains to the White Mountains in New Hampshire, and on clear days the Laurentian Mountains of Canada.
Prospect Mountain has a long history as a destination spot for great views and a relaxing atmosphere. In 1895 a railway to take people to the summit was built that would take visitors to the Prospect Mountain House, a hotel with dining options and a dance hall. After 1903 the railway failed for financial reasons and the area was sold to NY state. The hotel that sat at the top burnt down in 1932. The current highway was opened in 1969 to provide easy access to the summit and 100 mile view.
The Prospect Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway is 5.5 miles and brings you to the summit of Prospect Mountain at 2,020 ft. On the way up you will find three pull of parking areas with overlooks. At the summit you will find a large parking area with a quarter of a mile walk up to the summit. There is also a large picnic area with tables and a bathroom next to the parking lot. You will find another picnic area on top of the summit, so make a day out of it and bring your lunch!
Access to the highway is off of US Route 9 and after a short distance you will come upon the entrance booth for the highway. As you begin your drive up the mountain, the first overlook you come upon is the Narrows. Here you will enjoy your first glimpse of Lake George and the village with towering mountains behind. You will also find binoculars for closer views (0.25 cents to use) and some fun rock formations to climb on.
The second overlook will bring you to some great views of Lake George Village below, the lake itself, and mountains in the background. There are more paid binoculars here and rocks to climb for better views.
There is a third pull off area, but the views from this one are not great, so we continued on to the parking area just below the summit. Again, here you can get some views of Lake George and the village below, but you have to make the final climb to the summit to get the really great views!
The last section of the highway was closed to cars, so we had to walk the quarter of the mile up. It took less than 10 minutes and was well worth it! (The summit is handicap accessible and they were allowing drivers with handicap tags to drive the rest of the way to the summit).
At the summit you will also find the remains of the railway that once sat at the top and a sign with the history of the Prospect Mountain House.
The fee for entrance to the highway is $10 per car, $5 for motorcycles, and $50 for buses.
While driving to the summit of Prospect Mountain is the easiest and least strenuous way to reach it, there are alternative methods for those who are more physically inclined.
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The Milton J. Rubenstein Museum of Science and Technology is found in downtown Syracuse in Armory Square. For those looking for a fun, educational, indoor experience in Upstate NY the MOST museum fits the bill! Kids will enjoy the many interactive and hands-on exhibits while learning about the natural environment!
Address: 500 S. Franklin St., Syracuse, NY 13202
Directions from the East/West: Take I690 to exit 11 (West Street), turn left on Fayette St., and right onto Franklin Street, continue until you reach the MOST.
Directions from the North: From I80 south exit onto Exit 20 to Franklin Street, and continue on Franklin Street until reaching the museum.
Directions from the South: From I81 North exit on Exit 18 to Adams Street, turn left onto Harrison Street, right onto Salina Street, left onto West Jefferson Street, and turn into the Armory Square circle.
Parking: Parking is available in the Trolley Lot public parking area which can be accessed by going through the tunnel behind the museum. Paid parking is also available on the streets with parking meters (free on Sundays and holidays).
Due to the Coronavirus pandemic hours are currently restricted and scheduled in two blocks: 9:30am to 1:00pm and 2:00pm to 5:30pm. Visitors who purchase tickets for the morning time block are permitted to return for the afternoon time block.
The museum is currently open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
A map of the museum is available upon arrival or can be found here.
The Visiting Exhibit
The current temporary visiting exhibit (at the time of this writing) is the Nature’s Ninjas exhibit. I will only briefly mention this because it will only be available until April 2021, but if you are able to visit before then it is well worth the visit!
The exhibits includes various species of reptiles and small animals from the Little Rays Nature Center for viewing and a 30 minute show that will allow you and the kids to learn about the animals and get up close and even pet them as the show leader brings each of three animals around.
The Dino Zone is a permanent section of the museum with life size moving animatronic dinosaurs for viewing. Dinosaurs include Pachycephalosaurs, a Maiasaura with nesting babies, and a Albertosaurus. The exhibit also contains some interactive areas with a large remote control dinosaur and dinosaur skin/eggs.
Life Sciences Exhibit
The Life Sciences Exhibit takes you and your children through a giant heart, through the stages of embryo development, the tiny details making up the human eye, ear, and mouth, and some real preserved human organs.
The Rothchild Apothecary Shop
The Rothchild Apothecary Shop is a complete recreation of a 1900’s apothecary shop containing medicine, herbs, and medical supplies that were once used. Museum staff provide facts on the history of apothecary shops and the items found in the shop.
The shop is currently open Saturdays and Sundays from 11am-12pm.
Toothpick World is a section of the museum that features famous buildings and highlights from around the world, including the Empire State Building of NYC, the Roman Colosseum, and London Bridge. Looking at the completed buildings definitely made me wonder how much time and effort must have gone in to creating them!
