Speculator, New York with Lake Pleasant.

The 8 Most Picturesque Small Towns In the Adirondack Mountains

The Adirondack Mountains in northeastern New York state fan out southward from the St. Lawrence River valley and Lake Champlain to the Mohawk River Valley. There are many small towns where people live their best lives amid a primitive natural state protected by law and balanced by modern amenities and attractions. Visit the region any season to appreciate the scenery while you immerse yourself in tranquility and favorite activities.

These eight most picturesque towns will diversify your days with light-hearted pursuits like art, cafes, and kid-friendly engagements. Find your niche, whether you are a shopper, a waterfall chaser, a water sports enthusiast, or anything in between.

Au Sable Forks, New York

Historic Graves Mansion on College Street in Au Sable, New York.
Historic Graves Mansion on College Street in Au Sable, New York. Image credit John Arehart via Shutterstock

The town with a name that rolls off your tongue like honey is one big scenic affair. Located at the confluence of the east and west branches of the Ausable River, the charming town turns into an angler’s paradise during summertime, with the best fishing in the Adirondacks, and plentiful brown and rainbow trout in the rivers. Surrounded by the scenic Ausable Chasm Park with its namesake natural attraction, the Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks, Au Sable Forks is nature's paradise. Set up a picnic along the rim or join a river raft tour into the Ausable Chasm, where sheer cliffs will embrace you with eons of earth history.

The park is open for year-round visits, even during the most magical winter months. Visit this picturesque wonderland during the holiday season and trek your way through the scenery around the Rim Trail in snowshoes or crampons. You can also choose an adventure package at the park's center, like scaling the chasm, taking a walking tour through the chasm with landmarks, or taking the mysterious nighttime lantern tour. Choose the interior walking tour and sightsee the wondrous Elephants Head, Rainbow Falls, and Hyde’s Cave.

Fort Ticonderoga, New York

Aerial view of Fort Ticonderoga on Lake George in upstate New York from the revolutionary war era with four bastions, demi lune, ravelin, covered way and glacis
Fort Ticonderoga on Lake George.

The town, reminiscent of the deep history in its name, is all about picturesque scenery and landmarks, set where Lake George and Lake Champlain meet. Stroll through the picturesque downtown Ticonderoga, erected by the French in the 18th century and turned into one "big" living history museum. The strategic point for the French and Americans was a convenient port access with views of Lake Champlain. Visit the fort for live reenactments, museum tours, and education. Do not miss out on the opportunity to dine farm-to-fork style and go on a boat cruise, among other family-friendly attractions.

Enjoy unique experiences in town and head for outdoor adventures amidst the scenery. Ticonderoga has something for everyone, like a three-mile hike to the Ticonderoga "Kissing" Bridge, right near the Falls of Carillon, for a romantic overlook of the Ticonderoga Creek. Follow the river along the four-mile-long LaChute River Walk to where it connects Lake George to Lake Champlain. Watch the waters meander their way around various obstructions into the scenic Bicentennial Waterfall over the precipice in its namesake park. 

Keeseville, New York

Bridge and Rainbow Falls at Ausable Chasm in Upstate New York.
Bridge and Rainbow Falls at Ausable Chasm in Upstate New York.

Keeseville is a picturesque hamlet full of attractions, only minutes from Ausable Chasm. Aside from the prized natural possession, the town boasts a drinking scene like no other to immerse yourself in between outdoor adventures. Enjoy hiking, rafting, tubing, and rock climbing around the grand attraction, and visit the Ausable Brewing Company for a cold brew in the evening, with food trucks and live music outside.

Take a stroll through the beautifully landscaped Mossbrook Roots Flower Farm and the Adirondack View Vineyard and Lavender Field. This 13-acre farm spread and vineyard offer stunning views to enjoy over a glass or two of wine. Check out and support local artists at the charming Mace Chasm Pottery with beautiful ceramic creations, or find unique home decor and hunt for souvenirs at the notable Adirondack Baer Antiques. Port Kent Ferry offers a day trip to Vermont for an endlessly scenic day. Stock up on freshly made yogurt and cheese from the town's darling North Country Creamery before heading home.

Lake Clear, New York

Kayaking in St Regis Canoe Area in the Adirondacks
Kayaking in St Regis Canoe Area.

The village of Lake Clear, with its iconic lake, is right off a postcard. This tiny New York State hidden gem shines from the foothills with only two restaurants, 508 residents, and endless small-town charm. About two miles from the Adirondack Airport, you can immerse yourself in this beautiful, off-the-beaten-path destination with plenty of cute and engaging activities amid tranquility and quaint sights.

Have a real city respite at the nearby Lake Clear, which has its own Saint Regis Canoe Center, so you can even pack light. Donnelly’s Ice Cream is an absolute must for a local treat; it's been in operation since 1956. Come winter, the area turns into a snowmobiler's dream, with well-groomed trails around Lake Clear and to the nearby Saranac Lake region. Replenish your energy and rent snowmobiles at Charlie’s Restaurant, and choose Lake Clear Lodge for one of the state's coolest cabin-style stays.

