Saranac Lake is located in the center of the Adirondack Park, a 6 million-acre patchwork of towering mountains, old-growth forest and clear lakes. This upstate New York region has been attracting visitors since the Gilded Age, when industrial millionaires escaped the city to commune with nature. Today, visitors may participate in outdoor activities on water and land, plus enjoy a vibrant downtown with farm-to-table eateries, galleries and mom-and-pop shops.
An autumn paddle on the interconnected Saranac Chain of Lakes presents a rainbow of crimson, gold and orange leaves reflected on the water’s surface. With summer’s crowds gone, the silence is broken only by the call of the loon. Adirondack Lakes & Trails Outfitters (541 Lake Flower Ave., 518-891-7450, adirondackoutfitters.com) can provide everything you need for a guided or self-guided journey in a kayak or canoe.
Anglers are drawn to the pristine waterways and plentiful supply of fish, including trout, salmon and bass. Learn the nuanced sport of fly-fishing from the guides at Wiley’s Flies (1179 NY Route 86, Ray Brook, 518-891-1829, wileysflies.com), with a variety of customized float and wade trips.
Forest bathing is a total sensory immersion in nature. Hear the wind rustle through the leaves, touch the velvety moss and taste a late-season wild berry. Feel the restorative benefits of spending contemplative time in the deep woods when you book the experience with Adirondack River Walking ($40/adults, $35/ages 8-17; adirondackriverwalking.com).
In the late 19th century, Saranac Lake, with its clean mountain air, gained recognition as a place to heal from tuberculosis. Visitors can explore its role as a center for both tuberculosis research and patient care at the Saranac Laboratory Museum (closed Sundays and Mondays, admission $5, children free; 89 Church St., 518-891-4606, historicsaranaclake.org).
Artists are drawn to areas of natural beauty. BluSeed Studios (24 Cedar St., 518-891-3799, bluseedstudios.org), in a converted warehouse, has rotating exhibits and hands-on workshops.
If you’re traveling with kids, the Adirondack Carousel (closed Mondays and Tuesdays, $2.50 per ride; 2 Depot St., 518-891-9521, adirondackcarousel.org), with its Chris Craft boat and 24 hand-carved indigenous animals, is a must. After a spin, head to Goody Goody’s (9 Broadway, 518-891-9070, goodygoodysgames.com), a spirited toy store with a fabulous selection of board games.
The eclectic, ever-changing menu at Fiddlehead Bistro (dinner only, closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays; 33 Broadway, 518-891-2002, thefiddleheadbistro.com) uses an abundance of high-integrity ingredients from nearby farms.
At Blue Line Brewery (555 Lake Flower Ave., 518-354-8114, bluelinebrew.com), Leaning Pine IPA’s intense pine aroma tastes like a walk in the woods. Thin-crust pizzas and crispy onion rings pair perfectly with a cold beer.
Purchase provisions for a picnic and explore the region’s agricultural bounty at the farmers’ market (Saturdays from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. through mid-October; Riverside Park, River and Main Street, ausablevalleygrangefarmersmarkets.com). Expect a windfall of fresh-baked pies, cheese from local creameries and just-picked apples.
Good to know
Getting there: Saranac Lake is just under 300 miles from NYC, about a 5-hour drive from midtown Manhattan.
Getting around: The thriving downtown is pedestrian-friendly, but you’ll need a car to reach much of the pristine nature.
Where to stay: The historic Hotel Saranac is an excellent in-town base (100 Main St., 518-891-6900, hotelsaranac.com). In nearby Lake Placid, every room has a lake view at the upscale Mirror Lake Inn (77 Mirror Lake Dr., 518-523-2544, mirrorlakeinn.com).