At over 6 million acres, the Adirondack Park is one of the largest protected natural areas in the United States. A favorite of outdoor enthusiasts, the park features 46 “high peaks” (over 4,000 feet); which many take on as a challenge, climbing them all to join the coveted Forty Sixers Club. And between the mountains and villages, you’ll also find over 10,000 lakes in the Adirondacks, making the region a top destination for kayakers, canoers, fishermen, and boating enthusiasts. With so many to choose from, knowing which lakes in the Adirondacks to include on your Upstate New York trip can be tricky – here’s a list of our favorites.
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18 Best Lakes in the Adirondacks
1. Lake Flower & the Saranac Lakes (Upper, Middle, Lower) ★
Far north of Albany, you’ll find the quaint village of Saranac Lake, tucked in the northern part of the Adirondack Park. Note that Upper, Middle, and Lower Saranac Lakes are all located west of the village, and the town is built on the shore of the beautiful Lake Flower. All the lakes are connected as part of the Saranac River and allow you to canoe or kayak for over 17 miles with only one short portage (carry) involved.
Adirondack Lakes & Trails Outfitters offers kayak and canoe rentals and can advise you where to paddle or provide a guide to go with you. If you’re into hiking, try the Saranac 6er Challenge, consisting of six peaks surrounding Saranac Lake.
Downtown Saranac Lake boasts shops, galleries, and live music at local restaurants and bars like The Waterhole. The recently built Saranac Waterfront Lodge is right at the edge of Lake Flower and offers luxury rooms that you can snag for reasonable rates in the off-season. In the winter, visitors can enjoy winter sports and visit the famous Ice Palace, a castle constructed from ice blocks cut directly from Lake Flower each February. The Ice Palace is a highlight of the Winter Carnival, a weeklong celebration of everything fun about winter in the Adirondacks.
History lovers, check out the Saranac Laboratory Museum – a facility built in the 1800s to research tuberculosis. This area was a popular destination for tuberculosis patients, as the clean, dry air helped improve their health. And most importantly, go to the Six Nations Iroquois Cultural Center in Onchiota, one of my favorite places to visit in Saranac Lake!
2. Lake Champlain
Stretching over 100 miles from Canada to the New York’s Hudson River, Lake Champlain divides northern New York State and Vermont. It’s a perfect destination for sailing, boating, and visiting the small towns along the shore. Stay at the charming Essex Inn on the Adirondack Coast, visit Ausable Chasm, considered the Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks, located just 19 miles away, and stop by Ausable Brewing after a day of adventure. Along the lake, you can make quick day trips to local farms like Asgaard Farm & Dairy for the freshest produce and cheese you can imagine.
3. Long Lake
A quiet little town on a peaceful lake of the same name, Long Lake is a great lake for canoeing and kayaking. Nearby Owl’s Head Mountain is one of the famous fire tower peaks of the Adirondacks. These peaks are easier to climb but still promise incredible views from the fire towers at their summits. At the southern point of Long Lake hikers will find Buttermilk Falls, scenic falls on an easy-to-reach hike. Grab a snack and any needed supplies from Hoss’s Country Corner – a local landmark.
4. Raquette Lake
With over 100 miles of shoreline, Raquette Lake is a favorite in all seasons – popular for boating, fishing, and dinner cruises on the WW Durant cruise boat in the summers and cross-country skiing and snowmobiling in the winters. Hikers enjoy the nearby Pigeon Lake Wilderness and hidden gems like Death Brook Falls (also known as Secret Falls) on the eastern shoreline. If you can, stay at Great Camp Sagamore – one of the original Adirondack Great Camps for the wealthy, now available for lodging. Be sure to book in advance, as the camp is busy during the summer months, or check out one of the other resorts in Upstate New York.
5. Blue Mountain Lake
Tucked in a remote part of Hamilton County, Blue Mountain Lake is one of the most beautiful hidden gem lakes in the Adirondack Park. The little hamlet boasts the Adirondack Center for the Arts, a multi-disciplinary arts, music, and theater center. Be sure to check out the Adirondack Experience: The Museum on Blue Mountain Lake to learn about the history and wilderness of the Adirondacks. In summer, the museum holds the Adirondack Artisan Festival, featuring artisans and makers from throughout the region. Check out Chef Darrell’s Mountain Diner for comfort food like buttermilk fried chicken and homemade pie in an amazing restored 1940s prefab diner.
6. Indian Lake
Considered “The Whitewater Capital of New York State,” Indian Lake – not far from Blue Mountain Lake – features calm waters and whitewater for thrill-seekers. Adirondac Rafting Company can take you on 15 miles of rafting adventure. Two more fire tower mountains are nearby: Snowy and Wakely Mountains.