The Science Playhouse
The Science Playhouse is a large, 5 level indoor playground found in the museum (Unfortunately due to the pandemic the playhouse is currently closed except for private party reservations).
Other notable sections of the museum include the rocket ship, control center, technotown, planetarium (which is currently closed due to the pandemic), and the IMAX theater (which is not currently showing films due to the pandemic).
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The Natural Stone Bridge and Caves is a natural wonder located in the Adirondack Region of New York. The trail is a 3/4 mile loop trail that takes you past the Trout Brook, Stone Bridge, entrances to several caves, and a whirlpool and pothole.
Visitors can explore the trail on a self-guided tour or those looking for more thrill can join in on the Adventure Tour and climb and crawl through the caves and underground river.
The trail through the Natural Stone Bridge and Caves is about 3/4 of a mile long. The hike is fairly easy and do-able for hikers of all levels and children. The trail does contain over 500 rock and wooden stairs.
After exiting the gift shop, begin the trail at marker one and follow the trail to the right. Along the trail you will find markers, which will match up with a provided map and some information about each site.
The trail will first take you through a garden area, adventure park, and the disc golf course. I bypassed this section and continued on to markers #4 and 5, which overlook the Trout Brook and the Sawmill Waterfall Site.
#4: The Trout Brook: The Trout Brook is the remains of the once rushing river that crafted the Natural Stone Bridge and Caves. The river was formed by the melting of the Wisconsin Glacier. The brook is now a small, calm stream that is home to trout, turtles, and beavers.
#5 Sawmill Waterfalls Site: A water wheel once stood at the site and provided power for the early Dutch pioneers that was used to cut lumber and grind grain.
After visiting the Trout Brook and Sawmill Waterfall Site continue on down the path to Meditation Isle at marker #6.
Meditation Isle is a small island-like area that will bring you in front of the stone bridge and give you some great views. Next, continue back up the path (it is a round loop) and head to the right, which will take you over the Stone Bridge.
The Stone Bridge is the largest cave entrance in the East and leads to one of the two main cave systems within the park. Cross the bridge and pause as marker #7, Lookout Point. This will give you some great views of the brook, caves across the way, and the Stone Bridge from above.
After crossing the bridge you will come upon the Giant Slide at marker #8. The Giant Slide is a steep cave opening that when looking down will give you a view of the river flowing under the Stone Bridge.
After visiting the Giant Slide, follow the signs towards the descending stairway, which will take you down to the foot of the cave system under the natural bridge.
This will take you to stop #9, The Natural Stone Bridge. The Natural Stone Bridge cave entrance is believed to be the largest in the Eastern US. The caves were mapped between 2003 and 2010. You will be able to take the stairs down and follow the stone out to the fenced area below the bridge.
Next, continue across the bridge where you will find several smaller cave entrances. Follow the stairs into the first cave, stop #10. This cave is known as Noisy Cave and is the start of the second main cave system in the area.
When you enter the cave you will quickly see why it is referred to as the Noisy Cave. The river flows through the cave and continues underground to the other areas of the park.
Next continue back along the path and you will come upon stop #11, Peter Pan’s Peephole. Peter Pan’s Peephole can be found at the bottom of a staircase. It is a small area, but will give a peek at the river flowing underground through the Noisy Cave.
Return back up the stairs and you will come up a great photo op spot, #12. You can continue past stop #12 to #13, Serenity Point. This section was closed on my visit for construction.
Next, continue along the path to stop #14, the Upper Nature Trail. This will take you along the upper path overlooking the cave systems and natural stone bridge. It will also take you to the next section of the park where you will find the natural potholes and additional cave entrances.
Along the trail you will come upon Inspiration Point, stop #15. Inspiration Point will give you some views of the cave systems while standing on top of Hemlock roots.
Next, continue on to stop #16, the Indian Maidens Kettle. Indian Maidens Kettle is one of the largest potholes in New York. It measures over 30 feet across. This area is also a great viewing spot for the entrance to Echo Cave, which connects to the Garnet Cave.
Stop #17 is next and is known as the Oyster Shell. The Oyster Shell is the exit point for the water that flows under the Natural Stone Bridge. Also in this area if you look close enough you can see the shape of George Washington’s face in the rocks.
Stop #18 is also found in this area and represents the high water mark. The high water mark represents the line when the caves can no longer contain the water levels and it spills over into the pot hole area. This tends to occur in the spring time when the ice/snow is melting.
Stop #19 is known as the pothole area. Here you will find some smaller potholes steaming with their own biosystem. You can also view the Whirlpool, the spot where the water drains from the Noisy Cave.
The last stop is #20, the Lost Pool Cave. The water in this area is 30ft. deep. After this continue back up the stairway and towards the exit.
