Saranac Lake, New York, USA.

The Adirondack Mountains's Best Small Towns for a Weekend Escape

The Adirondack Mountain area of upstate New York is perhaps one of the most idyllic "cottage countries" in the world. Its reputation for being a place to escape the city and relax is so prevalent that a popular model of lounging chair, found across the country, is named after it (and in Canada, they call it a "Muskoka" chair, named after their own main cottaging region). Not everyone has the ability to own their own vacation property, however, and many small towns here provide amenities and accommodation so that all can enjoy this majestic landscape. Take a deeper look at eight of the best towns in the Adirondack Mountains to complement your next weekend escape.

Lake Placid

Aerial view of Lake Placid with the Adirondack mountains in the distance, New York, USA.
Aerial view of Lake Placid, New York, US.

Lake Placid, located in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains, is a quintessential destination for a weekend escape in this beautiful region. This is true in both the summer and the winter (and the fall too, for that matter, with the brilliant changing colors of the foliage) This small town is best known for hosting the Winter Olympics twice, in 1932 and 1980, leaving behind a legacy of sporting facilities such as the Olympic Center and the Olympic Jumping Complex. You also may know it from the popular horror. But have no fear, there are no real recorded sightings of giant alligators here. You're free to check, though, as boat rentals are easy to find on Lake Placid at businesses like Placid Boat Rentals.

Outdoor adventurers flock to Lake Placid year after year, with hiking opportunities in the High Peaks region, including the challenging ascent of Mount Marcy, the highest peak in New York State. Some of the best skiing is available nearby, too, during the colder months, with hills like Whiteface Mountain being major draws.

For a relaxing experience, the Adirondack Scenic Railroad provides a unique way to view the surrounding natural beauty. Mirror Lake, located right in the town, offers kayaking, paddleboarding, and scenic walks that circumnavigate the lake.

There are a number of lodges and hotels available to book here, with the Snowshoe Lodge and High Peaks Resort being two of many popular options.

Saranac Lake

Aerial view of Saranac Lake, New York, in the Adirondack Mountains.
Aerial view of Saranac Lake, New York, in the Adirondack Mountains.

Saranac Lake, situated just a short drive from Lake Placid, offers a different flavor of the Adirondacks. This town has a larger focus on the arts and education, with galleries such as the Adirondack Artists Guild showcasing local talent. Saranac Lake is also home to the Saranac Laboratory Museum, which delves into the history of tuberculosis research and the town’s role as a health resort in the early 20th century.

Nature lovers can still appreciate the variety of outdoor activities available here, including paddling on the interconnected Saranac Chain of Lakes and hiking on nearby trails such as those in the McKenzie Mountain Wilderness. For a panoramic view of the region, a hike up Baker Mountain is a popular choice.

Saranac Lake’s downtown area, with its mix of unique shops and eateries, is a pleasant setting for an easy walk from place to place, whether it is from your hotel to a restaurant or to any of the other convenient amenities that can be found here. The Hotel Saranac is conveniently located right in the center of town.


Aerial view of Fort Ticonderoga, Revolutionary War era fort on Lake George, New York

Aerial view of Fort Ticonderoga, Revolutionary War era fort on Lake George, New York.

Ticonderoga sits at the southern end of Lake Champlain and the northern tip of Lake George. It is an old town that is highly prevalent in American history. One major historic landmark here is Fort Ticonderoga, a restored 18th-century fort that played a pivotal role in both the French and Indian War and the American Revolutionary War. You can tour the fort, watch reenactments, and explore the extensive museum collections. The Mount Defiance Historic Site provides stunning views of the surrounding landscape and the fort below.

In addition to its historical significance, Ticonderoga offers access to numerous parks and other natural destinations. The nearby Lake George region is perfect for boating, fishing, and swimming. Ticonderoga also features several hiking trails strewn throughout the forested hills surrounding it, such as the Cook Mountain Preserve, which has a mix of forest paths, many of which lead to the summit.

Besides a selection of lodges in town, there are many campgrounds and places to park an RV along the shores of Lake George, one of the closest being Rogers Rock Campground.

Old Forge

Entrance to Enchanted Forest Water Safari, Old Forge, New York.
Entrance to Enchanted Forest Water Safari, Old Forge, New York. Editorial credit: debra millet /

Old Forge, a gateway to the Adirondack Park, is a top town to stop at for anyone looking to embark on an adventure in the wildlands of upstate New York. Old Forge is also known for its own attractions, possibly the most famous of which is the Enchanted Forest Water Safari, New York’s largest water theme park.

Beyond the water park, Old Forge serves as a hub for outdoor activities. The Fulton Chain of Lakes is ideal for boating, canoeing, and kayaking, and it is full of prime fishing holes. For hikers, the Bald Mountain trail is a relatively easy climb with rewarding vistas along the way and a fire tower on top. In winter, McCauley Mountain attracts many for its skiing and snowboarding, while snowmobiling is a popular activity with numerous trails available that weave throughout the area.

