Letterboxing Trail

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The Adirondacks were the first place where Americans realized that wilderness was going to be a distinguishing and permanent feature of their civilization. By the 1880s, more had been written about the Adirondacks than any other wilderness area in America. By the 1890s, the Adirondack Park was created as the largest protected wilderness area east of the Mississippi. Since then, the Adirondack Park has challenged each generation to define the role of wilderness in our increasingly urbanized civilization.


The Saratoga-to-North Creek corridor helped establish the Adirondacks as the First Wilderness. It is the logical starting place for those wishing to explore the possibilities of the First Wilderness. In 1771, the Jessup brothers’ 1 million-acre Totten and Crossfield Purchase from the Mohawks was the first sizeable European purchase in Adirondacks. In 1813, the Fox Brothers invented log driving along the Schroon/Hudson Corridor.


Indeed, the Adirondacks may have been the place that colored how Americans thought of all their wilderness areas. For example, in 1837, during a trip to Schroon Lake with Thomas Cole, Asher Durand decided to become a landscape painter and began a career that helped define the American notion of wilderness. He helped create the Hudson River School of landscape painting based upon that original experience of the Adirondack wilderness.


The history of the First Wilderness Corridor is as complex and adventuresome as the terrain it follows. The corridor follows the less rugged, southern lowland areas surrounding the Village of Corinth through the southeastern region of the Adirondack Mountains, part of the Great North Woods. Upland areas, from Lakes George and Luzerne follow the Hudson River watershed with its many beautiful rivers, lakes, and streams.


Mirroring the terrain, early development and settlement were limited to the southern communities such as Lake George and Corinth. Inaccessibility to and through the forests, rivers and mountains prevented much permanent settlement in the interior and upland areas until the 19th century. Consequently, development of the interior progressed slowly compared to the lowland areas.


The history of the First Wilderness is in many ways a tale of two geographies, the uplands and lowlands, wilderness and frontier outpost.As development progressed from the lowland to upland, the wilderness was penetrated, first by pathway and canoe, to be replaced with horse, oxcart, and stagecoach, followed by railroad and hard surfaced roads. The terrain was difficult and it presented engineering challenges. Settlement and access required deliberate planning and investment capital. First, the settlers came to the lowlands, then hunters, trappers and guides moved into the uplands, followed by the rich and famous.


International and national economic issues influenced the communities and people of the Byway route. While the lowland areas grew and prospered, the uplands subsisted with a frontier lifestyle. Today, many historical and cultural elements relating to the settlement of the corridor have been preserved and can be visited by those interested in learning more about this area that played such a critical role in the development of America’s First Wilderness.  Use the links above to learn more about the history of the individual communities along the corridor or to discover historical places to visit.



The wild nature of the First Wilderness was once considered a challenge to Manifest Destiny and progress in western society. The frontier communities of the corridor represented the boundary line—where the “push” ended between civilization and wild nature. In recent times, this same wild nature is generally cherished for its spiritual and recreational value. The Byway communities, and the surrounding landscape along the edge of the “Endless Forests,” are places of respite and resources for sustaining modern life.

The First Wilderness Scenic Corridor provides visitors with many opportunities for accessible outdoor recreation. A special distinction for the Corridor is its location within the Adirondack Park that is home to the most extensive public trail system in the United States. Over 2,000 miles of hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, mountain biking and horseback riding trails connect to the Adirondack Park’s most scenic, wild and historic places. Trails for walking, mountain-biking, cross-country skiing,and snowmobiling through diverse terrain appeal tooutdoor enthusiasts. Plentiful access exists to the
Hudson, Sacandaga, and Schroon Rivers and to the smaller lakes along the Corridor. Water and land-based routes invite visitors into the great outdoors in the “Endless Forest” of Upstate New York.

Travelers can view scenic and historic vistas that retain a strong wilderness feeling four hundred years after their discovery by western cultures. Visitors can tread paths traveled by indigenous peoples, explorers, early guides, and hunters. There are year-round activities for travelers of all activity levelsand types along the Corridor.