The Natural Stone Bridge and Caves is found at the end of Stone Bridge Road off of route 9. To reach the Natural Stone Bridge and Caves coming from the North, follow the Northway I-87 until you reach exit 26. The exit will take you to Stone Bridge Road, which you will follow for about 2 miles before reaching Natural Stone Bridge and Caves.
If you are coming from the South, again take the Northway I-87 to Exit 26. From there get on Route 9, which you will follow for 1/2 a mile. When you reach the intersection, take Stone Bridge Road and continue for another 2.5 miles until you reach Natural Stone Bridge and Caves.
There are a couple different options for touring the park. For those just looking to see the natural sights along the trail, a self-guided tour is a great option. The tour will take about an hour to complete (and that is with plenty of stops for photos).
The Adventure Tour: The Adventure Tour is a four hour rigorous tour that includes walking, climbing, crawling, kneeling, and walking through water. The Adventure Tour is recommended for those who are more physically fit and able to complete all tasks. Minimum age for the tour is 13.
Snowshoeing: In the winter time snowshoeing of the additional 14.5 miles of trails is available.
May through September: 9am to 6pm (Last ticket sold at 4:30pm)
September through October: 10am to 5pm(Last ticket sold at 3:30pm)
Adventure tours are available four days a week (Wed., Fri., Sat. and Sun.) in July and August. Self Guided Tours are available daily from May to October.
Winter hours: 10am to 4pm (Fri., Sat. and Sun.)
Self-Guided Tour: $16 for adults, $8.50 for children (ages 5-12)
Adventure Tour: $100 per person
Snowshoeing: $13.50 for adults, $8 for children (5-12) with an additional $5 fee for snowshoe rental.
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Boldt Castle is an icon of the Thousand Islands. Sitting on Heart Island on the St. Lawrence River, the architecture and beauty of the castle draws thousands of visitors in daily. Today you can tour Boldt Castle through a self-guided tour, visiting the castle, the grounds, and several other structures on the island. Pair up your visit to Boldt Castle with a Thousand Islands boat ride tour and see the islands, homes, and lighthouses along the St. Lawrence River.
The Boldt family purchased the island, previously known as Hart Island, and lived for a few years on a already standing home on the island. George decided to build a more extravagant home that resembled the castles in the Rhine River of Germany. Boldt Castle was to be constructed by George C. Boldt as a gift to his wife, Louise.
The design features many hearts in the design and George Boldt even blasted the island to make it resemble the shape of a heart, renaming the island from Hart Island to Heart Island.
Construction on the castle began in 1900 and continued for a couple years before an unexpected tragedy hit the family. Louise passed away, and George halted construction on the castle, leaving it only partially completed.
For 73 years the castle sat vacant on Heart Island. In the 1970’s the island was purchased by the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority and beginning in 1977, restoration work for the castle and Yacht house began.
Heart Island is a 5 acre island that contains the Castle and other structures, a public restroom, gift shop, concession stand, and several picnic areas.
The castle can be reached by boat only. There are options for private boats to dock on the island, but most reach the island through a tour. Tours leave from both the New York and Canadian sides, but since the island is on US grounds visitors from Canada must provide passports for entry to the island.
Uncle Sam Boat Tours is a great option for tours of the Thousand Islands and Boldt Castle and is the option that we chose for our visit.
****TIP: Always be sure to check before purchasing your tickets for a tour to make sure that there is a stop at Heart Island*****
Boldt Castle is open daily from 10:30am to 6:30pm.
The Yacht House is open daily from 10:30am to 5:30pm.
Uncle Sam Boat Tours
Uncle Sam Boat Tours offers many options for viewing the Thousand Islands and Boldt Castle.
For the cheapest option and if you don’t mind missing out on seeing the St. Lawrence River and islands, take the Boldt Island Shuttle. This shuttle will take you directly to Heart Island where you will be able to tour the castle. The shuttle is $9.50 for adults and $7 for ages 5-12. Separate admission to the castle is required.
For an in-depth tour of the Thousand Islands take the American Narrows tour (previously called the Two Nations Tour). This tour will take you through the heart of the Thousand Islands, by many of the islands and summer homes, and by (and to) Heart Island. During the tour you will be provided with the history and interesting facts about the area. The tour lasts about two hours and ends at Heart Island, where you will be able to enjoy your self-guided tour. This tour is $24.50 for adults and $12.25 for ages 5-12. Admission to Boldt Castle is separate.
There are also tour options for a luncheon cruise, Millionaire’s Row One Hour Tour, and the Singer Castle Tour.
Clayton Island Tours
Clayton Island Tours offers multiple tour options. The Boldt Castle tour will take you through the Thousand Islands and St. Lawrence River, passing sites such as Rock Island, Devil’s Oven, and Millionaire’s Row. There is an option to hop off and take a self guided tour at Boldt Castle. The tour is $25 for adults, $14 for ages 5 to 12, and 4 and under are free. Boldt Castle admission is separate.