The Adirondack Scenic Railroad, which runs through the town, is another way to see and experience Old Forge, providing a relaxing and picturesque way to enjoy this region’s natural beauty.

The Water's Edge Inn will give you a scenic place to sleep at the edge of Old Forge Pond.

North Creek

Main Street in North Creek, New York.
Main Street in North Creek, New York. By Novis-M, Wikimedia Commons

North Creek is a very small town with a population only numbering around 600 residents. It is primarily known as an access point to Gore Mountain, one of New York's premier ski resorts, and its proximity to Adirondack Park. In winter, Gore Mountain attracts skiers and snowboarders with its huge network of trails and modern facilities. On the other hand, during the summer months, this resort transforms into a mecca for mountain biking and hiking, and idyllic viewpoints over the Adirondacks Mountains. The Hudson River runs through North Creek, also providing opportunities for white-water rafting and kayaking, especially during the spring melt. Expeditions can be booked through the North Creek Rafting Company.

The town of North Creek itself doesn't slump when it comes to things to do, either. The North Creek Depot Museum, located downtown, will teach you about this region's connection to the railroad and the development of the ski industry in this area, too. Definitely check out the North Creek Mosaic Project, an amazing example of public art that exemplifies the outdoorsy vibe of upstate New York. Main Street in North Creek holds a number of valuable amenities too, with hotels like The Alpine Lodge and places to eat like Cafe Sarah just around the corner.

Blue Mountain Lake

Boat on Blue Mountain Lake, Indian Lake, Adirondack Mountains.
Boat on Blue Mountain Lake, Indian Lake, Adirondack Mountains.

Outdoor activities abound in Blue Mountain Lake. The lake itself is perfect for kayaking, canoeing, swimming, and fishing. Nearby, the Blue Mountain trail gives those who travel it a rewarding hike to one of the best views in the Adirondacks, with a fire tower at the summit giving you a 360-degree view of the surrounding hills and lakes. During the winter months, the lake and surrounding areas are ideal for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing too.

The centerpiece of this community is the Adirondack Experience, also known as the Adirondack Museum, which provides a comprehensive look into the history, art, and culture of the Adirondack region. The museum’s extensive exhibits cover everything from logging and boating to Native American history and contemporary Adirondack life.

Lodging options at Blue Mountain Lake include mainly rental cottages, with Prospect Point Cottages being a popular option. For a more resort-like experience, you can book a room at The Hedges on Blue Mountain Lake.


Wooden boat docks on Fourth Lake, Inlet, New York, part of the Fulton Chain Lakes in Adirondack Park.
Wooden boat docks on Fourth Lake, Inlet, New York, part of the Fulton Chain Lakes in Adirondack Park.

On the shores of Fourth Lake in the Fulton Chain of Lakes, Inlet is widely sought after by anyone looking for a weekend escape to a lake. One of the highlights here for those in search of a watery retreat is Arrowhead Park, which has a prominent sandy beach, a convenient boat launch, and plenty of picnic areas.

For an adventure out in the woods, the Rocky Mountain and Black Bear Mountain trails provide moderately challenging hikes with excellent views of the lakes and forests close by. Inlet also offers access to the extensive snowmobile trail network in the winter, making it a popular destination for snowmobilers who want to go on an extended ride. Inlet is also home to the Adirondack Scenic Railroad’s Thendara station, where visitors can embark on scenic train rides through the beautiful wilderness of the Adirondack's forests and hills.

Eagle Bay Village Chalets is an affordable lakeside lodging option. With its lakeside views and docks to park your boat, this Chalet should be at the top of your list when stopping for the night in Inlet.


Aerial view of Speculator, New York, with Lake Pleasant in the foreground.
Aerial view of Speculator, New York, with Lake Pleasant in the foreground.

The small town of Speculator sits on the shores of Lake Pleasant, making it an ideal spot for boating, fishing, and swimming during the summer months. The Oak Mountain Ski Center, on the northern end of town, doubles as a hiking destination in the warmer off-season, with several trails winding throughout the hills, many of which lead to fantastic overlooks over the lake. In winter, Oak Mountain becomes a local favorite for skiing and snowboarding, featuring a range of trails and downhill areas. Like many towns on this list, snowmobiling is also a significant draw, with access to a trail network starting right from town.

Moffitt Beach, a main draw on another nearby lake, Sacandaga Lake offers a family-friendly environment with picnic areas and well-managed campsites of all sizes; an awesome place to spend the night with a campfire under the stars. The nearby Sacandaga River offers additional water-based things to do such as kayaking and tubing.

For accommodations, consider staying at the Lake Pleasant Lodge, which offers comfortable lodging with picturesque views of Lake Pleasant.

Escape to the Adirondacks this Weekend

The Adirondack region of upstate New York is understandably one of the best places in the Empire State for a weekend escape. Whether it is the abundance of clean freshwater lakes or the mountains that yearn to ascend via the many well-maintained trails, there is no shortage of things to do and see to fill up a couple of days with pure fun and relaxation. Pack your clothes and book a hotel or campsite at any one of these great towns for an unforgettable trip this season.

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