An Upstate State of Mind

Day 3-4: Into the North Country (139 miles)
By Oriane Delflosse
Lake George dock, New York
ON THE QUIET SIDE: One of the calmer faces of Lake George (Corbis)
Details: Into the North Country
Where to Stay
Reserve $22 DEC island campgrounds through (800.456.2267). Campers must register at the ranger station based on the location of their campsite: Long Island (518.656.9426); Glen Island (518.644.9696); or Narrow Island (518.499.1288)

Where to Eat
Bolton Beans (Lakeshore Dr., Bolton Landing, NY; 518.644.3313)

Lake George Kayak Co. (Bolton Landing, NY; 518.644.9366)
$54 to $64 per day for kayak and canoe rental

On the Road
From New Paltz, continue north on I-87 past Albany, Saratoga Springs, and into Adirondack Park. Here you enter the North Country. This area, with its many lakes and streams, and its thick forests of spruce and pine, has long been a retreat for city folk, especially during the summer and fall. Blow past the town of Lake George, which is inundated with tourists, and head to Bolton Landing, a quieter, more affluent village just ten miles north. And be sure to buy some of the excellent local maple syrup.

A Bit of History
In 1791, Thomas Jefferson wrote a few words in a letter to his daughter that are frequently quoted to describe the beauty of Lake George: "Lake George is, without comparison, the most beautiful water I ever saw…its water limpid as crystal and the mountain sides covered with rich groves of thuja, silver fir, white pine, aspen and paper birch down to the water edge, here and there precipices of rock to checker the scene and save it from monotony." These words stand true today, albeit with the addition of motorboats, water skiers, theme parks, a couple of putt-putt golf courses, and thousands of visitors every summer. Still, when in a quiet section of the lake, you can understand why it was chosen as the vacation spot for the affluent, circa 1920. Property along Millionaire's Row, a stretch of mansions along the west side of the lake, was owned by the wealthiest of the time, and the Sagamore Hotel, a Victorian-era mansion that occupies its own private island off Bolton Landing, still draws the likes of Brad Pitt.

Highlight: Kayaking Lake George
Lake George is 32 miles long, three miles wide, and surprisingly deep, which allows for excellent boating and fishing. Ditch the masses in their motorboats and rent a canoe or sea kayak to explore the lake's craggy shoreline. Day paddles are easy and fun, but try to camp for one night on one of the 44 state-owned islands—reservations must be made as far in advance as possible as sites fill up quickly. Island camping is divided into three clusters: the Long Island Group, in the southern basin of the lake; the Glen Island Group, closest to the town of Bolton Landing; and the northernmost Narrow Island Group, or Mother Bunch. Put-in at the kayak rental boathouse on the west side of Green Island and paddle across the mouth of the northwest bay. Here you enter the Narrows, a six-mile-long constriction where the lake's width shrinks from three miles across to just one. With the Tongue Mountain Range rising high above the lake to the west, and Black, Erebus, and Shelving Rock mountains rising to the east, paddling through this section is impressive on a grand scale. The Narrows are dotted with islands, any of which are a great place to set up camp (Gourd, one of the smaller, quieter islands offers a view of both the sunrise and the sunset). Register at the ranger station on Glen Island before pitching your tent. Or, paddle north to the Mother Bunch, a more remote area at the base of Black Mountain. Along the shores, look for deer and common loons, and always beware of rattlesnakes.

Published: 17 Jun 2008 | Last Updated: 16 Jan 2013
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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