The Rock Island Lighthouse Tour will give you the opportunity to take a glass bottom boat ride through the St. Lawrence River to Rock Island, where you will be able to get off and wander the island. You will pass several famous sites, such as the shipwreck of the Schooner Elk, Eel Bay, and Isle of Pines. The tour is $27 for adults, $18 for ages 5-12, and 4 and under are free. Rock Island admission is included in the price.
Exploring the castle is done as a self guided tour, giving you the freedom to explore the castle, grounds, and other buildings located on the island.
The first stop on the self guided tour is the Castle itself. Enter the castle from the front and you will be greeted with views of the grand staircase. Throughout the castle you will find plenty of signs describing the history of the rooms and images of what the rooms once looked like before restoration. On the second floor you will also find a short, fifteen minute film that will give you the history of the castle.
The first and second floors of the castle have been renovated and contain rooms that you can walk through. The rooms are beautifully decorated and contain furniture from the time period. On the first floor you will find the grand staircase, reception room, dining room, ballroom, billiard room, library, and the kitchen. On the second floor you will find many bedrooms and the gift shop.
The third and forth floors are unrenovated and appear as they did in the 1970’s when the castle was purchased by the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority. On the forth floor you will find a balcony that you can step out onto, giving you great views of the island, the roofs of the castle, and the St. Lawrence River.
You can also visit the basement, which has a pool, storage areas, and boiler room.
Be sure to check out the Italian Gardens that you will find between the Castle and the Powerhouse. The views are stunning with colorful flowers and beautiful fountains.
Next you will come upon the Hennery. The Hennery once contained a water tank that supplied the island with fresh water. At the top sits a Dove house.
Next visit the Boldt Castle Powerhouse. The powerhouse was once home to two generators that supplied power to the entire island. The interior of the powerhouse contains a museum on the history of the powerhouse.
Next visit the Alster Tower, which is commonly called the playhouse. This tower is where guests on the island would be entertained. The tower contained a bowling alley in the basement, a billiard room, a library, cafe, grill, and kitchen.
The Arch was the official entrance of the island/castle. The arch was modeled after Roman monuments. At the top of the arch sits sculptures of deer.
If you choose, you can also take a short ferry ride to the Boldt Castle Yacht House. The Yacht House contains several antique boats for you to view. You can also visit the apartment inside the building.
TIP: Be sure to download the Boldt Castle app to help you with on your journey! The app will give you information about the history of the island and castle, images, and maps of the grounds.
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The Hudson Highlands State Park is located in Cold Spring, New York. The Park consists of many separate pieces of land stretching from Annsville Creek in Peekskill and up North to Dennings Point in Beacon. The park offers visitors many different activities, including hiking, fishing, boating, and bird watching. The Cornish Estate Trail is perhaps one of the most interesting trails in the state park.
One of the hiking trails, the Cornish Estate Trails, will take visitors along an relatively easy, flat trail through a wooded area to the ruins of what was once the Cornish Estate.
The once majestic Northgate Estate sits in Cold Spring, NY. The 650 acre plot of land and estate was purchased by Edward J. Cornish and his wife Selina in 1917. The estate was previously owned and built by Sigmund Stern, a Chicago diamond merchant. In 1938 the couple died within a couple weeks of each other and the estate was left to their nephew Joel.
In 1956, the estate was destroyed by a fire and all that was left is what stands today-the stone structure. In 1963 the land was purchased by Central Hudson Gas and Electric and there were plans to transform it into a powerplant. That didn’t happen and in the late 1960’s the estate was added to the Hudson Highlands State Park. Today, visitors can hike the many trails of the Hudson Highlands State Park and explore the ruins.
The Cornish Estate Trail is an easy, mild trail with a gentle incline.
The Cornish Estate Trail is a 1.8 mile loop trail in the Hudson Highlands. Much of the trail is on a concrete road that once led to the estate, making for a flat, easy walk. It takes about twenty minutes (depending on your fitness level-it may take less) to reach the ruins.
The trail is very family friendly and I saw many younger children hiking the trail during my visit.
TIP: Parking is limited and fills up very quickly. I would highly recommend arriving early to start your hike, before 9am for your best chance to find a parking spot.
The Cornish Estate Trail is perhaps the easiest option for reaching the Cornish Estate Ruins, but if you are up for more of a hike (and more stunning views) there are other trail options that you can choose from.
The Breakneck Ridge Trail
Trail Length: 3.2 miles | Time: 3-4 hours
The Breakneck Ridge trail is a difficult trail with a steep incline. The trail is short, but considered to be one of the most strenuous in the Hudson Highlands. Many spots on the trail require you to climb up steep rock ledges. If you venture out to complete this hike, be sure to bring proper hiking boots and avoid the trail if it is wet, snowy, or icy as the ledges become very slippery.
