Best Hiking Near Lake George with Kids
Upstate New York is an amazing and totally underrated area to visit in the US and is well known for its awesome Adirondack hiking and other outdoor adventures. Some of the best hiking in upstate New York is located right in the Lake George area which is the southernmost part of the Adirondacks. If you are wondering how far is Lake George from New York City, it is only a little over a 3-hour drive – and an easy drive at that since you mostly stick to one major highway. If you plan to go hiking in New York, this area should be at the top of your list, and you can also check out all the other great things to do in Lake George, NY. The Adirondack State Park is a massive state park and while it is well known for its Adirondack high peaks, there are also countless beginner level NY hiking trails. Over the past year, we have discovered that Lake George hiking has given us some really sweet options for easy Adirondack hikes with kids. If you are looking for some great activities in Lake George, read on to find out about all the best hikes in Lake George for families, or even for anyone 🙂
Sleeping Beauty Mountain
Located on the east side of Lake George, the trailhead for Sleeping Beauty Mountain is at the end of Dacy Clearing Road and is about a 30-minute drive from Lake George village. There is a free parking lot at the end of Dacy Clearing Road, but during a particularly nice day it can fill up quickly, so it is advised to arrive early to get a spot. If you don’t get a spot, you can also park at the start of Dacy Clearing Road where there is another free parking lot. Parking here will just mean you need to walk the length of Dacy Clearing Road which is about a mile and a half.
From the end of Dacy Clearing to the summit of Sleeping Beauty Mountain is approximately 2 miles one way. The hike is not very steep because there are lots of switchbacks on the trail which helped a lot, especially with two little kids. We saw tons of little kids and dogs on the trail, but also adult groups of all ages. Once you reach the Sleeping Beauty Mountain summit there are plenty of places to hang out for a while and eat a packed lunch, or even draw like our kids decided to do. The view from the summit on a clear day is one of the best views of Lake George. You can not only see Lake George, but also well into the Adirondack Mountains, and as far as some mountains in Vermont as well. We did this hike in July, and it was a nice day compared to a typical day in New York weather-wise, with low humidity, but at the summit of Sleeping Beauty Mountain, it was much cooler than the base. We were regretting not bringing an extra layer with us so we could hang around up top longer.
After spending some time taking in the views from the summit of Sleeping Beauty Mountain, you have two options for your return trip. You can take the same way back down that you came up, or you can take the “scenic route” back down which is longer but still loops you back around to where you started. We chose the scenic route because we had plenty of time and also the way up was getting busy so we were hoping for a quieter return trip. The scenic route was less steep than the way up was, and had a much different feel because we only did run into about 4 other groups hiking and they were all working their way to the summit still. Part of the trail on the scenic route down was grown over a bit, but the trail was still easy enough to follow. The other highlight of the return trip was that we got to circle around Bump’s Pond. No regrets going down the long way other than it was quite buggy and we definitely had to tap into our favorite hiking games with the kids as they were totally over hiking for the day!
This Adirondack Hike took our family about 6 hours to complete but keep in mind we were hiking with a 4 and 8-year-old who love to stop for snacks every mile or so! We would totally recommend this hike for a family who is ready to tackle their first mountain hike, and Sleeping Beauty Mountain is easily one of the best hikes in the Adirondacks for beginner hikers!
Okay, this trail was totally recommended to me by my kid’s orthodontist. Forget Google, when you have a good old word of mouth to find out an easy Adirondack hike for kids. The Pinnacle Trail is about 20 minutes north of Lake George in Bolton Landing. The parking lot here is tiny, but you can just park along the road if the handful of real spots are taken. We arrived early and still parked on the road. The trail is only about a mile and a half out and back. The recommending orthodontist described this hike to me as “the best bang for your buck” and really that is exactly what it was.
It was moderately steep getting up with some longer switchbacks to make it easier, but the trail was super rocky but nothing our 4-year-old and sister’s dog couldn’t handle. It probably took us 45 minutes to get to the top (we do hike SLOW) and once you are the top be prepared for some epic views. We had a crystal clear day and could see Lake George down below at the overlook from the Pinnacle trail. We did this hike in the summer and the top was also FULL of dragonflies – which was pretty cool! If you are looking for a quick less than 1-2 hour hike with an amazing view and not far from Lake George at all this is the one!
Shelving Rock Mountain
On the east side of Lake George, there are a number of awesome iconic Lake George hikes, most of which result in a nice view from the top! A great option for a shorter hike that also offers a view but won’t take you more than a few hours is Shelving Rock Mountain. This hike is only 3 miles out and back and has a wonderful view of Lake George at the top. It also has some good places to picnic at the top of the mountain – we brought lunch on this hike and found some nice shady spots to enjoy it since it was a super hot day when we hiked. We loved this hike because the trail itself was so peaceful and quiet, we only ran into a handful of other people throughout the hike. The view from the top of Shelving Rock is a good one, not the best, but still pretty awesome considering the easy level of the hike.