7. Lake Clear ★
One of the most serene lakes in the Adirondacks, Lake Clear is just a half hour from Lake Placid but provides a remote and peaceful setting for paddling and camping. Anglers love to fish for largemouth and smallmouth bass in the calm waters. Lucky visitors can stay at the Lake Clear Lodge – one of the best cabins in the Adirondacks – for an authentic Adirondack experience featuring a 1920s speakeasy-themed dinner experience. Don’t miss Lake Clear Beach in the summer, where the water quality is perfect for a brisk but refreshing swim. In the winter, enjoy snowmobile trails surrounding the area. You can stop by Charlie’s Inn for guided snowmobile tours.
8. Saratoga Lake
Although not technically in the Adirondack Park, Saratoga Lake in Saratoga Springs is super close and thus can be a more affordable launching pad for your Adirondack adventures. In addition to Skidmore College, the town is famous for horse racing and its healing spring water. Year-round, you can visit the Roosevelt Baths – a hydrotherapy spa experience capitalizing on the area’s mineral waters. Visiting during the summer race season can be expensive, as the city fills up with tourists for the races.
It may be hard to choose with countless dining options, but we love Boca Bistro‘s delicious tapas and craft beer. The Adelphi Hotel offers stunning accommodations, but if it’s not in your budget, stop in for a drink and take in the beautiful surroundings while people-watching from the patio.
We once based ourselves out of a lakehouse rental in Saratoga Springs (just 3 hours north of NYC). From there, we drove all around the Adirondacks! It’s just 30 minutes from Lake George and 2 hours to Lake Placid. So you can break up the adventures into a full weekend of fun. On the last day, you only have a 3-hour drive (or train ride) back to NYC.
9. Mirror Lake
Located in the heart of downtown Lake Placid, Mirror Lake is often confused with Lake Placid, as it is the most visible lake in town. And along Mirror Lake’s shoreline are the restaurants and gorgeous hotels, including one of the best hotels in Lake Placid: the Mirror Lake Inn Resort & Spa.
Because it’s a year-round destination, you’ll never run out of amazing things to do in Lake Placid. Don’t miss the nearby John Brown Farm Historical Site – home to the famous abolitionist who led the raid at Harpers Ferry and was killed for his actions. The farm is gorgeous, and I learned so much important history there!
10. Lake Placid
Often confused with Mirror Lake (in the village of Lake Placid), Lake Placid is a much larger lake just north of town. Nearby Whiteface Mountain is popular with skiers and snowboarders in winter and hikers all summer. If you aren’t into hiking, there is a road to drive up most of the mountain. Take a Lake Placid Marina & Boat Tour across the lake for incredible views.
Although most hikers come to the area for the High Peaks, a hidden gem is the Peninsula Trails, a loop of easy-to-access trails that offer stunning views of the lake and mountains. Just a few minutes away, you can experience one of the best hikes in the Adirondacks at High Falls Gorge, a beautiful waterfall right off Route 86 that requires minimal hiking.
11. Tupper Lake
Tupper Lake is another great town in the Adirondacks and is home to one of the best breweries in the Adirondacks, Raquette River Brewing. A hidden gem near Tupper Lake is Coney Mountain, one of the best effort-to-payoff ratios in the Adirondack Mountains – an easy hike with an unbelievable view from the summit. Don’t miss the Wild Center – an indoor-outdoor museum featuring Adirondack animals and natural art. Check out Adirondack Riverwalking and Forest Bathing for a unique experience that connects you to nature. If you’re heading through town in the morning, be sure to stop by the Washboard Donut Shop – it’s a combination laundromat/donut shop that makes incredibly fresh and inexpensive donuts!
12. Schroon Lake
A quiet hamlet north of Lake George, Schroon Lake is for those who want a true “getaway.” Although it’s quiet, visitors come each season for golfing, bass fishing, and skiing and to experience the Seagle Festival, a summer vocal training program for future opera and theater singers. Even though it’s a rural area, you’ll be comfortable at the quaint Schroon Lake Bed & Breakfast and can enjoy incredible food at Trail Break.
13. Upper St Regis Lake
Located just south of Paul Smith’s College (a tiny private college focused on forestry and environmental science) lies Upper St. Regis Lake, a favorite vacation spot for the extremely wealthy in the 1800s. If you have a chance to sail or boat around the lake, scope out the extravagant Great Camps along the shore. Be sure to visit the Visitor Interpretive Center (or VIC) at Paul Smith’s for accessible hiking trails.
14. Lower Ausable Lake
Near the small town of Keene, New York, lies Lower Ausable Lake, one of the most beautiful lakes in the Adirondacks. Check out the Indian Head Vista for some of the best views of the high peaks in the Adirondack Park. If you’re up for a longer hike, check out Rainbow Falls. When you’re hungry after hiking, don’t miss the pie at the Noon Mark Diner, a local favorite whose pies are so famous they are shipped across the country. The Fruit of the Forest pie with crumb topping is to die for! Stop by the Black Rooster Maple farmstand for a maple-flavored souvenir.
