Your Essential Vacation Guide

by | August 2018, Travel

Inside advice from the editors of Adirondack Life


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The choices for outdoor recreation are endless in the Adirondack Park. For just a taste of what the region has to offer, try one of these adventures:

At 3,156 feet, Hopkins Mountain, in Keene, is in the elevation sweet spot—a challenging hike but too low for patch-seeking 46ers. With views of the Great Range and surrounding peaks, you’ll want to linger at the top. And because the round trip is only 5.4 miles, there’s no need to hurry.

Lake George is ringed by sizeable mountains with killer summit scenery. The 5.8-mile round trip up Buck Mountain has a combination of steep and easier sections, leading to a perch with vistas up and down the island-studded lake.

Hiking to one of the park’s historic fire towers is a classic Adirondack pursuit. Goodnow Mountain, in Newcomb; Mount Arab, in Piercefield; Blue Mountain, in Blue Mountain Lake; and Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain, in the town of Chesterfield, are all easy-to-moderate treks with a satisfying payoff.

Hike three miles in to spectacular OK Slip Falls, in the Hudson Gorge Wilderness Area—or sign up for a guided hike to the falls and a rafting trip on the Hudson River with Square Eddy Expeditions (518-251-5200, www.squareeddy.com).

The drama of T Lake Falls, which is taller than Niagara Falls, is worth the 10-mile round-trip trek in the West Canada Lake Wilderness, near Piseco. It’s better—and safer—to view the falls from the bottom.

A fun summer paddle is the North Branch of the Moose River, an 11-mile family-friendly ride between Old Forge and Rondaxe with plenty of options for swimming and fishing along the way.

Mountain-biking at the Peavine Swamp trail is incredible in late summer and early fall. This well-marked system in the Cranberry Lake Wild Forest has three loops of about 10 miles of intermediate-to-difficult riding.

A popular place to pedal for stunning views is across the Champlain Bridge, from Crown Point to Addison, Vermont. Stop in at The Hub (518-494-4822, www.thehubadk.com), in Brant Lake, for advice on other great road-bike routes, then return for a post-ride panini and a pint of local craft brew.

Rustic Retreats

There’s nothing woodsier than snoozing in an Adirondack lean-to. But if you’re looking for a similar rustic aesthetic with modern conveniences, the options here are vast and varied, from hostels for hikers, like Adirondak Loj (518-523-3441, www.adk.org), near Lake Placid, to the exclusive Rockefeller Great Camp The Point (518-891-5674, www.thepointresort.com), on Upper Saranac Lake. The following are highlights:

Covewood Lodge (315-357-3041, www.covewoodlodge.com), one of the all-time great Adirondack retreats, was built back in the days when guests stayed all summer long. There’s a rustic lodge, plus 18 cottages, on Big Moose Lake. You won’t get cell coverage here, but Covewood has sailboats, kayaks, canoes and paddleboards at the ready for guests.

Staying at Elk Lake Lodge (518-532-7616, www.elklakelodge.com), in North Hudson, and exploring the property should be on every Adirondacker’s bucket list. Set on a private lake ringed by the High Peaks, in the midst of a 12,000-acre preserve, the place offers everything an outdoors-person could ask for. There are a half-dozen rooms in the turn-of-the-century lodge; around the lakeshore are cottages, some equipped with kitchens and fireplaces and with decks overlooking the picturesque lake.

Timberlock (518-648-5494, www.timberlock.com) hasn’t changed much since it welcomed its first guests in 1899—the common buildings and the guests’ log cabins still have gaslights and woodstoves. The atmosphere is rustic and relaxed, with tennis courts, horses for guided trail rides, a sandy beach, boats to sail, paddle or row on Indian Lake, and trails on the property for hiking and birding.

In Paul Smiths, White Pine Camp (518-327-3030, www.whitepinecamp.com), a real Great Camp, was once the summer White House of President Coolidge. All cabins have porches and kitchens, and some have either fieldstone fireplaces or woodstoves. Guests have access to the beach, boathouse, Japanese teahouse, croquet lawn, bowling alley, canoes, rowboats and kayaks.

The Whiteface Lodge (888-582-0505, www.thewhitefacelodge.com), in Lake Placid, isn’t on waterfront or at the base of a mountain, but the lodge itself is over-the-top in Adirondack-style detail and décor. The resort has the feel of a swanky 19th-century Great Camp, but with all the family-friendly comforts of today’s world: bowling alley, movie theater, ice-cream parlor, swimming pools, tennis courts, game room and spa.

Local Flavors

Get a real taste of the park at these eateries:

The most Adirondacky of Adirondack meals might be the “Field & Stream,” dished up at the Woods Inn (315-357-5300, www.thewoodsinn.com), in Inlet. It’s a venison-and-trout combo served lakeside, near platform tents where you can “camp” like Gilded-Age robber barons.

