Adirondack RV Adventure

The Blue Mountain Lake Region of the Adirondacks is a hidden jewel for RV lovers in search of a perfect getaway.

By Todd Smith

Think of New York and most people conjure up visions of Manhattan—massive skyscrapers, the green of Central Park and the bright lights of Broadway. But travel just a few hours north and you’ll quickly discover the breathtaking scenery and outdoor adventures that make New York state a fantastic RV destination.

From Albany (just 2 ½ hours north of Manhattan), you’re just a two-hour drive up the scenic North Way to Lake George—the gateway to the Adirondack Park – America’s largest publically protected area.

The park encompasses more than 6 million acres, making it larger than Yellowstone, Glacier, Everglades and Grand Canyon National Parks combined. And more that half of the park is designated as “forever wild” forest preserve, creating the perfect setting to get away from it all in your RV. Whether you go for an extended weekend or for a week or more, the Adirondack Park offers untold opportunities to explore, hike, paddle and camp amidst some of America’s most scenic lakes and forests. And the Lake Durant campground, near Blue Mountain Lake, is an ideal place to set up a base camp.

RV Adirondack
An RV offers the perfect way to tour the Adirondacks at a leisurely pace. Kitchen, restroom and sleeping accommodations travel right with you. Photo Courtesy Go RVing, Inc.
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Albany

Traveling to the Blue Mountain Lake area in your RV is easy from anywhere in the U.S. And because your RV allows you to basically take your home with you wherever you go, you don’t have to worry about booking hotels, weather conditions or bringing all of your favorite outdoor gear with you.

Albany, New York is the jumping off place for this RV adventure. Once you arrive, it’s easy to set your compass heading north to begin following the fun. Don’t have an RV? No problem. There are plenty of RV rental agencies in the Albany area. In fact, renting an RV is a great way to experience just how fun this kind of family travel adventure can be. And it’s easy. Simply choose the type of RV you want to rent for your vacation and let the good times roll!

Starting in Albany, head north on Highway 87 (the North Way) toward Saratoga.

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Saratoga

Racing fans can place their bets here any weekend during the summer. Saratoga is also a fun town to walk through, filled with bistros and fun places to shop. If you have a college-bound student on board, you can combine your vacation with a quick visit to Skidmore College to check out the campus.

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Lake George District

The next stop north is historic Lake George. You can easily spend a day or two here. And the great part about visiting in your RV is that you have all the comforts of home right with you, including a bed for a mid-morning nap, and kitchen for an afternoon snack. Visit the classic Sagamore Resort or take the afternoon with the kids at the Six Flags Great Escape and Splash Water Kingdom or Water Slide World at exit 21. Get a lesson in Revolutionary War history at Fort William Henry.

Lake George
Lake George offers great camping options for RV travelers with shops, watersports and many islands to explore. Photo By Mark Bowie

Rustic Adirondack Antiques

If you love Adirondack-style furnishings, make it a point to stop off at the Ralph Kylloe Gallery. Here you’ll find fantastic examples of twig-art furnishings and accessories. Kylloe has written a number of coffee table books on Adirondack art and his studio is a must-see. The GPS address is 1796 Rt. 9N, Lake George, NY 12845. Travel a few miles farther on Rt. 9N to dine at The Longhorn Restaurant & Pub at Lake Vanare—a great place for lunch or dinner with good food served in warm, knotty pine surroundings and there is ample parking for RV’s right across the street with another large lot in back of the restaurant.

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Warrensburg

Oscars Smoke House
Don't miss Oscar's Smokehouse in Warrensburg—a great place to pick up bacon, cheese and more. Photo Courtesy Oscar's Smokehouse

Travel 10 minutes farther north and take exit 23 for Warrensburg then follow Highway 9. Take time for a quick stop at Oscar’s Smoke House. Family owned since 1943, Oscar’s is famous for its smoked meats and fine cheeses. Pick up some of the Applewood smoked bacon or homemade sausages to liven up your camp side breakfasts. And because RVs have ample refrigerator/freezer space, you can pick up meat for the entire week to keep trips to the grocery store to minimum, leaving you more time to relax.

Warrensburg also offers major grocery shopping at the Grand Union and the town hosts a local farmer’s market on Friday afternoons from 3-6 PM from Memorial Day through the end of October. The market is located in the Warrensburg Mills Historic District right along the banks of the Schroon River (NYS Route 418) near Curtis Lumber.

