Ah, Saranac Lake. Where else can you be sitting on a mountain in the morning and be bopping along to a live band in the evening? This is a village that prides itself on being welcoming. Sure, there’s a young, hip vibe to our downtown and its many offerings, but the good news is that having a kid or two in tow doesn’t mean you’re out of the club. Most of our happenings are kid friendly, and even though the Western High Peaks are just down the road, we have some shorter, easier trails that are perfect for hiking with the little ones. None of these trails will take all day to finish, so afterward you’ll still have plenty of time for exploring downtown, hitting the Adirondack Carousel, or checking out an art gallery.
Bloomingdale Bog Trail
The easiest and most straightforward trail on this list, the Bloomingdale Bog Trail is a nature lover’s paradise. The 3.7-mile path follows an old railroad bed — the tracks are long gone — so it’s wide, level, and mostly straight. It connects Saranac Lake to Bloomingdale, and either end is a nice place to start.
Even though this trail is easy, wear a good pair of boots as it can be muddy in spots, especially toward the middle, where recent beaver activity has created some pretty mucky conditions. With the exception of the beaver swamp, you can still get a stroller in well over a mile from either trailhead, and there’s plenty to see along the way.
Fall is a subtle affair in a bog. The grasses and bracken ferns become a range of tans and rusty browns. Late blooming flowers, like New York aster, add dots of color, and the blueberry bushes turn deep red. White tufts of cotton grass pop against the background; reds, oranges, and yellows decorate distant hills. Keep an eye out out for animals as you walk the bog trail, especially birds, which are quite active here. We’ve seen eye-catchers like bald eagles and ospreys here, but you might also spot an American bittern, gray jay, or great blue heron, as well as a wild array of brightly colored songbirds. And of course, be on the lookout for beavers swimming in the deep channel next to the trail. They usually appear an hour or so before the sun sets; if you’re quiet enough they’ll let you watch them work.
Saranac Lake trailhead: From downtown Saranac Lake, take Route 86 west, heading toward Paul Smiths. After about 2.5 miles, look for a black silhouette cutout of a man on a tractor. It's on the right side of the road, next to a dirt road. Take that dirt road and you'll immediately see a parking area on the left, a brown and yellow DEC sign marking the trailhead, and a yellow metal gate. The gate marks the beginning of the trail.
Bloomingdale trailhead: From downtown Saranac Lake, head east on Route 3, toward Bloomingdale. After about 6.5 miles you'll come to a four-way intersection. Continue straight and follow the road as it curves to the left. After 1.7 miles, look for a pulloff on the left and a yellow metal gate with a stop sign on it. There's a brown and yellow DEC sign on the tree to the left of the gate; this is the beginning of the trail.
Paul Smith’s VIC
If you’re looking for variety, the VIC (it stands for Visitor Interpretation Center) is the way to go. This 25-mile trail network has every Adirondack ecosystem except high alpine tundra, which is only found on our highest mountains. What you will find is a bunch of viewing platforms overlooking wetlands with a mountain backdrop, boardwalks and bridges across scenic marshes, and plenty of fall foliage in the property’s hardwood forests.
The Heron Marsh loop is our go-to, with its floating bridge, boardwalk, and plentiful overlooks. It takes less than an hour to complete the loop. If we’re in the mood for more, we follow the moss-cloaked Barnum Brook to Barnum Pond, where a wetland walkway gets us up-close to carnivorous pitcher plants, which turn red in the fall.
In downtown Saranac Lake, take Route 86 west toward Paul Smiths. At the intersection with Route 30, turn right on Route 30 and look for the VIC entrance on the left after about a mile. Parking is just down the road.
If you’ve always wanted to try climbing a mountain with the family, Baker Mountain is an ideal place to start. It’s the first mountain for many a young Saranac Laker, and with good reason — the well-traveled, 0.9-mile long trail is easy to follow as it climbs 884 feet from the trailhead. Along the way there are boulders and ledges to admire, so even though it’s small it definitely feels like a mountain, and the view from the top is nothing short of awe-inspiring. Part of downtown Saranac Lake and Lower Saranac Lake can be seen from the summit ledges, but the main attraction is the wall of High Peaks to the south.
From downtown Saranac Lake, head north on Broadway (Route 86) and turn right on Bloomingdale Ave. (Route 3), then turn right on Pine Street after about a half mile. Cross the railroad tracks and turn left on Forest Hill Ave. and follow it as it wraps around Moody Pond. The trailhead is on the left in about a half mile. Park on the right shoulder of the road, and please be respectful of the nearby property owners. Please note that the parking is limited, so I suggest you park downtown and add an extra bit of an easy walk to the trailhead!