Saranac Lake calls to people in different ways. Yes, there’s art, music, good food, and good people here. There are also events like Winter Carnival that bring visitors and residents together for a blockbuster, two-week celebration of all things cool. It’s a quirky place that draws the adventurous, the curious, and the creative, but when all of those things are pushed aside there’s one thing about this village that endures: It’s surrounded by mountains.
For the uninitiated, the array of outdoor options here can seem daunting. What’s the best trail for a first-time snowshoer to tackle? Is there a place to learn to cross-country ski? How about downhill skiing and snowboarding? Do I need to hike 5 miles to go ice fishing? Perhaps one of the most beloved aspects of Saranac Lake lies in its proximity to woods and waters, meaning any of these activities can be started via a short walk or drive from downtown.
1. Lakeside ramble
There’s no better way to get a lay of the Saranac Lake landscape than a leisurely stroll along Lake Flower, the long waterbody you probably saw on your way into town. From downtown, walk to the intersection of Main Street and Route 3, then cross the road to get to Riverside Park. Follow the sidewalk to the Lake Flower boat launch (if it’s Winter Carnival time you can explore the ice palace here), then retrace your steps to find a spot for lunch or dinner.
While you’re at Riverside Park, take a moment to enjoy the view. From left the mountains are Baker, McKenzie, Haystack, and Scarface. Those are four of the mountains required to earn the highly coveted Saranac Lake 6er patch. Keep that in mind as you plan your next adventure!
2. Mountain trail
How about those mountains? We know it’s exciting to imagine standing on the tallest peak around, but we recommend working your way up to that. The trailhead for Mount Baker is a short walk — and an even shorter drive — from downtown, and the view of the High Peaks from the summit ledge is outstanding. It’s only 0.9 mile to the 2,452-foot summit, but there are some steep sections on the way, so give yourself plenty of time if you’re new to snowshoeing.
3. Cross-country ski and snowshoe centers
Leave downtown by taking a right on Route 3 and you’re about a minute away from Dewey Mountain Recreation Center. This town-owned facility has enough variety to keep beginners and seasoned cross-country skiers busy. The easier trails stick to the lower part of the mountain, while the more difficult paths go to the top. They all begin at the base lodge, where skis and snowshoes can be rented and tuned up.
Head in the opposite direction from Dewey to get to the Paul Smith’s VIC and its 40 km of cross-country trails, 15 km of which are groomed. Spend the day exploring the easy paths that wind past the forests, ponds, and wetlands of this magnificent place, or strap on snowshoes and take a day hike up Jenkins Mountain to look out over the grandeur of it all.
4. Downhill skiing and snowboarding
Mount Pisgah Recreation Center, located on the outskirts of the village, is a mellow mountain with a commanding view, and a great place to try snowboarding or skiing. It’s small, cheap, lit up at night, family friendly, and the large base lodge is a cozy place to warm up. In the summer, Pisgah becomes a magnet for mountain bikers who like steep climbs and short downhill plunges.
5. Ice fishing
Since lake is in our name, it stands to reason there’s water here, right? Well, if you’re into ice fishing you've come to the right place! Simply drive toward the Paul Smith’s VIC and pull over at Lake Colby — it’s on the left just before you leave town. The parking area is basically on the shore, meaning you’ll be dropping a line in no time. If you’d rather get off the beaten path, head to the St. Regis Canoe Area, an expansive region dotted with lakes and ponds where it’s easy to find a little solitude and lots of good fishing.
This week in related ADK news: