A trio of prime swimming spots near Saranac Lake
If you're a water lover and you love to cool off, then you'll love Saranac Lake. Each of the following swimming spots has a little something different to offer — from a quick plunge to an after-hike hangout that'll make you feel like you're relaxing in the Caribbean, only with pine trees. And beavers. The best part is, all of these spots are easy to reach and are located a short drive from downtown, off of Route 3.
A quick dip
I lived here for almost two years before I learned about this spot. It's not the kind of place I go to sit and read for an hour, but if it's hot and I want to jump into a lake it's quick and convenient. The view isn't too shabby, either.
This location is so obvious it's easy to overlook. From downtown Saranac Lake, head west on Route 3 toward Tupper Lake. You'll see the high school on the right. Shortly after that, turn right on Algonquin Avenue.
You'll know when you get to the swimming spot because the road ends at the lake. Just park by the guradrail and swim! This is a great spot to hit after a day spent mountain biking at Dewey Mountain Recreation Center, which is just past Algonquin Avenue on the left.
Not far past the Algonquin Avenue swimming spot there's an unmarked dirt road that forks off of Route 3 and drops quickly into the woods. It's just before a yellow "share the road" bicycle sign. If you reach the section of road that dips down to Lower Saranc Lake, you've gone a little too far. Turn around and you'll find the dirt road at the top of the hill on the left.
Follow the dirt road to a yellow barricade, where there's room for a few cars to park nearby. Park and walk past the barrier along the dirt road, which soon turns into a trail. You'll see water almost immediately. Stay on the path as it passes under hemlocks and winds past boulders and small ledges. There's even a sort of cave on the shore that's fun to explore. Look for a large rectangular cleft between two rocks and peer inside — you'll see daylight peeking through on the other side. Kids and adults alike love exploring this formation, so give it a shot!
Continuing on the path a litte farther leads to several cool lakeside hangout spots, so explore a bit before settling in. Whichever you choose, you'll have a fine view over the open water of Lower Saranac Lake that encompasses islands and small mountains.
The best beach
Middle Saranac Lake Beach is popular for a reason — it's a short, easy walk from the parking area and the sandy beach extends far into the lake, making it a great spot for families. The beach is a worthy destination in its own right, but my favorite time to visit it is after a hike up Ampersand Mountain.
You'll find the parking area about 7.5 miles past downtown Saranac Lake. Just take Route 3 and pass the two swimming spots above and keep going. You can't miss the parking area — it's on the right, it's paved, and there's a sign for Ampersand Mountain. It's also well-known, so there will likely be a lot of vehicles parked there.
To get to the beach, simply follow the path at the back of the parking area until you hit water. It's only about a half-mile walk through a beautiful forest. The beach itself is quite long, so it's possible to claim your own spot, even on a busy summer day. But with one of the Saranac Lake 6ers — Ampersand Mountain — so close, why not work for your swim?
To get to the Ampersand trail, carefully cross the busy road from the parking area and follow the well-marked and well-traveled trail 2.7 miles to the open rock summit of the mountain. This is a popular trail, but don't let that fool you. The last mile is very steep, so be sure to allow plenty of time, bring plenty of water, and pack headlamps in case it takes longer than expected to summit. It's also a good idea to bring something warm, like a windbreaker or thermal shirt, for the summit, which is open and can be quite breezy even on a warm day.
If you'd rather go someplace with a life guard, visit Lake Colby Beach by heading north from downtown toward Paul Smiths on Route 86. It's on the left, across the street from the hospital. Water also means there's a lot of fishing and paddling to be had in Saranac Lake. Why not hire a guide to learn all about the best spots?