Trail Length: 6 miles | Time: 2-3 hours
The Bull Hill loop starts at the same parking area as the Cornish Estate Trail. The trail can become steep at times, but does not get as steep as the Breakneck Ridge trail. The first two miles are the toughest, and afterwards the trail evens off and is mostly a descent. The trail will give you great views of the Hudson River and in some spots you will be able to see the NYC skyline. The trail ends with the Cornish Estate Ruins.
The ruins of the estate are open to visitors to explore freely. If you are taking the Cornish Estate Ruins trail, the first thing you will come upon is the main mansion.
You will see the porte cochere, which one had a room sitting on top of it. The porte cochere passes through to what appears to have once been a small courtyard.
You will then continue on to the rest of the mansion. You will be able to circle the mansion entirely and in some spots walk through the stone structures.
The stairs pictured above will take you to what was once the front porch of the mansion. You can see some colored tiles that were part of the decor of the porch. Looking forward from the porch you will be able to see the remains of the pool.
There is a path to the side of the mansion ruins that will take you down to the pool and give you a great view of the front of the mansion.
From the pool you can take the path back up and past the mansion, where you will find the remains of another building and greenhouse.
Find some images of the Northgate Estate in its early years!
After completing the hike back to the parking lot, take a quick stroll across the street to Little Stony Point. You can take the short hike up to the top of Little Stony Point or take the one mile long loop trail along the river’s edge. Along this trail you will find some small sandy beaches that you can sit on and enjoy, but it is advised not to enter the water because of pollution reasons.
If you are looking for more adventure in the Hudson Highlands State Park, be sure to check out Bannerman Castle. Bannerman Castle sits on Pollepel Island and once served as a military surplus supply warehouse. Today you can visit the island and tour the grounds through guided tours.
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The Welwyn Preserve is a 204 acre estate that was once home to Harold Irving Pratt, an oil industrialist, and his wife that lies on the Gold Coast of Long Island in Glen Cove, NY.
Today visitors can walk the grounds of the preserve along the 2.4 mile loop trail, following the cobblestone paths through the estate, across small bridges and streams, and down to the once private beach of the estate on the Long Island sound.
100 Crescent Beach Rd
Glen Cove, New York
The best way to reach the Welwyn Preserve is by car. There is a large parking area with free parking.
If you prefer you can arrive to nearby stations via train or bus. Be sure to check transit schedules to see when and where the bus/train will arrive. Bus lines N21 and N27 stop near the preserve.
The Welwyn home was built in 1906 for Harold Irving Pratt and his wife. The landscaping of the estate was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. The couple lived in the home until both had passed in 1939 and 1969. After their passing the home was left to Nassau County and was left to the elements.
In the 1990’s the cement basements below the greenhouses were used as a training site for the Nassau County Sheriff’s Department. In 1993 Boris Chartan, a holocaust survivor, turned the home into a Holocaust museum. The main home still houses the Holocaust museum, which is open to visitors. The rest of the estate lies in ruin and visitors are free to wander the grounds.
The Welwyn Preserve is more than just a walk through the woods and some old, decaying ruins. The Welwyn Preserve is a great spot for those looking to do some bird watching, wildlife viewing, fishing, hiking through a wooded area, visit the Holocaust Museum, walk along the beach, go shell hunting, or fly a kite along the beach.
On our visit we saw many people there fishing and walking the beach with their families.
Depending on when you visit, the grounds may be very overgrown with weeds and plants or be festering with insects. I would suggest bringing these items with you to be sure you are protected:
***Also be aware that once you enter the grounds service is back and forth, so you may not be able to use your phone***
We began our walk at the Holocaust museum. It is a small museum, but is definitely worth the walk through if you are visiting the area. Entrance is free, but they do accept donations.
After visiting the museum, we headed out to the left of the home (if you are facing the front door of the home) down a paved road. There are a couple different trail options you can take near the home. The other option to the right of the main home takes you down the cobblestone path to the greenhouses.
The paved road that we chose to take led us straight down to the private beach. We spent a while walking on the sandy beach, admiring the jettys, and side stepping over the shells that horseshoe crabs left behind.
When visiting, be sure to pay attention to the signs marking protected areas and refrain from walking through them. You will find them scattered across the beach. This is to protect the wildlife and plants in the area.
The beach was full of horseshoe crabs and shells.
Walking East along the beach we came upon the trail that leads back into the woods and to the ruins of the estate. The first thing we came upon was the salt marsh, followed by a small pond, and several small streams.
Once we started on the trail through the woods we also came upon many other forms of wildlife.
Along the path you will see trees marked with graffiti, leading the way to the abandoned buildings. The Welwyn Preserve is the location of Graffiti art workshops and you will find tons of Graffiti throughout the buildings.