On a pretty stretch of Mace Chasm Road, in Keeseville, Mace Chasm Farm (518-963-4169, www.macechasmfarm.com) has an on-site butcher shop selling cuts of beef, pork and poultry, plus sausages and charcuterie. The farmers bring their food truck across the road to Ausable Brewery on Thursday evenings in summer; grab some grub, a pint of brew and enjoy the pastoral view. You might catch a band at the barn—follow Mace Chasm on Facebook.

Lakeside Knoshery (518-624-5253), a walk-up-window joint in Long Lake, might be easy to miss, but you shouldn’t. It transports New York City–deli treats, like pastrami piled high on rye, to the Adirondack shore.

Sitting down at Foote’s Port Henry Diner (518-546-7600) is an experience—it’s stationed in a Ward Dining Car, the horse-drawn predecessor to modern food trucks that made the rounds at local mills in the 1920s.

Pine Cone Grill, Inc. (315-848-2121, www.wanakenapinecone.com), Wanakena’s classic North Woods tavern, is known for its burgers. If you want a really big one, just ask for the Lumberjack.

A pile of fries drowning in gravy and cheese curds is a favorite treat in the northern Adirondacks. Sample this gut-warming manna at The Swiss Kitchen (518-359-3513), in Tupper Lake, or for twists on the original, at Liquids and Solids at the Handlebar (518-837-5012, www.liquidsandsolids.com), in Lake Placid.

The michigan (despite its name, the concept was born in the Champlain Valley) is a dog topped with chili—minus beans or cheese—and raw onions. Try this local standby at Ethel’s Dew Drop Inn (518-963-8389), in Willsboro; Gene’s Michigan Stand (518-546-7292), in Port Henry; Skyline Ice Cream (518-359-7288), in Tupper Lake; Teddy’s (518-891-0422), in Bloomingdale; Whitebrook Dairy Bar (518-946-7458), in Wil-mington; or the Wind-Chill Factory (518-585-3044), in Ticonderoga.

Feast Your Eyes

In the Adirondacks, the specialty of the house is often a ravishing view.

Lake Placid Lodge (518-523-2700, www.lakeplacidlodge.com) has posh rustic décor, the elegant cuisine you’d expect from a Relais & Châteaux property, and the deck of your Adirondack fantasies overlooking Lake Placid.

In Bolton Landing, on Lake George’s Huddle Bay, The Algonquin (518-644-9442, www.thealgonquin.com) is a lakeside institution.

UpRiver Café (518-696-3667), in Lake Luzerne, has delicious, creative food, with a deck out back that overlooks the Hudson River and Rockwell Falls.

Big Moose Inn (315-357-2042, www.bigmooseinn.com), on Big Moose Lake, is a favorite for visitors and year-rounders; some people even arrive by seaplane.

Whether from the dining room or the deck, the views from Lanzi’s on the Lake (518-661-7711, www.lanzisonthelake.net), on Great Sacandaga Lake, draw crowds all summer long.

Love Boats?

While there’s nothing quite like paddling Adirondack waterways, boarding a cruise vessel frees you up to soak in the scenery. Most boats can be chartered for special events, and some captains are licensed to perform weddings.

On Big Moose Lake, Dunn’s Boat Service (315-357-3532, www.dunnsboats.com) gives tours of the setting of An American Tragedy aboard Grace, a beautiful inboard.

Carillon Cruises (518-585-2821, www.fortticonderoga.org) takes passengers on historic tours around Fort Ticonderoga aboard the Carillon.

Old Forge Lake Cruises (315-369-6473, www.oldforgelakecruises.com) offers a narrated 28-mile cruise on the Fulton Chain of Lakes, following a historic steamboat route.

Lake George Shoreline Cruises (518-668-4644, www.lakegeorgeshoreline.com) has several boats to choose from, including the adorable Horicon and the 400-passenger Adirondac. Narrated daytime and dinner cruises are available, and the Horicon departs at dusk on Thursdays in the summer for fireworks cruises. Lake George Steamboat Company (518-668-5777, www.lakegeorgesteamboat.com) has three enclosed boats, including the huge Lac du Saint Sacrement and the paddle-wheeler Minne Ha Ha. The Mohican makes a four-and-a-half-hour tour of the lake daily in summer and navigates through the Narrows among the islands each afternoon.

Sadly, Lake Placid Marina & Boat Tours (518-523-9704, www.lakeplacidmarina.com) retired its classic wooden boat Doris II, but it still offers hour-long scenic narrated trips on an enclosed pontoon boat.

Norridgewock III (315-376-6200, www.beaverriver.com) takes visitors on “wilderness” cruises along Stillwater Reservoir, but water-taxi and car-ferry service to remote Beaver River is also available.

