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Best of the Adirondacks

NORTHBROOK LODGE
White Pine Rd.
Paul Smiths
518/327-3379
doubles from $145, including breakfast and dinner; no credit cards
Open mid-June to mid-September
From Osgood Pond all you can see of Northbrook Lodge is the boathouse. The rest of the resort, a collection of low wood-and-stone cottages built as a great camp in the 1920's, recedes into the shade of tall pines. The carpet of needles muffles an already quiet place where informality and "no organized activities,'' as the brochure puts it, are the order of the day. A game of Ping-Pong on the screened porch amounts to frenzied action here. Feeling more ambitious?White Pine Camp (White Pine Rd., Paul Smiths; 518/327-3030), Calvin Coolidge's recently restored summer White House compound, now a museum, is just strokes away by canoe. And up the road in the town of Paul Smiths, you can flit with butterflies and participate in talks and walks at the Adirondack Park Visitor Interpretive Center (Rte. 30; 518/327-3000).

TIMBERLOCK
Sabael Rd.
Indian Lake
518/648-5494
doubles from $170, including three meals daily
Open June 1-September 20
When you call to make a reservation, Timberlock's owners, the Catlin family, will tell you to expect neither electricity nor car access to cabins, and warn you of intimate encounters with harmless critters, such as mice. All that the disclaimers do is attract more guests. This 21-cabin resort on Indian Lake captures summer as it used to be, complete with a rope swing over the water, horseback riding, archery, farm-style meals on a rustic porch, marshmallow roasts, and songs around the campfire. What does everyone, young and old, bring home?His or her very own canoe paddle, made in the woodshop under the guidance of the cheerful and patient Nelson Lewis.

THE WAWBEEK
Panther Mountain Rd., off Rte. 30
Tupper Lake
800/953-2656 or 518/359-2656
doubles from $100, including breakfast
Open year-round, except November and April
Having a boat at your disposal for touring Upper Saranac Lake, site of dozens of surviving great camps, is reason enough to stay at this relaxed resort. Climbing up to the second floor of the dining room on a staircase that wraps around and between the main lodge's stone chimneys is pretty swell, too, as is the view when you get to the top. The 11 cabins are comfortable, though the six rooms in the Mountain House Lodge have more personality. A steep path leads down to the beach and the boathouse, where you sign out canoes, rowboats, or outboard runabouts, and pick up life preservers and candy bars. Another trail below the lodge traces the shoreline, widening here and there to accommodate a pair of Adirondack chairs that invite a spell of daydreaming.

Back To Nature

ADIRONDACK LOJ
Adirondack Loj Rd.
Lake Placid
518/523-3441
doubles from $80, including breakfast
Open year-round
At this 1920's lodge on the shore of Heart Lake, you bunk down in log beds stacked four or six to a room. Bathrooms are dormitory-style, meals family-style, the schedule Mother Nature-style. A popular base camp for hikers, Adirondack Loj is run by the Adirondack Mountain Club, which also operates nearby Johns Brook Lodge, Camp Peggy O'Brien, and Grace Camp, each a several-mile trek into the woods (only the first serves meals).

ELK LAKE LODGE
Blue Ridge Rd.
North Hudson
518/532-7616
doubles from $200, including three meals daily; no credit cards
Open May 3-October 27
Ringed by the High Peaks, Elk Lake Lodge is a place lost in space and time. The plus is a setting that has no rival. Guests in the seven cottages and six-room main lodge have pristine, speedboat-free Elk Lake entirely to themselves. Birders and hikers can take to 40 miles of trails on 12,000 acres of private forest preserve. The minus is menus from the fifties: expect hot dogs and macaroni and cheese. And expect to be in the dining room on time: meal hours are early and brief.

WHERE TO EAT
When it comes to dining in the Adirondacks, the term "high peaks," with a few noteworthy exceptions, does not apply. An ice cream shop that touts its admittedly tasty two-tone cone as "unique'' is your cue to keep it simple. Take yourself back to when you were seven, and you'll be thrilled with the offerings.

DONNELLY'S
At the intersection of Rtes. 86 and 186
Saranac Lake
518/891-1873
no credit cards
Ice cream made on the spot; open weekends in June, and daily July and August.

LAKE PLACID LODGE
Whiteface Inn Rd.
Lake Placid
518/523-2700, ext. 227
dinner for two $75
Sophisticated porch dining from a menu specializing in the area's best fish and game, plus breads and pastries from the lodge's ovens.

NICOLA'S OVER MAIN
90 Main St.
Lake Placid
518/523-4430
dinner for two $40
Pizzas and pastas that bring the Mediterranean to the mountains.

MR. MIKE'S PIZZA & PASTA
332 Main St.
Lake Placid
518/523-9770
dinner for four $40
Traditional Italian family fare: hearth-baked pizza, pasta, homemade manicotti, ravioli..

NOON MARK DINER
Rte. 73
Keene Valley
518/576-4499
breakfast for two $7
The spot for blackberry or strawberry-rhubarb pie, homemade donuts, local gossip, and breakfast all day.

POTTER'S RESTAURANT
Rtes. 30 and 28N
Blue Mountain Lake
518/352-7664
dinner for two $30
A lakeside landmark, with food as old-fashioned (but not as uplifting) as the lofty log room watched over by animal heads.

