Travel south of the High Peaks next time you’re interested in doing a series of hikes for the most interactive hiking challenge in the Adirondacks. Next to the 46’er, Lake Placid 9’er, or Tupper Lake Triad is the Indian Lake 4-3-2-1 challenge. Using hikes located in several Wilderness Areas around Indian and Blue Mountain Lakes, the 4-3-2-1 is as easy going as the mountains should be.

Stop by the Indian Lake Chamber of Commerce for a challenge form and map with the challenge’s trails and descriptions. From their list, complete four easy, three moderate, two difficult, and one flagship hike; take a photo of yourself at each summit sign (or view point, as not all hikes are mountains), and fill out the form. Once you’ve completed your journey and presented everything to the Indian Lake Chamber of Commerce, you can additionally pay $5 for a challenge badge and to support the town.

Many ponds, waterfalls, and mountains make up the list of 38 hikes. Some are more family friendly than others, some can even be combined for multi-hike days or an overnight backpacking trip. Other hikes may experience seasonal road closures or require parking fees, so always make sure to do research before your trek. The choice is yours for how you want to complete this “choose your own adventure” challenge, but if you don’t know where to start, we’ve compiled some selections so you can better tailor your days:

Credit: Ethan Gresko

Weekend Around Blue Mountain Lake

  • Blue Mountain, 4.6 miles, Difficult/Flagship
  • Castle Rock, 3 miles, Moderate
  • Tirrell Pond, 6-9 miles, Easy
  • NPT to Lake Durant, 6 miles, Moderate

Spending a weekend around Blue Mountain Lake will break you into each challenge category and give you a taste for several different Adirondack experiences. Start your weekend off with a short but steep hike up to Castle Rock. Along the way you’ll pass several large boulders and rock formations, and once at the top you’ll have views of the lake and its namesake mountain.

That evening, if you’re not at the designated DEC campground at Lake Durant or staying in town, hike 4 miles in from Route 28 to Tirrell Pond, where there are two campsites. From Tirrell Pond, you have access to the Northville-Placid Trail if you wish to venture from your campsite onto the Adirondack’s longest thru-hike. Blue Mountain has a rocky hike up to the fire tower, but stay for the sunset if you’re comfortable heading down in the dark. The changing colors of the sky from the west over the lake is a solid way to end your day.

OK Slip Falls. | Credit: Ethan Gresko


  • Buttermilk, 0.2 miles, Easy
  • OK Slip, 6.4 miles, Easy
  • Death Brook, 0.6 miles, Easy
  • Pashley, 3.5 miles, Easy

The falls listed in this challenge are great for all skill levels, the trailheads are easy to find, and the end points are spectacular. Buttermilk and Death Brook Falls are two quick hikes for a start to the easy section; a nice jaunt in the woods over minimal trail grade leads you to flowing cascades (and a picnic area at Buttermilk Falls). Optionally if you’re feeling ambitious enough, a day could be made out of the four hikes. Start with OK Slip, as the falls are shaded after the sun crests over the brook in the afternoon. An extension of this hike is available to the Hudson River, and while it adds a couple of extra miles and is a bit steeper, it does offer the option to see the falls closer to the base. Pashley Falls can similarly be extended and hiked as a loop, going counterclockwise first to see the falls; prepare to hike the loop on a dry day after minimal rain to avoid any flooding from the cedar river, or head onto the trail during winter for a snowshoe trip.

Credit: Ethan Gresko

Summit Views

  • Vanderwhacker Mountain, 6 miles without road closures, Difficult
  • Snowy Mountain, 7 miles, Difficult/Flagship
  • Chimney Mountain, 2.5 miles, Moderate

This list is steep, but worth every step. Chimney Mountain, in the moderate section of the hikes, features expansive views of lower peaks as well as geological attractions. Boulders, tunnels, and a towering “chimney” spire can be marveled at the summit, and if you have the right gear or experience, take your hike even further by finishing it with a climb. Additionally, between June and October experienced hikers and cave explorers have the opportunity to visit Eagle Cave (look out for bats!), just over and below the mountain summit.

Snowy Mountain gifts you a priceless 360 degree view, thanks to the fire tower at the summit. The hike is best enjoyed on a clear day, especially for sunrise. Start your hike roughly two hours before sunrise or earlier for chances to see a brilliant nightscape. The trail will rise 2,000 feet to the wooded summit, and prepare for the grade to increase to 25 to 35 percent over boulders and roots over the last mile. Once you’ve reached the summit, the fire tower will reward you with views of Indian Lake, surrounding smaller mountains, and the High Peaks off to the north. After all, at just below 3,900 feet, you’re just shy of climbing a 46er and have reached the tallest peak in the Southern Adirondacks.

Blue Mountain Lake. | Credit: Ethan Gresko

Water Access

  • Watch Hill, 3 miles, Moderate
  • Elizabeth Point on 13th Lake, 1 mile, Easy
  • Baldface Mountain, under 2 miles hiking, Moderate

These hikes are best enjoyed within the warmer months of the year, when taking a dip after a long hike, enjoying a picnic by the water, or taking a cool paddle is the ultimate goal. Baldface Mountain is accessible by boat only, in Norman’s Cove across from Sabael. There are several canoe or kayak rentals along the water and in the town of Indian Lake if you don’t have your own to reach the trailhead. Get wet before or after your hike, and take in views of Snowy Mountain across the way.

Alternatively, Watch Hill is accessible from the road, actually just across from the Snowy Mountain trailhead on Route 30. It’s 1.2 miles to the summit over slightly steep terrain, where two lookouts give way to slight views of Indian Lake and Snowy Mountain just beyond a shorter peak. Add another half mile over steep grade and work up a sweat down to the shore of Indian Lake. There you can find an old chimney-style fire pit, and a beach inviting you in to the waters. Moments that you’ll find on the shore, or in summit fire towers, are what make this challenge truly special.