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North Creek

Take the turn-off for Highway 28 (off Highway 9) and head for North Creek. A slight turn off Highway 28 will take you right down the main street. This is a great spot to stop for lunch or afternoon coffee. Café Sarah is a fantastic bakery that offers great sandwiches and soups. Top’s grocery store, in the heart of the village, is a good place to stock up and there is easy access parking for RVs. If time allows, you may wish to take a trip on the scenic railway, tour a local garnet mine or take a fly fishing lesson from a local guide. North Creek also offers a great winter destination as Gore Mountain Ski Resort is just a few minutes drive away.

Indian Lake

There is a nice picnic area at Lake Abanakee, just before you get to town on the right-hand side of the road. If you love barbeque, Willy’s Barbeque in Indian Lake offers some of the best anywhere.

Destination

The Blue Mountain Lake Area

From Indian Lake, travel 9 miles north (toward Blue Mountain Lake) to reach your final destination at the Lake Durant Campground. The turn-off will be on your left.

Situated on the shores of 327-acre Lake Durant, this campground offers a great central location to explore the Blue Mountain Lake area. Views of nearby Blue Mountain are spectacular and the campsites can accommodate RVs up to 30 feet in length.

Sites are nicely private and quite large. This campground offers a long list of amenities including a sand beach for swimming, boat launch, biking, hiking and canoeing. Fishing for bass, pike and panfish is also excellent here and there is an accessible fishing pier as well. Other niceties include full showers, flush-toilets and a trailer dump station.

Summer weather in the Adirondacks is generally wonderful, but you can almost count on some rainy days. This is when an RV can really make difference because no matter the weather outside, you’ll be warm and cozy inside. No leaky tents or damp gear to contend with. And nighttime mosquitoes or raccoons raiding your cooler are not an issue. Have a chilly morning? Turn on the heat and do breakfast in bed. Thunderstorms in the afternoon? Bring the whole family inside to play a fun board game or plan the next day’s adventure together. Even getting the kids tucked into a warm bed at night is easier in an RV. You’ll sleep soundly and so will they, so you can wake up refreshed to enjoy the day.

Lake Durant
Lake Durant is a great place for RV users to set up a basecamp. Campsites are generous and private with hiking, fishing and paddling activities all nearby. Photo By Mark Bowie

Things to Do

It’s easy to spend several days or more in this location as you are literally surrounded by fun things to do for all ages.

The beach at Blue Mountain Lake

This is a great place to take the kids. The sandy beach is very nice and complete with picnic tables. A dressing area and restrooms are also located just across the street by the firehouse.

Canoe and kayak

Blue Mountain Lake is perfect for canoeing and kayaking. For RV owners, it’s easy to toss a canoe or kayak up on top, so you can drop into any water you see along the way. For RV renters, however, canoes and kayaks are available for rent at either the Blue Mountain Lake boat livery or at Blue Mountain Lake Outfitters. Paddle out to one of the many islands for a picnic. Take the plunge off of Rock Island. Several of the islands also offer primitive campsites should you wish to really rough it one night and no permit is required.

Boat rentals

Blue Mountain Lake boat livery also offers pontoon or ski boat rentals for waterskiing or tubing. The livery also offers daily historic tours of the lake by boat—really fun for all ages and a great way to learn the area’s unique history as you cruise the shoreline and take in the views of the many historic Adirondack homes on the lake.

Hiking

Opportunities abound here. Castle Rock Hike: Take the turn-off for the Minnowbrook Conference Center (just past Blue Mountain Lake and before you hit the Adirondack Museum) to the trailhead that leads 1.5 miles to Castle Rock. Young hikers can make it most of the way (we even took a stroller most of the way in our early hiking days with the kids), but the last ascent to the top of Castle Rock is very steep.

The climb is worth it, however, as the views of Blue Mountain Lake and the surrounding areas are fantastic. Again, a great picnic destination. For those in great climbing shape, you can paddle across the lake to the base of Castle Rock and ascend “straight up” the trail from the water’s edge to the top of the lookout. Seniors will enjoy strolling through the very small hamlet or walking to the Blue Mountain Lake art gallery.

Blue Mountain Fire Tower

Blue Mountain Fire Tower: Just past the Adirondack Museum on Highway 28 (en route to Long Lake) you’ll find the turn-off for the Blue Mountain trailhead with ample parking for RVs. The hike is 4 miles round trip. We took our two young children up this route when our son, Jack, was about 7. He made it without any problems, but again, the trail is steep in places and this trail is designated as “difficult.” The payoff once you hit the summit, however, is spectacular. You can actually climb the fire tower and enjoy 360-degree views of the surrounding area and the Blue Mountain tower is one of five fire tower hikes in Hamilton County.

