To the typical family, childhood milestones sound a bit like this: first word, first step, first tooth — to the outdoor family, childhood milestones sound a bit different.
This past year, our four year old had some big ones. He climbed his first indoor rock wall to the top, skied and snowshoed for the first time, and hiked his first summit all on his own. That last one was not without the errant tear shed from this proud hiking mama. And, not particularly on purpose, most of these milestones were all achieved at our favorite family vacation spot on the east coast, Lake Placid, New York.
Whether you know of Lake Placid as the host of the 1980 Winter Olympics, or as the setting of an awful horror movie starring a giant crocodile, you really should know it as an outdoor adventure seeker’s playground.
The activities are endless, and are for all seasons! My husband, Matt and I are aspiring 46ers (46ers are hikers who have climbed all 46 of the High Peaks of the Adirondack Mountains. Only 24 more to go!), so we hike in the Lake Placid area often.
Since backpacking and camping out in the high peaks is still a little premature with two kids under four years old, this outdoor family makes its home base the Courtyard by Marriott
, which is conveniently located right in town. The kids go nuts over the awesome pool, and we love that the entry to their suite is large enough to house the six Deuter bags that we are usually traveling with. A latte from their cafe is also a pretty rad treat for a hiker when you’re used to drinking camp coffee when backpacking without the kids.
During our last two trips out to Lake Placid in particular, we really were able to experience some amazing family activities that helped to create some of the best memories we’ve made during our outdoor travels.
Five must-do’s in the High Peaks for the outdoor family
1. Hike Cascade and Porter Mountain
This hike is like one stop shopping when in the ADK’s. Two high peaks down (only 44 more to go!) in one day
, and some of the most breathtaking views of the mountain range that you’ll get. We put both of the kids in our Deuter Kid Comfort 3’s
for this hike, since it requires a bit too much rock scrambling for our little guy. They were both comfy the entire six-hour round trip and enjoyed the views at the top as much as we did.
2. If you have a child who wants to hike on their own, be sure to hit Owls Head
This was our four year old’s first summit, and it’s a perfect hike that’s easy enough to do but still comes with a very rewarding view. If you are there during the summer season, strap a stand-up paddle board to the car and hit Cascade Lake on your way back into town. It’s the perfect place if you want some solitude, awesome surrounding views and a place to cool off post hike.
3. Ski (or ride) The Face
We thought we loved Whiteface Mountain for its gnarly altitudes and usual fresh powder, but we learned recently that the real reason to love it (as a parent) is the amazing kids program. Situated on an entirely separate part of the mountain, the Bear Den Lodge hosts your little non-skiers at its awesome Cub Camp and teaches your aspiring snow junkies to ski and ride at the impressive Snowsports School. One lesson later, and my little dude left with a new-found love for skiing and a new-found kid crush on his fun ski instructor, Megan.
4. Make like Cool Runnings and hit the track, bobsled style
There are so many amazing Olympic sites to visit in Lake Placid during Winter. The ski jump complex is definitely something to see, ice skating on the Oval in front of the “Miracle on Ice” rink is awesome, but the one thing that should be on your Olympic Sports Complex bucket list is the Bobsled Experience. The kids were too small for this one, but this was a thrill that we knew we couldn’t miss out on. Racing down the Olympic track while a professional driver makes all your 90’s Cool Running fantasies come true (No? Just me?) … Yes, please!
5. Snowshoe or cross country ski at the Mt. Van Hoevenburg sports complex
There were so many things we loved about this activity. We took our first snow shoe hike with both boys in our Kid Comfort packs, and then after a rest inside the beautiful lodge, we went back out with my four year old trying out his first pair of shoes. There was lots of falling and making snow angels, but everyone had such a great time. And, if you’re there on the weekend, check out the new Josie’s Cabin. A cabin in the woods that you’ll pass on trail, where you can stop in for hot waffles and s’mores by the fire, is always a good plan when your with your family.
Add ice climbing, rock climbing, dog sledding on the frozen lake, insanely delicious restaurants and beer to boot, and it’s not hard to see why Lake Placid is our go-to outdoor family fun spot when we are looking for adventure in the east.