The Adirondack Mountains paint a marvelous picture throughout the Northeastern portion of New York state. Roughly twenty million years ago, the 150-mile wide dome of the adolescent Adirondacks was raised before being refined by the titanic forces of the glacier-dense Pleistocene Age (i.e., the "Ice Age"). What is seen today is a relatively young and growing range (approximately one foot per century) that is independent of the nearby Catskills and Appalachians Mountains. Within this region, there are some 3,000 fresh blue gems that sprang forth in the wake of the receding glaciers or as a result of human intervention. These are some of the most beautiful lakes to check out on your next trip to upstate New York.
The Lake Placid region is one of the oldest vacation destinations in the country, and that alluring blue lake is one of the main reasons for this. The aesthetic is so foundational that Fender even named one of their classic guitar colors "Lake Placid Blue." This is a choose-your-own-adventure kind of place. There are lots to appreciate in the village, skiing, golfing, and hiking opportunities galore in the vicinity, and the waters of Lake Placid can whisk you away from the action, plunging you deep into the wilderness of the Adirondack High Peaks. A local outfitter will set you up with a canoe or kayak (depending on your flavor), bringing you ever closer to the shadow of the prominent Whiteface Mountain that stands distant from the lake's northern end. On your way out, explore the sizable Buck and Moose Islands – the latter of which provides lean-to camping opportunities.
Mirror Lake sits just South of Lake Placid (the body of water) but smack dab in the middle of the Lake Placid Olympic Village (host of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Games). The modesty of this 0.12 square miles, 60-foot-deep lake is well-served by the motorized boat ban. Instead, Mirror Lake offers a peaceful reflection for its introspective visitors and tons of self-powered fun for those more inclined to outdoor recreation. During the summer, people can be seen poking around on stand-up paddle boards and enjoying a good swim in the warm, shallow waters (Mirror Lake also hosts the swimming portion of IRONMAN Lake Placid). In wintertime, the town maintains a skating path around the entire circumference.
What's all the racket about Raquette Lake? Well, the name comes quite literally from a large collection of raquettes (i.e., snowshoes) that were abandoned on a nearby knoll during the Revolution. But a much greater fuss should be made about this being the largest naturally-occurring lake in the Adirondacks (7.9 square miles) and certainly one of the prettiest. The 100 miles of mostly "Forever Wild" designated shoreline creates a pine-fresh backdrop for the tiny village of the same name (located on the Southwest corner). Over on the Southeast side, Camp Pine Knot marks the birthplace of the woodland architecture known as "Great Camp." Summers can be spent here boating, hiking, and wildlife watching, while winters offer snowmobiling, skiing, and a plethora of activities.
The clear focal point of Warren County in the Southern Adirondacks is the 32-mile-long, 3-mile-wide "Queen of the American Lakes," known as Lake George. This long and lean beauty is surrounded by postcard-perfect communities, including easily one of the most beautiful towns in upstate New York, also called Lake George. One can properly settle into lake life in this Southern shoreline town or can hop along one of the many cafes, restaurants, or pubs that dot the perimeter. To better immerse yourself into the essence of the lake, why not paddle out to one of the 186 islands, 154 of which are available for camping? You may even discover your own private paradise for the night.
The 120-mile-long, 12-mile-wide Lake Champlain produces 587 miles of scenic shoreline that span not only Northeast New York but also Northwest Vermont and the first sliver of the French-Canadian province of Quebec. Beneath the surface, Lake Champlain hosts a 480-million-year-old fossil reef – the oldest of its kind yet discovered. Indigenous tales and camp legends also suggest that somewhere in the expansive area and impressive depth of the lake (400 feet at its maximum) lurks a different kind of prehistoric relic – America's version of the Loch Ness Monster known as Champ. While his existence is unlikely (though both New York and Vermont passed laws to protect the elusive creature), the hope of spotting such a creature gives visitors an excuse to stare at the largest and one of the most beautiful lakes in the region for even longer.
The appropriately named Long Lake in Hamilton County is little more than an ambitious stone skip away from Raquette Lake. This 14-mile long, half-mile-wide body of water covers a total of 6.37 square miles across one of the least populated regions in not only the state but the entire country. So if you are looking for a secluded spot, Long Lake, along with the massive High Peaks Wilderness area into which it flows, has you covered. Aside from dipping your toes in the crisp blue pool, or paddling this part of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, the best way to take in the landscape, launch your camping adventure, or have an unforgettable encounter with the Adirondack Experience Region is to charter a seaplane.
This 44-mile-long, 148-foot-deep lake is a gorgeous spot to visit, regardless of the season or even time of day. Tupper Lake, a nearby neighbor to Long Lake, was once dubbed the paddling "Highway of the Adirondacks" since it readily connects to the surrounding ponds and riverways. Flock to the town/village of Tupper Lake to enjoy the easy-going community, complete with artisanal downtown shops, to get outfitted for all your water adventuring needs, and to check out some of the exciting facilities. Get above the verdant, snowy, or colorful treeline (depending on the month) at The Wild Center for family fun and a greater appreciation for the natural world. When the sun sets, make your way towards the Adirondack Sky Center & Observatory to have your mind blown by the brilliant night sky, aided by the altitude and unimpeded by light pollution.
Cranberry Lake, which spans just shy of 10.93 square miles, is the third largest lake in the Adirondacks. This 38-foot-deep entry was formed in 1830 as an artificial reservoir for the Morris Canal. Ninety years later, vacation homes and modest infrastructure began sprouting up to serve enthusiastic visitors to this immaculate area. Cranberry Lake is another prime choice for those seeking seclusion. Make a basecamp for a few nights at the Cranberry Lake Campground on the Eastern shore. Then take advantage of the abundant hiking trails, particularly throughout the Southern reaches, launch a boat, or cast a line in hopes of snagging some of the lake's ample supply of fish.
The scores of beautiful lakes throughout the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York are the ultimate playground for a carefree road trip. The quadruple threat of these uniquely-formed hills, ubiquitous forests, crystalline waters, and tranquil communities blend seamlessly into a rejuvenating formula. Thousands of lakes were left behind by the frozen giants that used to slowly stock North America, but of the whole lot, these are some of the most all-around, gobsmackingly-beautiful ones to start exploring.