Long Lake, New York

New York, Adirondacks, Long Lake, autumn color along the Raquette River
Raquette River, Long Lake, New York.

Come for world-class fishing, dining cruises, and seaplane tours, but stay for the small-town feel along the rightfully named 14-mile-long lake. Visit the famed Buttermilk Falls right along the Raquette River, proximate to the mile-wide, skinny lake. Anglers rejoice in plentiful largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and northern pike. You will feel right at home in the embrace of local nature when you forego the resorts and choose to stay in a rustic lakeside cabin.

The historic Adirondack Hotel from the 1850s, across from the town beach and center amenities, is a worthy stop for fine antiques. Find the downtown full of cute local shops and cafes and just minutes from the Helms Aero Service at Long Lake. Try the half-hour tour over the Adirondack High Peaks with a panoramic view from an eagle's eye of mountains and lakes wounding around the earth below. On clear summer and fall days, you can even ask for an impromptu adventure. Seek regional history and culture at the Adirondack Museum, as well as everything about this unique range.

Schroon Lake, New York

Aerial Shot of Adirondack Mountains, Upstate New York, Schroon Lake
Schroon Lake.

Find this iconic small lake town in between Lake George and Lake Placid with easy access to several lakefronts. Choose a water-view rental or park your RV park near the shore or a boat launch, and have adventures of a lifetime. Schroon Lake is the ideal low-key family getaway, with a busy downtown area and something for everyone. Stop by the vintage Towne Store, grab a drink at the trendy 9-Mile Coffee, and head to the Towne Beach for the best lake views or activities. Seek out the Natural Stone Bridge & Caves, a unique, family-owned attraction for over 200 years; it is the largest marble cave entrance in eastern New York.

Golf lovers will appreciate the fresh air at the multipurpose Schroon Lake Golf Course that turns into the Schroon Lake Ski Center during the winter for skiing, tubing, and sledding with views. Recharge at the popular Sticks and Stones Wood Fire Bistro and Pub with the best pizza and pulled pork sandwiches in the area. Visit Schroon Lake this summer and go kayaking, canoeing, or during the Schroon Lake Hobie Regatta, and return in winter for ice-fishing and snowmobiling.

Speculator, New York

Lake Pleasant in Speculator New York lake in the Adirondacks
 Speculator, New York with Lake Pleasant.

This picturesque town rests charmingly in the north foothills of its namesake 2,966-foot mountain, one of the Adirondacks' best and a real climber's playground. The family-friendly town is full of year-round recreational opportunities, like ice fishing in the winter, early-autumn hikes, or a mountain biking vacation through the rolling hills and gorgeous forests amidst the most breathtaking fall foliage. Enjoy lovely downtown strolls anytime, with cafe visits and friendly hosts inviting you to stay.

The beautiful town is nothing short of an idyllic destination in the Adirondacks, surrounded by thousands of acres of pristine forest and lake views. Come springtime, and you are in for a treat at the Maple Fest in mid-March, where you can even make your own maple syrup. Start celebrating with locals over a pancake breakfast at the Inn at Speculator and venture out around craft fairs, Irish Road bowling, pond skimming, live music, tours, and other activities.

Wells, New York

East branch of the Sacandaga River in Griffin Gorge, Adirondack Park, New York
Sacandaga River in Griffin Gorge near Wells, New York.

This small New York town in-between Lake Algonquin and pristine forest, north of Hope, is a playground for all nature fans. Find Wells right along the NY-30 HWY and immerse yourself in small-town charm and local nature like no other. Find a delightful summer cottage or a cozy winter cabin along the lake's shore and head on an initial stroll through the cozy downtown with its cute cafes and neat shops like the historic Wells Edge Country Store. Grab a sandwich or Italian ice and head to the lake right in the heart of town. There is fantastic beach access from Route 30, complete with a diving board, a public boat launch, and fishing spots.

Wells is your ultimate summer getaway, with a public beach along Algonquin Lake and active pursuits like boating, kayaking, fishing, and waterside camping. Take a picturesque and relaxing hike along the 1.3-mile trail by the Sacandaga River to Auger Falls through lush forest and a rewarding denouement of the refreshing spectacle. Trek down to the scenic riverside and set up a picnic beneath the beautiful 40-foot waterfall feeding the river. The view of the steep cliffs, the waterfall, and the river will be forever imprinted in your mind. There are five more waterfalls in this Heart of the Adirondacks area like the Griffin, East Jimmy Creek, Falls on the West Branch and Cold Brook, Tenant Creek, and Austin Fall.

Upper New York is often considered a wealthier destination for summer and life, but the small towns, thriving through tourism, welcome regular visitors with the most picturesque embrace. Choose any of these towns with lakes and mountain vistas, surrounded by lush parks with trails and natural wonders. These New York towns are beautiful during any season, with glorious mountain views while hiking, fishing, or canoeing. Visit any of the lake hotspots and you can dine waterside every day or have an afternoon picnic along the shore, whether you are a swimmer or a sunbather.

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