Hadley Mountain is located about 30 minutes southwest of Lake George, and while it doesn’t provide the Lake George view from its summit, you can see Great Sacandaga Lake instead, and endless views of the Adirondack Mountains. Hadley mountain trail is not the easiest one for the beginner hiker because while not terribly long, it does have some decent elevation gain! At just about 3.5 miles round trip, you will gain a total of 1500 feet in elevation on the trail to the summit of Hadley Mountain. The trail isn’t necessarily steep in any locations, but rather a constant upward climb to the top. I would say the last half mile or so flattens out as you approach the summit which is nice since if you are new to hiking like us you will be tired by then.
At the top of Hadley Mountain, there is also a fire tower, which is part of the Adirondack Mountain Club Fire Tower Challenge. Climbing to the top will provide you with an even more breathtaking view, but if that isn’t your thing you definitely won’t be disappointed with the view from the summit anyway! Hadley Mountain at the top has a huge rock base with lots of places to take a rest and have some sandwiches which are totally our second favorite reward for making it to the top, first being the view 🙂 Although my kids may reverse those two rewards – haha! If you have a set of hiking sticks I would suggest bringing them on this hike – or hope someone else left a hiking stick by the sign-in book because this trail is definitely very slippery if you are hiking after any sort of precipitation. We hiked Hadley Mountain after a good rainfall and in the fall and it was very muddy and slippery on the wet leaves – so be warned 😉
Pilot Knob Ridge
Pilot Knob Ridge trail is the perfect easy hike in Lake George and is ideal for all ability levels. The trail ultimately ends at a waterfall, but the scenic overlook is at the gazebo only halfway up the trail (maybe 1.5 miles one way). This is a great hike to complete in the fall when the foliage is peaking because the view is great with lots of trees and a peek at Lake George from the top. The trail was not terribly steep and is totally one of the best free things to do in Lake George. This was a very popular hike and when we went in October it was very busy along the trail and at the top. Like most trails in the Lake George area, which can get very busy, I would suggest going early to make sure you get a parking spot!
One of the most popular hikes in Lake George is Prospect Mountain which is relatively short, but not exactly that easy. I am including it on my Lake George family hikes because, despite the difficulty, the distance makes it a good one to try with kids. The trail is under 3 miles out and back, but what makes it hard is that it has over 1500 feet in elevation gain in those short 1.5 miles up. The trail is incredibly rocky and can be quite steep in places because there are no switchbacks. However, once you reach the summit of Prospect Mountain the view is pretty remarkable. We hiked Prospect Mountain when our youngest was only 2 and was in a carrier. I would not suggest hiking with a walking child until they were four and older for this one, otherwise, I would use a carrier if any younger! So while I can’t say my kids have hiked this one, I know now at their age they would be able to easily. We are hoping to do this one again as a family in the near future!
Prepare yourself for a very busy trail for this hike, and even larger crowds at the top. The reason crowds are even heavier at the top is that you can even drive to the summit of Prospect Mountain for a toll. In fact, when we first did this hike with my youngest, my husband hiked back down and picked us up because my daughter was totally over being in her hiking carrier and we didn’t feel it would be successful to have her walk back down at just 2 years old. So if you are looking for a view without the hike, I totally recommend making the drive to the summit of Prospect Mountain to take in the awesome views of Lake George.
In the Fort Ann area to the east of Lake George, amongst other popular Lake George hikes is the Buck Mountain trail. I will be honest, as of the time I am writing this we haven’t hiked this one yet but it is currently in our queue and we hope to do it once the snow and ice melt in Upstate NY. The trail to the summit of Buck Mountain is supposed to be a really incredible hike from what we have heard, so we decided to add it to our list. According to All-Trails the hike is about 7 miles long and has a 2,000-foot elevation gain. This will likely be the hardest hike for our family yet, but from what I have heard it is similar to Sleeping Beauty Mountain, and also another hike a little further from Lake George – Black Mountain, both of which we already have hiked! So stay tuned for our official review once we complete the Buck Mountain hike.
Last summer I decided our family would start to embark on a little challenge to hike all Lake George hikes on the Lake George 12ster list. The rules of the challenge are that you have to summit all 12 peaks (on their list) in order to become an official Lake George 12ster. So far we have only completed 2 of the 12, but we hope to continue to check more and more off the list so we can join the 12ster club. Click here to learn more about the Lake George 12ster, and also check out the list of all 12 peaks of Lake George hikes included in the challenge:
- Sleeping Beauty
- Five Mile
- Fifth Peak
- French Point