TAIL O' THE PUP
Rte. 86
Ray Brook
518/891-5092
lunch for two $14; no credit cards
Hickory-smoked ribs and chicken, weekend lobster/clambakes, waffle fries, Saranac beer on tap, and picnic tables or car service (honk twice).

THE WAWBEEK
Rte. 30,
Upper Saranac Lake
518/359-2656
dinner for two $60
Pest-free dining on a two-story screened porch with an owl's-nest lake view. Order the greens from the garden and Jamaican-style jerk prawns.

SHOPPING
Lake Placid is the best town for browsing, but throughout the Adirondacks you'll find memorable north-woods souvenirs, old and new, made by masterly craftsmen.

The Adirondack Look

ADIRONDACK STORE
109 Saranac Ave.
Lake Placid
518/523-2646
A trove of rustic furniture, camp blankets, reproduction Lake Placid Club pinecone china, and everything birch bark can be applied to.

THE BIRCH STORE
Rte. 73
Keene Valley
518/576-4561
For small landscape paintings, balsam pillows made of vintage fabrics, stylish Polarfleece robes, silver charms shaped like pack baskets, and several versions of the Adirondack chair.

GEORGE JAQUES ANTIQUES
Rte. 73
Keene Valley
518/576-2214
Antique settees, fishing creels, lanterns, and canoes, plus new birch and hickory furniture made by an expert--shop owner George Jaques.

Worth A Pass-Through

ADIRONDACK BALSAM SHOPPE
Rte. 86, between Saranac Lake and Paul Smiths
518/891-5783
Scented souvenirs that instantly transport you to the woods.

HOSS'S COUNTRY CORNER
Rte. 30
Long Lake
518/624-2481
Suede moccasins and speckled tin coffee mugs, embossed copper postcards and rubber tomahawks.

TERRY ROBARDS' WINE & SPIRITS
243 Main St.
Lake Placid
518/523-9072
Wines chosen by a former columnist for Wine Spectator and the New York Times.

Best Bookstore

WITH PIPE & BOOK
91 Main St.
Lake Placid
518/523-9096
The literature and lore of the Adirondacks is enough to fill this outstanding bookshop and print gallery, which is also a tobacco supplier.

IDEAL EXCURSIONS
Between hikes, canoe trips, and fishing expeditions, try some of the following--but don't save your choices for rainy days, like everyone else.

  • get an overview of the adirondacks
    For a 15-minute swoop over the treetops, Helms Aero Service (Rte. 30, Long Lake; 518/624-3931; $15 adults, $8 children, $40 minimum) has pontoon-equipped Cessnas that take off regularly from the dock next to the Long Lake town beach.
  • be an olympian for a day
    A Lake Placid Olympic Site Tour pass (518/523-1655; $16 for the summer; extra fees for many activities) is good for all Olympic sites in and around Lake Placid. Skate at the Lussi Rink (Olympic Center, 216 Main St., Lake Placid; 518/523-1655). Ice shows are a cool Saturday night special in the nearby 1932 Olympic Arena, where Sonja Henie took the gold. Hunker down behind the pilot of Thunder, Lightning, or Cyclone, bobsleds equipped with wheels in summer, to experience one of the most challenging runs in the world (Mt. Van Hoevenberg, Rte. 73, Lake Placid; 518/523-4436; open Wednesday-Sunday, June 29-September 2). Ride the chairlift to the base of the 120-meter Olympic ski jump (Olympic Jumping Complex, Rte. 73, Lake Placid; 518/523-1655), then rise by elevator 26 stories to the top--and catch your breath.
  • climb through the high falls gorge
    Eight miles from Lake Placid, the west branch of the Ausable River, famous for trout, tumbles down High Falls Gorge (Rte. 86; for information, 518/ 946-2278). Just as awe-inspiring as the flumes and whirlpools is the stand of virgin forest, one of the few remaining in the park. Even the steel bridges and walkways clinging to the billion-year-old granite are impressive.
  • explore the adirondack museum
    This compound of 20 buildings (Rtes. 28 and 30, Blue Mountain Lake; 518/352-7311) showcases how man has acted as both friend and foe to nature. Don't miss the novel "photo belt'' of 160 vintage views of park life, the 1890 private rail car, and the exquisite examples of twig-mosaic furniture. In the fall, the museum hosts a rustic furniture fair and an antiques show.

THE MOUNTAINS

Like sugar cones plunged upside down into a mound of ice cream, the Adirondack Park is spread across a dome of bedrock out of which erupt 42 distinct mountains more than 4,000 feet high. The tallest are concentrated in an area known as the High Peaks. In the Appalachians, you walk along ridges, but here hiking is an up, up, up, then down experience, especially if you aspire to membership in the Adirondack Forty-Sixers. Still, there are plenty of easy trails to hiker heaven.

Two Ways To Get To The Top

MOUNT MARCY
At 5,344 feet, Mount Marcy is king of the peaks--the one most symbolic of the Adirondacks, and most subject to crowds hiking the two 7 1/2-mile trails to the summit. On one side of the mountain, runoff waters make their way to the Atlantic via the St. Lawrence; on the other, the Hudson River begins as a trickle from Lake Tear of the Clouds.

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