The best part of the Adirondacks is that there are 6 million acres of mountains, small towns, rivers, breweries, antique shops, farmers markets, lakes, and wildlife. The list goes on. There is always something new to discover, whether it be a new hiking trail or even a vineyard.
Craft beer has been rising in popularity for decades. I mean, who doesn’t like to try a new IPA or stout? The Adirondacks are home to a number of craft breweries, introducing people to new flavors and ideas. And some of the best craft brews around can be found right here in the Champlain Valley! Locally made beer isn’t the only thing on the menu, though. Near the lakeshore in Keeseville, Highlands Estate Vineyard, a family-owned and operated vineyard, is exploring wine and maple syrup. Between the craft beer and wine, who has time to hike anymore?
Just kidding! Why not plan a day to do it all? Go for a hike and then end the day at a new brewery or vineyard! Ready for your next brew hike? Try one (or all three if you’re on a three-day weekend!) of these pairings for the ultimate Adirondack experience.
Epic views, epic brews
Keeseville is home to many things, Ausable Brewing Company being one of them. I’ve long held the opinion that this is one of the best breweries in the Adirondacks. It has it all: a variety of tasty beers, outdoor seating, and food trucks. I do like trying new beers, but the Face Cord IPA is one of my go-tos. If IPAs aren’t your thing, try the When the Mask Comes Off (a Baltic porter) or the Nevermind the Bollocks ESB (an English bitter) or the Plowman's Lunch (an everyday, very drinkable pilsner). Ausable Brewing also makes their own non-alcoholic ginger beer and root beer. Tap lists change regularly, so stop by to see what’s new!
Less than 10 miles away, Rattlesnake Mountain is a perfect off-the-beaten-path mountain with killer lake views and a unique perspective of Willsboro Point. It’s a great pre-beer hike! An old logging road makes up some of the trail, creating a mellow path through the woods. As you leave the logging road, the trail gets steeper until you reach a rocky outcrop with crystal clear views of Willsboro Bay.
Don’t let the name fool you: the trail is not covered in rattlesnakes. This mountain is, however, the northern extent of the rattlesnake’s range. It’s possible they could be sunning on the rocks, but chances are you’ll hear one before you see one if they are here. Just remember to be aware of your surroundings.
Rattlesnake Mountain is on private property, but the hiking trail is open for public use. Please respect the rules of the landowner.
Relax the day away
If mountains and beer aren’t your thing, that’s alright! Take a mellow walk through the woods at Wickham Marsh and then take a short drive over to Highlands Vineyard for some wine tasting.
Wickham Marsh is a wildlife management area, which means that if you want to view wildlife or go birding, this is an excellent spot! Between the waters and woods of Wickham Marsh, the scenery is stunning and peaceful. The paths are mostly level and mellow. There is one observation point in the interior of the marsh. There is also an accessible viewing platform and path off Giddings Road. The wonders of Wickham Marsh are available to all!
After some time at the marsh, meander over to Highlands Vineyard. Other areas of New York, like the Finger Lakes, are better known for wines, but with a sweeping lake vista, a relaxed atmosphere, unique cold climate wines, and a great tasting room, Keeseville should be on your wine bucket list too! There is plenty of outdoor seating so you can enjoy your wine and the gentle breeze coming off the lake.
Adirondack chairs and more
Farther south along the lake, the quiet community of Westport is also a great place to relax. Did you know that the Adirondack chair was invented here? Plus, there’s a brewery and a cool mountain less than 5 miles apart! Ledge Hill focuses on easy drinking beers and Coon Mountain offers lovely panoramic views of the rich farmland of the Champlain Valley, the big lake, and even Vermont.
There is more than one way to enjoy Coon Mountain. Just after the trail register, the trail splits: hikers can go right for 0.7 miles to reach the summit or take the longer horseshoe shaped path to reach the top. Want to do both? Try hiking a loop! Most of the hike is a gentle climb. When the path gets steeper, there is a stone staircase. Once at the summit, Lake Champlain spreads to the east. To the west and south are fields and small farms. Best of all? There’s plenty of places to sit and enjoy the views.
Coon Mountain is accessible for hiking thanks to the Adirondack Land Trust, who manages and maintains the property. Check out their website to see other opportunities in the Adirondacks or to see how they are working to protect the greater Adirondack landscape.
After Coon Mountain, while still in Westport, don’t pass up on a trip to Ledge Hill Brewing Company. Taken right from Ledge Hill’s Facebook: the brewery serves up “hand crafted ales and lagers mindfully brewed for folks who celebrate our community's rich heritage and share an optimistic vision of the future.” Some beers that could be on tap are: The Fool (an IPA), Wadhams! Lager, and the CATS Radler (a wonderfully refreshing, summery shandy). In addition to beers, DaCy Meadow Farm often serves burgers on site as well. Burgers and beer? Sign me up!
Please remember to drink responsibly here in the Adirondacks, and everywhere in between. It’s also important to be responsible on the trails. By practicing Leave No Trace ethics, you’re ensuring that these wonderful outdoor spaces remain wonderful for future generations.
Between all the legendary places for active relaxation and endless things to do, you might as well spend more than a day here! Soak in all that the area has to offer at a historic inn, dine alfresco, and don’t forget to spend a few minutes looking for Champ! The Lake Champlain Region is full of unique opportunities and rich history. After spending some time here, you’ll leave feeling hoppy and refreshed.