The first thing we came upon was the greenhouses and some adjacent buildings. The greenhouses were overgrown with mostly weeds and some colorful flowers, but at least they still see plants, right?
The buildings adjacent to the greenhouses were covered with graffiti. Some of it I would describe as artwork and other sections are just scribble. The area is very colorful and entertaining to look at.
After exploring the greenhouses we continued on along the cobblestone path to some more decaying buildings. The rock pictured below is found near the start of the path leading down to the greenhouses and will be one of the first things you see if you choose to go in the opposite direction than us.
The start of the path is a nice walk along a cobblestone trail, but soon after the trail starts to become overgrown and will make for a little bit more difficult of a hike (but still very doable even for beginners).
There is a little bit of an incline while going through the woods and back to the main house, but nothing to strenuous.
After coming up the path we came across a few more graffiti covered buildings and log cabin that we were able to walk through and explore.
Some of the buildings were in worse shape than the others, such as the one pictured above.
After exploring these buildings we followed the trail back up to the main home.
***The property is an enter at you own risk. When it comes to abandoned buildings there is always a risk and chance of floors collapsing or ceilings falling in. Although the structures seemed to be sound when we visited, there is always a risk. Find some safety tips here!***
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Sitting in the heart of the Adirondacks in the quaint village of Tupperlake sits an outdoor treetop adventure where young and old explorers alike can step out and take a walk on the wild side. The Wild Center is the perfect destination for family friendly hikes, animal encounters, and exploration! The Wild Center is located just 40 minutes outside of the Olympic famed village of Lake Placid.
The outdoor course takes visitors across bridges, inside an actual tree, inside a giant bird’s nest, and across a giant spider web to explore nature in the Adirondacks from a different angle.
If heading to the Wild Center from Lake Placid, take route 86 into Saranac Lake and to route 3. Route 3 will take you into Tupper Lake and a left onto Hosley Ave. at the first traffic light will take you to the Wild Center, which will be on the left.
If heading to the Wild Center from Old Forge you will want to take Route 28 to Route 30 in Blue Mountain Lake. Route 30 will take you into Tupper Lake and you will take a right onto Hosley Ave. The Wild Center entrance will be on the left.
45 Museum Drive
Tupper Lake, NY 12986
The Wild Center is generally open daily from 10am to 5pm. Hours may vary, however, so be sure to check before your visit. In the winter months the Wild Center is open Friday through Sunday 10am to 5pm.
Reservations are currently required for admission to the Wild Center
The Wild Walk is perhaps the most popular attraction at the Wild Center. The Wild Walk resembles a boardwalk, but with bridges, wooden pathways, staircases, and some special treats (read on to find out what!)
From the parking lot you will find a booth marking the entrance to the Wild Walk on one side and the entrance to the indoor exhibits on the other side. You can choose which you would like to do first (***indoor exhibits are currently closed due to COVID***).
The trail leading to the Wild Walk has many interactive areas the kids can explore before reaching the walk. The walk from the parking lot to the beginning of the Wild Walk takes about five minutes and is along a paved, flat path.
You will soon come upon the start of the Wild Walk. The Wild Walk is a wooden boardwalk that takes you up into the tops of the trees through gradual incline and stairways.
One section near the beginning of the Wild Walk takes you through an actual tree that has been carved out. Inside the tree you will find a staircase and some exhibits with interesting facts about wildlife and trees. You will come out at the top and head back over the bridge to continue on to the giant bird nest and spider web.
Walking across the many bridges like the ones pictured above were a great hit with my daughter. After all, what kid doesn’t like to bounce?
Continuing on you will some come upon the giant spider web and bird’s nest.
The Giant Spider Web is one of the major draws of the Wild Walk. Visitors can climb out onto the spider web and look below at the lively woods. (This is not for me and my daughter couldn’t get up the courage to do it-but for those of you who may be a bit more adventourous-this can be a lot of fun!).
The giant spider in the background makes for a great photo op!
Adjacent to the spider web is the giant bird’s nest. Climb into the nest for some great views of the surrounding woods and mountains in the distance.
Located in the section around the nest you can find markers noting the location of surrounding mountains and pipes that you can glance to to guide you to views of the mountains.
After enjoying this section, continue along the boardwalk heading back towards the entrance and many other great areas of the Wild Center!
Plan on reserving 30-45 minutes for exploring the Wild Walk.
Another feature of the Wild Center is the nature trails located throughout the center. Along the paved path that leads to the Wild Walk you will come upon a fork that will direct you to the nature trails and down towards Raquette River. While you walk along the trails you will be treated to a variety of “forest music,” a combination of music and natural sounds such as birds chirping and buzzing insects.
An indoor/outdoor exhibit, you can watch as Otters play, swim, and if you time it right eat in their habitat.
