“When you leave a beautiful place, you carry it with you wherever you go.” - Alexandra Stoddard
Saranac Lake is the central hub and village for a surrounding region that is made up of several smaller hamlets. One of those hamlets, in particular, is worth leaving downtown for. The place I’m talking about is Lake Clear. Even the name itself entices the senses and invites visitors to revel in its beauty. A clear lake? Yes, please!
Located in Franklin County, and the Town of Harrietstown, Lake Clear is both a hamlet and a body of water. The area is named for its pristine 940-acre Lake Clear, with neighboring Little Clear Pond as a part of the Seven Carries canoe route. One of the attributes that keep the lake so pristine is that there is no public launch for motorboats. The lake is exclusive to land owners, with the state owning much of the land, including most of the shoreline of Lake Clear. The state operates a fish hatchery at nearby Little Clear Pond, and the remaining land is forever wild. Residential property owners operate motor boats on Lake Clear and man-powered boats such as canoes and kayaks are permitted to launch on Lake Clear with portages at Lake Clear Beach and the Outlet. In addition to the relatively quiet nature of Lake Clear, is the natural inlet and outlet that keep a continuous stream of fresh water flowing through the lake.
Home to a variety of wildlife, Lake Clear is distinctly famous for its loon population. The Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation hosts several guided trips throughout the season to educate and explore the natural habitats of the loon. Check out their website to learn more about the guided trips and resources they offer! For other plant and wildlife lovers, Lake Clear is home to wetland plants such as eelgrass, pickerelweed, cattails, bladderworts, blue flag, leather leaf, yellow pond lilies, white water lilies, steeplebush, and sheep laurel. Also keep an eye out for otters, painted turtles, and other wildlife.
Lake Clear offers majestic views of St. Regis, Whiteface, McKenzie, Moose, and Seward mountains. But beyond the lake itself, there's more to explore! With the Adirondack Rail Trail, the Jackrabbit Trail, and several other nearby hiking trails, such as the Black Pond Loop, Paul Smith’s College trails, and Ampersand Mountain, you are likely to encounter small mammals like squirrels or rabbits, enjoy the tune of singing songbirds, and may even spot a fox or deer while enjoying the peaceful surroundings of the forest.
A day full of fun for everyone
For paddlers, Little Clear Pond is a popular starting point for the Seven Carries Canoe Route. With that, and other popular paddling trails centered in the Lake Clear and St. Regis Canoe Area, it makes sense that many visitors opt to make Lake Clear their base camp for all things paddling. There’s even a paddling outfitter located in Lake Clear, so you don’t need to make the trek into town. MAC’s Canoe Livery is a full service canoe and kayak shop offering guided trips with their knowledgeable staff.
Lake Clear’s Public Beach is something of an Adirondack gem. With a naturally sandy beach (a rarity here), and clear, shallow waters, this is a favorite for locals and visitors alike! There is no lifeguard on duty, no hours of operation, and little amenities to speak of, but the warm sand and the sparkling crystal waters still appeal to the masses. Of course, if you choose to visit, you must be mindful of trash and pet waste, and no camping is permitted. An outhouse is available, but no trash receptacles, so “pack it in, pack it out” is the rule for this rural beach. A short walk through the woods along a well-traveled path leads to the wide-open beach. The beach extends to the right and left, with more secluded pockets toward the left end. A handful of trees on the forest edge can make excellent hammock locations, and a few downed trees have become post-ups for picnics.
Hit the trails on your bike! While much of the Adirondack Rail Trail is under construction this summer, the section surrounding Lake Clear is currently open, and offers a nicely packed rock and dirt trail for cyclists. With a minimal grade, this flat track of trails is perfect for all levels. (It is even suitable for trail-rated strollers.) Connecting Lake Clear to Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake, you could easily get to town, or visit the new Harrietstown Pump Track.
The Fish Hatchery on Little Clear is run by the New York State Department of Conservation (DEC). The indoor visitor center houses a pool containing salmon, a monitor showing brood fish in a pond, and other exhibits on fish propagation.
