When I started hiking, I came off two years of being COMPLETELY sedentary. Like, 400-700 steps a day. Getting into mountain hiking was intimidating because the only experience I had in the last five years before was Azure Mountain. And that was certainly NOT easy.

I have now been conditioning and regularly hiking mountains for 14 months. As I get used to hiking, “easy” is changing for me. So, before I forget where I came from, I want to check in for others who are just starting. Remember, mountains are for EVERY BODY, and if you need a reminder, follow to my post about that.

When I started, easy trails were taking me 1-1.5 hours to get to the summit. Now, I can do those trails in 28-32 minutes. (No, I NEVER saw that coming.) And though speed has never been a pressing factor or goal for me, it is exciting to see the progress.

There are a lot of factors that go into easy. Let’s start with a few for the person: How active are you? Do you have health concerns? Do you have asthma? After considering these factors I would then think about the trails to start with: How much elevation are you gaining? How long is the trail? What is the terrain of the trail? (Like with anything, check with a doctor before you get into any physical activity.) For me, I had not been active the last couple of years, and I have asthma. Starting with lower elevation gain and shorter trails with less aggressive terrain were essential to my journey, and I actually enjoyed doing it. If someone had told me to go to Azure again at this point of my journey, I would have promptly told them to F off (sorry, not sorry.)

My good friend Jen, who I mention a lot in my blog, led me into the mountains with recommendations that were based on my physical ability at that moment. I couldn’t be more grateful for her guidance. From there, I built up the confidence to push harder and increase my ability. But let’s not forget, I was dying the whole time. I took a lot of breaks. Trails took me a LONG time to get up, and I frequently was asked if I was okay while ascending because I was sure that I looked like I would stroke out in the process. I didn’t care; I was determined to get there, and I always do. It just takes me longer.

Here is a list of where I started my hiking journey and information on why I recommend each trail.

Cobble Lookout:
To this day, I haven’t found a mountain in the Adirondacks that gives you as much bang for your buck for “little” effort. This is an out-and-back trail that is 2.4 miles long, and you are only gaining 242 feet of elevation. This trail opened in 2014 in Wilmington, NY. The first part to walk up is a little bit of an incline. If you are not active, it will feel like A LOT of a bit of an incline. But I promise, it’s worth the push. Eventually, the trail will even out, and you will be walking in nature. There are some muddy spots (which I love!). Just go through them. Everything will be okay. There are some large glacial erratics you will pass along the trail and some wood planks.  Once you get close to the summit, you will see a clearing of trees. When you summit, you will be at the base of Esther and Whiteface mountains. The summit is fantastic and great for families, kids, dogs, and new hikers. You will have a vast rock summit with lots of space to hang out and eat a snack. I have done this trail in every season and weather conditions. It never gets old.

Van Hoevenberg East Trail:
This one is a little longer, with a bit more elevation gain than Cobble Lookout. It took me A LONG TIME (maybe 1.5 hours) to get up this my first time. Again, starting at ground zero here. Let me tell you, the journey through the forest and the view at the summit will NOT disappoint you. It’s well worth the effort to get there. Once you sign in at the trail register, you will be on an incline for a bit. It may feel like forever, but I promise it levels out and then winds through what looks like an enchanted forest. Along the way, there are plenty of “resting rocks” to pull off on, and take a moment to catch your breath. You will pass beautiful flora all around you. 3/4 of the way up, you will come into really cool rocks with moss all over them. It’s an excellent time for pictures (aka, known as the time to catch your breath points.) As you wind through and get close to the summit, there is a “pre-summit” viewing area off the trail to the left. It’s a nice view of the Great Range, but if you continue on forward to the clearing, you will have a more prominent summit that is a fantastic view of many high peaks. I love this summit. It’s also a great summit in all weather/seasons. It never disappoints. Plan on packing a snack and admiring the scenery. Heads up, the east trail is out and back, so make sure to return the way you came.

Why not add a mountain challenge? What the HECK is a mountain challenge?

