What does it feel like to be on top of the world? There is no real way to describe it other than there is no other feeling like it. And once you have felt it, you only want to go there faster. So, I ask you, why walk up a mountain when you can run? The Adirondack Mountains are renowned for their hiking, but they are also perfect for those who mountain run. There is nothing I love more than pushing my limits up a mountain quickly and reaching a peak at a personal record time.
My love affair with trail running
I grew up hiking in the Adirondacks and it wasn’t until I was deep into Ironman training later in my adult years that I discovered my ability to actually run up a mountain rather than hike. From then on, it has become difficult for me to arrive at an Adirondack trailhead and convince myself to just hike. I yearn for the run, my legs crave it and it never fails — I am running up the mountain.
When in these moments I feel truly at home. I am a part of the mountain, a part of the moment, there is nothing else left, and nowhere else I would rather be. When I am mountain running, I feel I am exactly where I am meant to be and there is no better place to be than on the trails of the Adirondack Mountains.
Please note that running on mountain trails in the Adirondacks is not for the beginner hiker, but if you are a mountain runner, then these mountains are worth running!
Which peaks to pick
There are many options of trails to run, ranging in difficulty from beginner to advanced. If you are new to trail running, I recommend starting out with some easier distance trails with moderate elevation gain and maintained paths — like Henry’s Woods and the Heaven Hill trails in Lake Placid. If you are looking for something a little more challenging I recommend starting with Mt. Joe. If you are an advanced trail runner who’s used to rough terrain and steep elevation then you can try long, adventurous hikes such as Mount Skylight, which is my favorite Adirondack Mountain.
A few of my favorite mountains that are more easily accessible are Hurricane, Owls Head, Whiteface, and Algonquin. These are all more advanced trails to run, and I don’t recommend starting here as a beginner, but if you are already a mountain runner they are great to try out. These trails can also be very busy, but the advantage of running is that you end up being on the trail alone even when it’s crowed because you pass everyone along the way.
Hurricane Mountain and Owls Head Mountain, on Route 9 heading to Elizabethtown, are two great runs. Hurricane is a longer, steeper run, and it’s worth every second of it. It is about 7 miles round trip with 3,678 feet of elevation gain. Running Hurricane at an easy pace with mixed intervals of power hiking, I can summit in 1.18 hours and arrive back to my car in another hour. Owls Head lookout is a more forgiving mountain run that is about 5 miles round trip and only 1,850 feet of elevation gain. It takes about 45 minutes to summit and a half hour to run back down.
Getting ready to run
It is important when hiking and mountain running in the early spring and even into the heat of summer, especially this very rainy summer, to remember that the trails are wet and slippery, and the peaks are still cold. It is always good practice to bring extra layers and a first-aid kit with you. If you are a mountain runner you should already know a running vest is a necessity, and it’s plenty big to stuff in some extra layers along with your basic survival needs and a camel pack.
When running in the High Peaks, always bring enough water with you and watch for signs of dehydration. A water purifier is also a good idea in case you run out of water. The number one sign to watch out for when doing any long endurance runs in the heat is a headache and no longer sweating. If you are no longer sweating you must stop, find shade, sit down, and hydrate right away — do not continue to push through.
If you are new to hiking or mountain running, make sure you invest in the appropriate gear and necessities to bring with you; when you are in the mountains you should always be prepared. If you arrive to the Adirondacks without the things you need or are unsure of what you need to head up a mountain the Fallen Arch and High Peaks Cyclery in Lake Placid will be sure to have what you need!
One last challenge
There are so many beautiful mountains to hike or run here, and most trailheads are easy to find. There are even some mountain races! Last year was my first year running in the Whiteface Vertical K. This year I will be taking on a whole new challenge and running the Sky Race, a 15 mile race with a double up and down loop on Whiteface Mountain where I will run up 3,330 feet of elevation gain — twice! If you are like me and thrive off of new and exciting challenges, then challenge yourself this summer and check out the Sky Race. Maybe the Vertical K is the perfect summer challenge for you!
If you are ever in the Adirondacks hiking a mountain and see a girl run by you, it might just be me.