Dine at The Hedges

To truly experience the beauty of a classic Adirondack Great Camp, a visit to The Hedges is definitely worthwhile. Located just off Route 28 (en route to Raquette Lake), The Hedges offers a wide variety of accommodations from rustic cabins to full multi-room homes for large parties. Even if you are not staying here you can enjoy dinner by calling ahead to make a reservation. Dinners are served family style in the dining hall that is decked out in Adirondack style furnishings and the food is wonderful.

Adirondack Museum

This is a must-see stop for anyone visiting this part of the Adirondacks. Adults can easily spend an entire day here, while half-day is perfect for families with small children. The Adirondack Museum is one of finest small museums in the U.S. Here you’ll explore the entire history of the Adirondacks from the time of their discovery until today.

There are all kinds of daily activities here including crafts and building projects for the kids, galleries to explore and you can even walk through a completely restored Adirondack bark house complete with twig furniture. Great views of Blue Mountain Lake can be had from the outside terrace just outside the restaurant and the gift shop has one of the best selections of books on Adirondacks found anywhere. The gardens are gorgeous in summer and this is a great destination if you hit a day of rainy weather.

Buttermilk Falls
The hike in to Buttermilk Falls for a picnic lunch is only a few hundred yards and you can even make it with a stroller. Photo By Mark Bowie

Buttermilk Falls

Located about halfway between Blue Mountain Lake and Long Lake, you’ll see a turn-off for Buttermilk Falls on your left. The wide road offers easy RV parking right near the trailhead. This easy hike is .1 mile (a 5-minute walk) so anyone can make it and the view of the falls roaring over the rocks is spectacular. A great place to picnic, swim (below the falls) and take your family photo for your holiday cards.

Long Lake

Located about 10 miles from Blue Mountain Lake, the town of Long Lake offers a full day’s worth of fun.

Start your day with a hearty breakfast at the Long Lake Diner (the homemade cinnamon rolls are to die for). Wander through Hoss’s Country Corner store where you’ll find a great selection of books on the Adirondacks as well as home furnishings, outdoor clothing and more—all in a rustic Adirondack style building that has a tree growing right up through the middle of the store! Enjoy an ice-cream treat across the street at Custard’s Last Stand.

Take Highway 30 toward Tupper Lake to hit the main part of town. The beach on your right offers a great swimming platform with rope swings and a trampoline where kids can bounce right into the water. Restrooms, picnic tables and easy RV parking are found right at the roadside. The beach area is also where local seaplane rides are offered daily from the Helms Seaplane base (518) 624-3931.

The Long Lake grocery store offers great local produce and meat, but if you feel like dining out, the historic Adirondack Hotel (just across from the beach) offers informal dining for great burgers and beer in their Street Café or a more upscale menu in the quiet Victorian Room. Wide River Antiques is also a great place to find gifts.

Extend your trip

While it’s easy to spend a week exploring Blue Mountain Lake, you can easily extend your vacation with visits to a number of fun locations.

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Old Forge

Only 34 miles from Blue Mountain Lake down Highway 28, Old Forge is a larger town that offers everything from a great waterslide to golf, river rafting, water sports, shopping and one of the best old-fashioned hardware stores you’ve ever seen.
34 miles (abourt 45 minutes ride)

Saranac Lake

Fun shops, galleries and eating places await in Saranac Lake — a jumping off point for many backcountry canoe adventures. Grab a cone or a sundae at Mountain Mist Custard, where you can pull your boat right in to dock and grab great ice cream.
54 miles (1 hour 7 minutes)

Fort Ticonderoga

Relive our Revolutionary War past at Fort Ticonderoga. Kids will love climbing the battlements and the view of Lake Champlain is gorgeous. Don’t miss visiting the King’s Gardens just below the fort, which are breathtaking in summer.
72 miles fro Blue Mountain (1 hour and 30 minutes)

Lake Placid

Known for its winter sports and Olympic history, Lake Placid is a wonderful day trip. Here again, great shops and fun places to eat. Those traveling without children should not miss lunch or dinner at the nearby Lake Placid Lodge that captures all the rugged beauty of the Northland. This richly appointed alpine lodge offers stunning arts-and-crafts design with gorgeous fireplaces and unparalleled lake views.
63.7 miles (1 hour and 23 minutes)