We are lucky to be in a fantastic area with many mountains and challenges to bring you to those incredible mountains. The Tupper Lake Triad is a great “easier” challenge, and when you hike each of the mountains, you can register to get a patch and sticker. How fun is that?!

These are great starter mountains. There is limited elevation gain, and the distance is shorter. There is a little bit of an introduction to rock scrambles, but nothing gets too technical. I found that the elevation gain has been my most significant challenge due to having trouble breathing, but it was totally doable and very enjoyable! Each mountain provides a unique way to enjoy it.

Mt. Arab:
This mountain is fun because it has a fire tower! (It’s also a part of the Adirondack Firetower Challenge, should you be interested in exploring more. This is a great way to learn the history of the towers and the local area and brings you to explore the Catskills as well.) This trail is 1.9 miles out and back and 738 feet of elevation gain. The first time that I did this trail, it did indeed feel challenging, and it took some time to get up. There is a decent incline to start out with, but it levels out. There are a couple of small rock scrambles and a fun ladder portion. Once you get towards the top, you start winding around before you reach the summit, where the fire tower graces you with its presence. The restored tower is 35 feet up and provides you with a fantastic 360-degree view. If you are someone who doesn’t do heights, no worries. There are two other overlooks with great views of the surrounding area. There is also a ranger cabin (not open to the public) to the side of the tower, which provides an excellent background for those who like photography. Because this is a popular hiking trail, I heed the warning when hiking April-June. Be prepared with snowshoes and proper hiking equipment. There is a lot of traffic, and this trail gets postholed pretty badly once the weather starts changing in the Spring.

Goodman Mountain:
I love Goodman Mountain. (I know, I love EVERY mountain. Except McKenzie….) The first part of this trail starts up an old road. For those just starting off, this road can feel like the longest, most relentless, never-ending road you have ever been on when you are new to hiking. Once you get .8 miles in, it chills out and turns left into the forest for a beautiful winding up and down nature trail. The first time I did this trail, yet again, it took a lot more time than it does now. There are plenty of places to pull aside and rest while letting others pass. Once you get towards the last portion of the hike, there is another decent incline. Then it butts you up to the rock summit, which you hop on and 4-wheel up. It’s so fun! This is a beautiful sunset hike. Like the others, bring a snack and sit to enjoy the surrounding area. Excellent in all seasons with proper gear. I find this summit unique because it’s kind of just tucked in there.

Coney Mountain:
(Story time!) The first time I did Coney Mountain, I met this amazing woman while ascending. I was practically dying, and we stopped to chat. Even though she saw me struggling she asked if I planned on doing the high peaks. She shared a heartbreaking story of what brought her to the mountains and her journey through hiking the 46 and encouraged me to think about it. At the time, I could barely get up the lower mountains, and there was no way in hell I would have attempted harder ones. I am grateful to her for taking the time to connect with me. Because of her sharing her story, I did indeed start my journey in the high peaks, which was something I never saw coming. You never know who you will meet out there. Someone could say one simple thing, and it could alter your entire life. She was that for me.

Back to the climb! Coney is a beautiful hike. It’s a gradual up and down—plenty of places to rest and catch your breath while you look around and take in the silence. It’s an out-and-back trail with only 2.1 miles and 551 ft. of elevation. As you get near the summit, there is some straightforward rock scrambling, bringing you to the top of a 360-degree expansive rock summit. You can see it all! Low peaks, high peaks, water. It’s got everything you could want. This is a great trail in the winter with proper equipment. The first time I did it, it felt really hard, and it took me a while to get up. I enjoy going up this mountain a lot. It’s a great evening hike if you want to learn how to get comfortable with night hiking. It’s an easy trail to follow. I bring people up here all the time if they want a more leisurely hike and have limited time.

For those who are considering hiking but are unsure of where to begin, I hope that this list of beginner-friendly mountains can be a valuable resource. Remember that regardless of where you are in your hiking journey, you are valid and belong in the mountains.