Covering 6.1 million acres of high peaks, tranquil lakes, and pristine forest, the Adirondack Park has long been a refuge for reconnecting with nature. Trading in some creature comforts for a tent and sleeping bag allows visitors to further immerse themselves in this region’s striking scenery. Whether you’re looking for a backcountry hideaway or a picturesque lake to park your RV, one of these 10 places to camp in Adirondacks will do the trick.
Saranac Lake offers quintessential Adirondack high peaks, gorgeous lakes, and a charming downtown lined with galleries, innovative eateries, and bars. A few miles outside downtown, a total of 87 boat-access campsites, known as Saranac Lake Islands, span Middle Saranac Lake and Lower Saranac Lake. All campsites afford privacy and are oriented towards the lake, including a handful of private island sites. Campers can reach their site by boat, canoe, or kayak from the launching area on Lower Saranac Lake. Traveling on to Middle Saranac Lake entails the added adventure of passing through a manually operated lock. Campsites are primitive, but include outhouses and fire pits, while sites 63, 81, and 87 have lean-to shelters.
Situated between forested peaks in the Central Adirondacks, Indian Lake is a top pick for water sports enthusiasts and escapists alike. The 12-mile-long lake features numerous islands and coves to explore by boat or kayak. Several of Indian Lake’s 55 campsites are located on their own private islands, while other sites occupy secluded stretches of lakefront. Each campsite features an enclosed pit toilet, picnic table, fire pit, and a range of beaches or small harbors for parking boats. Campsites are boat-access only, so you’ll need to bring your own or rent from Indian Lake Marina. Beyond swimming from the shore, many rocky outcrops offer opportunities for jumping into the refreshing water. Reservations can be made between May and October, and the 2021 season is open for booking.
Tucked away off Route 28 in the Central Adirondacks, Forked Lake flies under the radar compared to its popular neighbors—Blue Mountain Lake and Long Lake. Forked Lake Campground's selection of 80 sites has options for every style of campers. Three drive-in sites near check-in are car and RV accessible, whereas others can only be reached on foot or by boat. In addition to outhouses, fire pits, and picnic tables, the foot and boat access sites have food lockers to protect from inquisitive black bears. Rowboats and canoes are available for rent, which come in handy for fishing and exploring interconnected lakes. Venturing westward from the campgrounds will improve your chance of spotting loons, otters, beavers, and other wildlife.
Encompassing 99 miles of shorelines, Raquette Lake is the largest natural lake in the Adirondacks. Due to its size, sailboats, jet skis, and motorboats are permitted to use on Raquette Lake. More than 80 percent of the surrounding area is protected by New York State, including wilderness areas and several campgrounds. Tioga Point Campground is the more remote option, containing just 25 boat-access only campsites on a peninsula jutting from Raquette Lake’s eastern shores. Alternatively, Golden Beach Campground features 194 drive-in campsites on the lake’s southern bay. True to its name, there is a golden sand beach for swimming and sunbathing.
Newcomb’s surrounding picturesque lakes and proximity to the Adirondack’s High Peak Wilderness are reason enough to visit. Furthermore, the nearby Camp Santanoni Historic Area is home to one of the most well-preserved historic lodges in the Adirondacks, Great Camp Santanoni, which hosted guests like Theodore Roosevelt in its heyday. There are seven tent campsites surrounding the lodge on the shores of Newcomb Lake Outlet, as well as two remote lean-to sites located along the Newcomb Lake Trail. The 5-mile entry road can be traversed on foot, bicycle, or horseback. A more accessible campground with 85 sites awaits on neighboring Lake Harris.
Heart Lake is a convenient and scenic base for exploring the High Peaks region near Lake Placid. Onsite camping options range from tent sites to lean-to shelters and elevated canvas cabins. The Heart Lake campground is set within a 640-acre property managed by the Adirondack Mountain Club, which includes marked hiking trails, a Nature Museum, canoe rentals, and nature education programs. The Heart Lake Trail is well-suited for all skill levels and spans just one mile of flat terrain around the lake’s edge. More challenging hiking options are plentiful, too. A short but steep ascent up Mount Jo leads to spectacular views over Heart Lake and the surrounding High Peaks. More seasoned adventurers can hike 10 miles to the summit of New York’s second highest peak, Mount Algonquin, which stands 5,115 feet above sea level.
Set in the remote William C. Whitney Wilderness Area and an hour’s drive from the closest town (Long Lake), Lake Lila rewards the added effort with solitude and pristine natural beauty. There are just 24 campsites available, 18 of which are boat-access only sites. No reservations are required, so campers have their pick of any available site, including some island sites. Near campsites 8 and 9 on Lake Lila’s western shores, a 1.5-mile trail leads up to Mount Frederica, which offers sweeping views over the lake and distant Blue Mountain. Take note that campers must personally transport their canoes or kayaks a quarter mile by land to the launching area.
This central Adirondack lake can be accessed right off Route 28 between Long Lake and Indian Lake. Still, Lake Durant campground’s 60 sites feel more removed thanks to dense pine forest and clear views of soaring Blue Mountain. The man-made lake has plenty of shallow coastline, making it a great choice for families with kids. Nearby hiking trails abound, including the 5.6-mile roundtrip hike to Blue Mountain fire tower (the views from which are pictured here) and trailhead for the 42-mile Northville Placid trail.
Located on Fourth Lake, which is set midway in the Fulton Chain of Lakes, Alger Island has 15 lakefront campsites with thick forest cover and stunning views. Some sites have lean-to shelters, but each campsite has a picnic table, fire pit, and enclosed pit toilet. Alger Island is within paddling distance of shore, though motorboats are welcome, too. Fourth Lake is several miles long and fairly deep throughout, providing ample conditions for waterskiing and other motorized watersports. The Fulton Chain Lakes are popular for fishing too, thanks to a healthy population of bass, trout, and landlocked Atlantic salmon. Although there’s plenty to keep you busy on the lake, hiking up to nearby Bald Mountain’s fire tower is grants sweeping views over Alger Island and the surrounding lakes.
Cranberry Lake is a bit out of the way even for the Adirondacks. The state-managed Cranberry Lake campground lines the lake’s northern bay and totals 165 sites. For more immersion in nature, campers can venture up to camp at the lean-to on nearby Bear Mountain. The 2,142-foot peak presents excellent views over Cranberry Lake—the Adirondacks' third largest body of water. Alternatively, campers can choose from 46 marked tent sites along hiking trails throughout Cranberry Lake Wild Forest and on Joe Indian Island.