Raquette Lake Navigation Co. (315-354-5532, www.raquettelakenavigation.com) does popular lunch, brunch and dinner cruises aboard the W. W. Durant.

Vintage Vibe

Nostalgia buffs can live their retro dreams in Lake George village, which has some fabulous examples of mid-century architecture and style.

Though parts of Surfside on the Lake (518-668-2442, www.surfsideonthelake.com) were recently demolished and replaced by a sleek, retro-inspired hotel with a rooftop cabana bar, its 1940s-era neon sign was spared.

At the other end of Canada Street, the Tiki Resort (518-668-5744, www.tikiresort.com) lives on in faux-Polynesian glory, complete with artificial palm trees, tropical cocktails and a hula-dancing dinner show. Ohana Luau on the Lake, a four-day celebration of the tiki lifestyle in late June, fills the resort with tropical-attired revelers.

A legacy of the dude-ranch days in the southeastern Adirondacks, Painted Pony Rodeo (518-696-2421, www.paintedponyrodeo.com) presents professional rodeo competitions in Lake Luzerne Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights in July and August. This is the home of “the country’s oldest weekly rodeo,” with trick riding and roping, clowns and novelty acts.

Lake George is also a hotbed of mini-golf, with close to half a dozen courses, including Around the World in 18 Holes (518-668-2531, www.aroundtheworldgolf.com), whose lumberjack, windmill and sombrero sculptures date to 1963.

But the crème de la kitsch just might be the Lake George Elvis Festival (888-406-5885, www.lakegeorgeelvisfest.com), which brings fans of the King to Lake George each spring for Elvis look-alike contests, tribute competitions, and vendors peddling black wigs, large sunglasses, and sparkly jumpsuits.

Past Perfect

It’s easy—and fun—to add a bit of Adirondack history to your itinerary, from traces of ancient settlements, to the rubble of three wars, to Gilded-Age splendor.

The Adirondack Experience (518-352-7311, www.theadkx.org) is the new name of Blue Mountain Lake’s Adirondack Museum. And now this cultural icon has added a 19,000-square-foot interactive exhibit where visitors can break up a virtual logjam, captain a guideboat and blast through iron ore. But don’t worry—all the old favorites are still here, including hermit Noah John Rondeau’s cabin and a fire tower ready for climbing.

To immerse yourself in 18th-century clashes of empires and battles for liberty, visit Crown Point State Historic Site (518-597-4666), Fort Ticonderoga (518-585-2821, www.fortticonderoga.org) and the Fort William Henry Museum (518-668-5471, www.fwhmuseum.com).

In Raquette Lake, Great Camp Sagamore (315-354-5311, www.greatcampsagamore.org) was once a getaway for the Vanderbilts. Today, the millionaires’ complex—main lodge, guest cottages, bowling alley, boathouse and more—is open to the public for tours.

Six Nations Indian Museum (518-891-2299, www.sixnationsindianmuseum.com), in Onchiota, reflects the region’s indigenous roots with a kaleidoscopic collection of baskets, beadwork, tools, weapons, drums and pottery.

Kidding Around

The Adirondacks is a children’s paradise of toe-tickling streams, scrabble-worthy boulders and deep-woods expeditions. Here are a few more memory-makers beyond the simpler pleasures.

Saranac Lake’s Adirondack Carousel (www.adirondackcarousel.org), in the William Morris Park, brings smiles to young and old with 18 hand-carved critters—think blackflies and trout—indigenous to the Adirondack Park.

There’s nothing like stargazing in the darkest corners of the region. The Adirondack Public Observatory (518-359-3538, www.apobservatory.org), in Tupper Lake, opens its roll-off roof observatory to the public on the first and third Friday of each month, a half-hour past sunset.

Ausable Chasm (518-834-7454, www.ausablechasm.com), “the Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks,” is one of the country’s oldest tourist destinations, dating back to 1870. You can take a stroll around its inner rim, tackle the Adventure Trail—with cable bridges, a cargo-net climb, and edge walks—or ride a raft down two miles of rapids.

If you want stunning panoramas without the sweat, North Creek’s Gore Mountain Scenic Gondola Rides (518-251-2411, www.goremountain.com) and McCauley Mountain Scenic Chairlift Rides (315-369-3225, www.mccauleyny.com), in Old Forge, ferry you to primo foliage viewing on late summer and fall weekends.

At Natural Stone Bridge and Caves (518-494-2283, www.stonebridgeandcaves.com), in Pottersville, you can explore three caves, peer into others, or follow trails through the woods. Adventure tours—be prepared to get wet and dirty!—may be available, depending on water levels.

