If you ask me, the maple tree is rather wonderful. In fall, the astonishing change of color from vivid green leaves to shades of yellow, red, and orange light up the Adirondacks to the awe of lifelong residents and first-time visitors alike. As winter begins to wind down, at a time when many are thinking of a few more ski runs or even looking forward to spring flowers, the maple works its magic yet again, this time in the form of flowing sap. Maple producers tap the trees to remove the sap and after a really neat process, ta da! Maple syrup.
Saranac Lake is home to maple producers, as well as locally-owned shops that sell the delicious golden goodness that is local maple syrup. So whether you're into pancakes, French toast, French toast pancakes (look it up, it really is a thing), sweet potato fries dipped in syrup, making your own maple balsamic, maple oatmeal cookies, or maple ice cream, here is what you need to know about getting your hands on the good stuff.
Maple Syrup Producers
Mark Twain Mapleworks
Tucked into the woods on a quiet corner of Lower Saranac Lake you'll find Mark Twain Mapleworks. Owned and operated by Jack and Phyliss Drury, the syrup here is delicious and the story behind the name is cool! In the summer of 1901, Samuel Clemens — a.k.a. Mark Twain — stayed in the Adirondack camp that Jack and Phyliss now call home. When you visit, Jack and Phyliss can tell you all about the camp's history and their delectable syrup, too! The Drurys also always have recipes on hand for you to take home; you might go to buy syrup, but you'll return because of the friendly atmosphere.
Paul Smith's College
Paul Smith's College is by far one of the most unique colleges in New York state. The only four-year college located within the Adirondack Park, PSC offers programs in forestry, environmental resource management, culinary arts, and arboriculture, to name just a few. The college emphasizes a hands-on experience, so it is no surprise to find students out scaling trees, wading into ponds, and yes, making maple syrup. The sugar shack is located at the Paul Smith's College Visitor Interpretive Center, which also has beautiful trails open dawn to dusk.
Stop by during maple season and on maple weekends to learn about the college's program and pick up a pint or even a gallon or two in the VIC gift shop. Syrup may also be purchased at the college bookstore on campus (a pretty campus, it's well worth a visit). The college's sugarbush is nearby, on White Pine Camp Road and it, along with the VIC, hosts an annual pancake breakfast. It's a great way to eat and see how all the magic happens.
Where to buy maple syrup
If you can't visit an actual sugar house, these local retailers also sell regionally produced maple syrup, as well as other goodies.
The Village Mercantile
A community-driven department store, The Village Mercantile has just about everything you might need: Adirondack-themed books, winter coats, household supplies, and yes, maple syrup and other maple products. Stock up on candy, maple sugar, maple drizzled popcorn and more in the heart of downtown.
Nori's Village Market
Known for awesome food and a heck of a cafe, Nori's Village Market is another great, easily accessible spot for picking up syrup and other sweet treats. The menu of freshly baked goodies in the cafe is always changing, but it's always delicious. Browse healthy treats, grab some more syrup (why not collect syrup from different producers, like baseball cards?), and a hot coffee. While you're there, select a few high-quality ingredients to make your own mapley treats.
While you're dreaming of syrup and pancakes and maple bacon, plan your visit to the historic, fun in all seasons — but especially maple season — Saranac Lake. You'll find unique restaurants, amazing outdoor adventures, and more, plus all of those gorgeous, generous maple trees.