The Wild Center also has an outdoor play area for the kids to enjoy. The Pines Wild Play Area is a natural playground area made of tree trunks, brances, and logs that bring out the creativity in the kiddos!
My daughter had tons of fun creating this Princess Castle, made entirely out of log and pine cones. The play area is the perfect spot for the kiddos to use their imaganation!
Guided canoe tours are available daily at 1pm on Raquette River’s Oxbow. Along the tour you can expect to see marshes and plenty of wildlife while enjoy the tree lined shores. In the fall months you will be even more delighted with stunning blends of colors.
The dock is reached along the nature trails and is about a half mile walk from the parking lot. The canoe experience is suited for ages 5+.
***The indoor exhibits are currently closed due to COVID***
The Wild Center has two main exhibitions indoors and behind the scenes tours.
Ways of Knowing
Ways of Knowing includes four exhibits that focus on the indigenous people of the area through art and storytelling.
Hall of the Adirondacks
This section contains live animal exhibits, including a variety of fish species, turtles, and plant species.
The Naturalists Cabinet
The Naturalists Cabinet is a section of the indoor Wild Center that allows visitors to explore different natural exhibits.
The Flammer Theater features films throughout the day. A Matter of Degrees explores the history of the Adirondacks and The Wild Adirondacks features high quality images of locations within the Adirondacks that are not commonly visited.
Animal Encounters are offered throughout the day in the Big Wolf Great Hall (normally) and on the outdoor patio currently due to COVID. Animal encounters may include snakes, turtles, blue jays, owls and porcupines.
Planet Adirondack is an interactive display that brings to life the planet from a bird’s eye view. Visitors can watch as airplanes take off, watch storms, and explore other planets in the solar system.
Behind the Scenes Tours
Behind the Scenes tours are available of the Wild Center, which will walk you through several areas of the center’s operation. This includes the center’s green energy system, the wild life ambassadors, and the systems that maintain the habitats of the otters and trout. The tour is one hour long and involves a half mile walk. Reservations are needed and can be made here. (***These may not be available currently due to the pandemic***).
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Sitting just four miles outside the small Adirondack town of Old Forge hikers will find a rocky paradise that leads to not only great views of the Fulton Chain and Forth Lake and wooded forests surrounding them, you will also be treated to one of the Adirondack Fire Tower Challenge Fire Towers, the Rondaxe Fire Tower. Hiking Bald Mountain is the perfect way to spend a morning or afternoon, either alone or with the family!
Bald Mountain has seen its share of name changes, originally being called Pond Mountain by early settlers. The name would later be changed to Bald Mountain for the rocky (or bald) appearance of the mountain. Finally in 1912 the name was officially changed by the state to Rondaxe Mountain. This was done to avoid confusion with a mountain in a neighboring county with the same name, however it is still commonly referred to as Bald Mountain by locals.
Bald Mountain is a moderate 2 mile out and back trail that begins as more of a flat, smooth path but then quickly transforms into a mostly uphill, smooth rocky path that can be slippery at times. Despite this Bald Mountain is a very family friendly hike and during my visit I saw countless families with young children taking on the hike.
When you reach the top you will be treated to the Rondaxe Fire Tower. The original tower was put into place on the top of the mountain in 1912 as a wooden structure with no cab. The structure that remains today replaced the original tower in 1917.
There is a fairly large parking area just beside the trail head for Bald Mountain. It is a popular trail and in the summer months the parking area tends to fill up, but if arriving early in the morning you should be able to get a parking spot.
The trail starts at a mostly flat, smooth path. This was the easy part! But be warned it doesn’t last long! You will quickly begin to ascend and then be greeted by a smooth, uphill rocky hike.
The majority of the trail will be rocky inclines like the one pictured below.
The most difficult part of the hike is trying to navigate the often slippery rocks, but with good shoes you will certainly make it up with no problem. The hike may be especially difficult in the winter when ice and snow increase the slickness of the rocks.
When you hit the half way mark the many viewpoints will begin coming into sight. Don’t let the wide open rocky spaces and views fool you, though. You have not yet reached the summit. I made this mistake years ago as a beginning hiker, but have since returned to make it right! Be sure to continue on for the summit views and fire tower.
Just before reaching the summit you will come upon a rocky spine that will guide to the summit. This section can be a little tricky for small children, so be sure to keep an extra eye on them.
At the summit you will find plenty of rocky areas to sit and enjoy the views (and a picnic if you desire). Don’t miss climbing to the top of the Rondaxe Fire Tower for more stunning views.
While in the area be sure to check out Old Forge, NY. This small hamlet in the Adirondacks is just a five minute drive from the Bald Mountain trail head and has plenty of family friendly attractions. After hiking Bald Mountain, walk Main Street for some local and unique shops and grab a bite to eat, visit the Candy Cottage for some treats, visit New York’s largest water park-Water Safari, or enjoy one of the many other hikes in the area.