The Seagle Music Colony (518-532-7875, www.seaglecolony.org), a prestigious summer program for aspiring stars, takes its shows on the road with a traveling children’s opera. This year’s [2018] production, Billy Goats Gruff, visits venues in Elizabethtown, North Creek, Lake George and more.

It’s a thrill to watch athletes flying off the 90- and 120-meter ski jumps at Lake Placid, home of the 1932 and 1980 Olympics. The 120-meter tower (www.orda.org) even has a sky deck to observe the jumpers from above. Favorite competitions are the Fourth of July Ski Jump and October’s Flaming Leaves Festival, with blues, brews and BBQ.

You can’t come to the Adirondacks without visiting The Wild Center (518-359-7800, www.wildcenter.org), a state-of-the-art natural history museum in Tupper Lake. Think adorable otters somersaulting in a glass tank, plus more than 900 other live critters. The Wild Walk is a thrilling trail through the treetops, iForest brings music to the woods, and a new exhibit offers insights into the culture of the indigenous Haudenosaunee people.

Beach Bliss

Can’t decide between a holiday in the mountains or on the beach? No worries, the Adirondacks has both—and our swimming holes are rimmed with the prettiest views around.

Inlet’s Arrowhead Park (315-357-5501), on the banks of Fourth Lake, has a sweet swimming area—but that’s not where the fun ends. It also offers a playground and can’t-be-beat sunsets. Bands perform at the lakefront on Saturday nights in summer, and Northern Lights, a gelato mecca that’s a delicious destination itself, is just a short walk away.

With rope swings, a floating slide and trampoline, the Long Lake Town Beach (518-624-3077) is custom-made for kids. And every July—this year on the 21st—youngsters compete in the Cardboard Box Boat Float-Off, with the last homemade craft afloat winning the day.

Bring your hiking shoes if you want to reach the beach on Middle Saranac Lake: you’ll have to hoof it down a mucky half-mile trail and over a narrow footbridge guarded by frogs. The trek is a small price to enjoy a true backwoods beach. Park at the Ampersand Mountain trailhead, off Route 3, in Harrietstown.

In Lake George village, Million Dollar Beach (518-668-3352, $10 parking) is the largest and most popular strand in the region, with a volleyball court, picnic tables with grills, and a public boat launch. But if you’re looking for a relatively quieter alternative, try Bolton Landing’s Veteran’s Memorial Park Beach (518-644-3831, $5 parking).

Although the Schroon Lake Town Beach (518-532-7675) is one of the Adirondacks’ best-known beaches, it rarely feels overcrowded, thanks to a 250-foot-long swimming area and plenty of scattered shady sites for picnics. For more than a quarter-century the bandstand just up the hill has hosted an Adirondack Folk Festival on the second Sunday of August.

The Village of Speculator Public Beach (518-548-7354) on Lake Pleasant is right in the middle of downtown. That means it’s a stone’s throw from a pretty park, playground, boat launch and a great selection of trails.

Not far from the busier Northhampton Beach (518-863-6000, $8 day use), on Great Sacandaga Lake, Pine Lake Park Beach (518-835-4930, $4 per person), on Caroga Lake—attached to a private campground, but open to the public—has a retro feel, with a snack shack, paddleboats, mini-golf, ice cream and an old-time dance hall.

Souvenirs

You can’t take the Adirondacks with you—other than in your heart, of course. But there are classic mementos like balsam pillows and birch-bark anything that, no matter how far you are from the Blue Line, will always bring you back.

Lake Placid’s Adirondack Store and Gallery (518-523-2646, www.theadirondackstore.com) is the place to go for anything emblazoned with forest-themed flora or fauna.

In Keene, Dartbrook Rustic Goods (518-576-4360, www.dartbrookrustic.com) is a gorgeous showroom for Adirondack rustic furniture and Great Camp–style accessories; up the road its sister store, Dartbrook South, has even more camp décor.

Hoss’s Country Corner (518-624-2481, www.hossscountrycorner.com), in Long Lake, is souvenir Shangri-La, particularly for kids, as they explore aisle after aisle.

In North Creek, Hudson River Trading Co. (518-251-4461, www.hudsonrivertradingco.com) features stylish home and camp furnishings, prints and paintings.

Old Forge Hardware (315-369-6100, www.oldforgehardware.com) has been a landmark emporium since it opened more than a century ago. It’s still the place to go for, well, everything.       

Home décor, outdoor gear, forest-scented candles, fishing gear—you’ll find it all at Speculator Department Store (518-548-6123, speculatordepartmentstore.com).

Adapted from the new edition of Explorer’s Guide: Adirondacks (Countryman Press, 2018) by Adirondack Life editors Annie Stoltie, Lisa Bramen and Niki Kourofsky. The guidebook is available at www.adirondacklifestore.com.   


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