A nearby hidden gem is Split Rock Falls – a series of waterfalls just off Route 9 providing a popular summer swimming hole and epic views year-round. Warning: this is a very “swim-at-your-own-risk” location, so use common sense and caution if you choose to go in.
15. Lake George
Called “The Queen of American Lakes,” Lake George has been a popular summer destination for decades and is one of the most popular towns in the Adirondacks. Getting to Lake George from NYC is relatively easy and can make a great weekend getaway from the city. One of the best places for those who prefer shopping and dining to hiking and canoeing, Lake George is a very accessible destination in the Adirondacks. Even though it’s a popular summer destination, there are plenty of things to do in Lake George in winter, including the Winter Carnival, a four-weekend event that’s been happening since the 1960s.
16. Cranberry Lake
In a much more remote location, Cranberry Lake is a large lake in the western part of the park. The waters here are still, making it one of the best Adirondacks lakes for swimming, canoeing, and kayaking. The nearby public campground means you can extend your visit for a couple days. If camping isn’t your thing, Packbasket Adventures offers an Adirondack Lodge and guide service.
The Cranberry 50 is a hiking challenge for seasoned hikers involving 50 miles of trails looping the lake. Note that this is a challenging hike that takes multiple days – do research before you go, and plan to spend some nights at primitive campsites along the way.
17. Great Sacandaga Lake
Great Sacandaga Lake makes an easy weekend getaway from NYC, located on the southern end of the Adirondack Park, just near the northern end of the Hudson River. At over 41 square miles, it’s perfect for boating, fishing, and watersports. At its north end lies Northville, a quaint Adirondack town with a charming B&B, The Inn at the Bridge. Rent a boat from the nearby Majestic Mountain Marina to enjoy everything this Adirondack lake has to offer.
18. Lake Colby ★
One of the most beautiful lakes in the Adirondacks, Lake Colby is a small lake just north of the village of Saranac Lake. Because it’s small, there’s a motor restriction on the lake, meaning only 10 mph or less motored boats and canoes/kayaks are allowed.
In the winter, you can find locals snowmobiling across the frozen lake. In the summer, you can visit the charming public beach and head to Donnely’s Ice Cream, a legendary Adirondack roadside stand. Hint: they only offer one changing flavor daily, so check online or be surprised!
Pictured above: This beautiful waterfront cabin overlooking Lake Colby.
Our Favorite Towns in the Adirondacks to Stay
Although there are dozens of lake towns throughout the Adirondacks, these are our top 5 favorite lake towns to visit:
- Lake Placid: Near the High Peaks Region, Lake Placid offers incredible outdoor activities blended with luxurious accommodations and fantastic food. Home to two Winter Olympics, Lake Placid has always been a favorite destination for winter sports enthusiasts.
- Lake Clear: Beautiful clear waters make Lake Clear a perfect swimming and water sports destination. Whether you are into camping or staying in cute cabins like the famous Lake Clear Lodge, Lake Clear offers a quiet and remote setting for your getaway.
- Lake George: Visiting Lake George feels like a throwback to mid-century vacations in the Adirondacks, but with modern touches such as a decent outlet mall and nearby breweries. A popular destination for decades, visiting during summer can be crowded. This is only because there are so many different things to do in the area, from swimming and boating to shopping and museums.
- Northville: Located on the Great Sacandaga Lake, Northville offers a quiet getaway just over an hour away from Albany. Enjoy public beaches and hiking trails in the summer, and cross country skiing and snowmobiling during the winter.
- Saranac Lake: A true Adirondack town with rustic charm, Saranac Lake is the perfect balance between modern convenience and the wilderness of the Adirondack Park. Enjoy gourmet food and local craft beer while hiking some of the most enjoyable peaks in the park.
About the Author: Cori Wilhelm
Born and raised in Upstate New York, Cori Wilhelm is a librarian, beer snob, and aspiring baker who has traveled extensively throughout the state and beyond, always on the lookout for the best local food, IPAs, and ice cream. She currently lives near the Adirondack Mountains with her partner and two Texan rescue dogs, Neko and Lola, who are learning to love hiking and Upstate NY winters.
Editor & Co-Curator: Gerry Isabelle
Gerry Isabelle is the editor and founder of Dominican Abroad, a popular travel and culture blog that shows people how to travel meaningfully, highlighting natural wonders, cultural gems, and unique experiences. She is a born-and-raised New Yorker and has lived/studied in Upstate New York, Europe, the Caribbean, and Asia. Follow her on Instagram @DominicanAbroad for all things New York State and beyond!