Ride with Lucky Clover Farm on an Adirondack farm wagon or an authentic stagecoach as it journeys through Lake Clear Lodge's wooded trails and to the shores of picturesque and serene Lake Clear in the window of New York State's only wilderness canoe region. But beware! You may be robbed by bandits! If you make it through, be sure to have the password to get in through the hidden door to an original 1920's Speakeasy and hidden beer and wine cellar.
If you would rather take in the sights from the sky, you can do that too! Adirondack Aviation Academy offers flight lessons as well as scenic flights out of the Adirondack Regional Airport.
Find your bliss at Clearly Bliss Massage & Spa! A single treatment room offers a quiet and serene setting for a massage with a licensed massage therapist. Sometimes we need just an hour or two to de-stress and escape our routines. Why not take that moment for yourself in beautiful Lake Clear?
For a quiet hamlet, Lake Clear offers more dining per capita than most (and the food is actually very good)!
To start the day off right, fuel up at Cavu Cafe for breakfast or lunch. Owned by a lovely local couple, Cavu offers a made-to-order homestyle menu, and out of the park specials! My personal favorite is the rough chopped corned beef hash (mmmm)! You will not leave hungry, but if you fear the afternoon rumbles, they have tasty treats to go, too.
Next up is 1892 Bar & Grill, which is the newest establishment on the scene. With a lively bar, and a menu that ranges from anything-but-basic burgers to more elevated entrees. It is a fun and easy stop while you are exploring the Lake Clear area.
Charlie’s Inn is a Lake Clear staple! If you don’t think of “Charlies” when you think of Lake Clear…do you really know Lake Clear at all? With a rich history, Charlie’s Inn kind of has it all: a restaurant and bar, lodging (rooms and camp sites), fire pits, gas, the kitchen sink (I kid).
The Lake Clear Lodge offers dining experiences that are so much more than just food. In this spirit, their experiences are intimately interactive, ranging from Great Camp Dinners to fun and savory Tasting Dinners. Add to the fun by exploring their 1920’s Speakeasy with hidden beer and wine cellar, or immersing yourself in a history of beer tasting. Make your reservations today!
Don’t forget to save some room for dessert! With one of the best ice cream stands, hands down, Lake Clear’s Donnelly’s Ice Cream is a not-so-hidden-gem (and they have the lines to prove it)! Think all those people are waiting around for average eats? Nope! They know just how creamy and delicious Donnelly’s ice cream is. And the gorgeous mountain views don’t hurt either. With an iconic twist of vanilla ice cream and whatever the flavor of the day is, Donnelly’s is a no-frills kind of place. You won’t find sprinkles or dips, and you can’t choose from a long list of items, but those classic cones are almost impossible to beat.
The Adirondack Regional Airport (SLK) is located in Lake Clear, with daily flights to/from Boston Logan and New York’s JFK airports, connecting you to hundreds of domestic and international flights. Lake Clear is also perfectly positioned between Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, and Paul Smith’s/Gabriels. This means that you are able to get to The Wild Center, Paul Smith’s College VIC, and other nearby attractions with ease.
Where to stay
Lake Clear has a variety of places to stay, from camping all the way up to a lakeside resort.
AirBnB’s and private rentals are easy to come by in the Lake Clear area, from small camps to large residences.
Camping is a huge draw to this area, with Fish Creek Campground and other primitive camp sites available. Fish Creek Campground is highly regarded as one of the best Adirondack state campgrounds. There is a natural sand shoreline and water access for most of the 350 campsites, and is accessible to both motorized and non-motorized boats. Enjoy an Interpreter Activity Program, canoeing and boating, a lifeguard observed beach area, fishing, hiking, and bicycling on the beautiful grounds.
As mentioned in the dining section, Charlie’s Inn and the Lake Clear Lodge are both located in Lake Clear, with Charlie’s offering camping on their historic junction property that is ideally located along the Adirondack Rail Trail and Jackrabbit Trail, and the Lake Clear Lodge offering beautifully appointed cabins along the shores of Lake Clear.
So whether you stay here, or stop by for the day, it is worth investing some time in Lake Clear!
Explore more by checking out other nearby attractions, dining and places to stay.