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Twenty minutes outside of the waterfall capital of New York (Ithaca) and along the western shores of Cayuga Lake is Taughannock Falls State Park. The park has three main waterfalls: the Upper Falls, the Lower Falls, and Taughannock Falls along with plenty of hiking trails. The name for Taughannock Falls is believed to either been derived from the Delaware Indian Chief Taughannock or from the Delaware word taghkanic, which means “great fall in the woods.”
The main feature of this very popular state park is the 215 foot waterfall, Taughannock Falls. The falls is said to be the highest drop east of the Rocky Mountains and 48 ft. taller than Niagara Falls (which stands at 167 ft.), but with a significantly lower water volume. The park contains a 400 ft. deep gorge through layers of sandstone, shale and limestone.
The gorge was once completely covered in water during the Middle to Late Devonian period (about 385 million years ago). The history of the sea levels rising and falling in this area can be seen in the different layers of rock throughout the gorge, including the limestone, shale, and siltstone.
The different seasons will give viewers a much different experience, with summer seeing lush greenery, the falls months seeing the perfect combination of vibrant colors, bare trees in the late fall and early spring, and ice and snow covered in the winter. All views are great, so it really depends on what you are looking for!
Park Hours: Year round from dawn to dusk
Entrance Fees: $8 per car
Camping Fees: $18-28 per night (with an additional $5 fee for non NY residents)
While exploring Taughannock Falls State Park you are bound to run into some wild life:
The easiest and best way to reach Taughannock Falls State Park is via car. If you are coming from the Ithaca area, take Route 89 North about 8 miles outside of Ithaca and you will come upon the Taughannock Falls parking area. There are three parking areas throughout the park that give you easy access to all three trails.
Address: 1740 Taughannock Blvd, Trumansburg, NY 14886
The Falls Overlook is the fastest and easiest way to view the falls. Just off a parking area along Taughannock Park Road and beside the visitor’s center is the Falls Overlook. The overlook provides great views of the falls from above and the surrounding cliffs and creek below. The overlook is a must stop for any visit to the park.
Taughannock State Park offers plenty of great hiking options, ranging from easy to moderate. The Gorge Trail takes you along a flat path to the base of the falls while the North and South Rim Trails offer a little more of a challenge.
The Gorge Trail
The Gorge Trail is the easiest of the trails with the most rewarding view. The Gorge Trail is a 0.75 mile trail along the Taughannock Creek that takes you to the base of Taughannock Falls. There is a parking area along NYS Route 89 that will give you direct access to the trail.
The trail takes you past the Lower Falls, another must see waterfall at the park. The view at the Lower Falls depends greatly on the flow of the creek. You will also find many smaller waterfalls located along the creek.
The trail is a flat, gravel path that is easily doable for all ages and hiking ability and is more comparable to a walk in the park than a true hike. Nevertheless, it is a great walk through the gorge and the views of the falls are fantastic! When the water levels are low, you can even walk along the stone slabs through the creek and search for fossils (which are plentiful due to the history of the park being covered by by water)!
South Rim Trail
The South Rim trail is a 1.125 mile moderate trail along the southern rim of the gorge with a 430 ft. elevation gain. The trail begins at one of two parking areas, depending on which direction you are going. You can access the trail from the Jacksonville Road parking area or from the parking area off of NYS Route 89.
The majority of the trail is flat but the section of the trail near the entrance to the Gorge Trail contains two large, uneven stair cases that make for a steep climb. If you choose the Jacksonville Road parking area the trail will be mostly flat until you come to just about the end of the trail, where you will meet the staircases.
Along the trail you will be greeted with great views of the gorge and Taughannok Creek below, which is a sight to see all in itself. You will also be able to see the very top of Taughannock Falls from one point along the trail.
North Rim Trail
The North Rim trail is the more popular trail because it takes you past the visitor’s center and Falls Overlook (which can also be reached by car). The North Rim trail is also the longest at about 1.5 miles and is similar in difficulty to the South Rim Trail.
If you choose, you can combine the South and North Rim Trails for an approximately 3 mile loop trail. You can also add in the Gorge Trail, which sits at the entrance to both trails.
The Multiuse Trail
Located directly across from the parking area for the Falls Overlook is the entrance to the multiuse trail. This is a series of trails used for hiking, running, and cross country skiing. The trails have gentle inclines and are easy to navigate. A feature of this trail is Rice Hill, which will provide you with great views of Cayuga Lake. The length of the trails equals about two miles and has an elevation change of about 150 ft.
Black Diamond Trail
The Black Diamond Trail is a 8.44 mile trail from Taughannock Falls State Park (the Jacksonville Road parking area) to Cass Park in Ithaca. The trail will take you past ravines, lush greenery, and a patch of grazing Bisons at the Glenwood Farms.
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