Road trip to Lake George and Lake Luzerne in the Adirondacks

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The deep green pine slopes and high peaks of the Adirondacks are less than a two-hour drive from the Hudson Valley and Catskills region, but offer a dramatically different landscape. These mountains, lakes and streams are part of a wilderness that covers nearly one-sixth of New York State. In fact, at 6 million acres, Adirondack Park is the largest park in the lower 48 states, nearly three times the size of Yellowstone.

Fortunately, the lower Adirondacks are also very accessible for a quick trip, with the village of Lake George just two hours from Rhinebeck and one hour from Albany.

Find more weekend road trips: Coastal Rhode Island

How to get to the Adirondacks

Head north on the Thruway (I-87) to the Northway and take Exit 21 to Lake George and Route 9N. Since the drive is so simple, adding an afternoon in Saratoga Springs is the perfect diversion. Stop in Victorian times Saratoga Racetrack 267 Union Avenue) for an afternoon of fine summer horse racing or head straight to town for lunch at The Adelphi Hotel (365 Broadway)a charming grande dame hotel which opened its doors in 1877.

Related: All The Times Union Coverage Of The Saratoga Racetrack

Day 1: Local hikes, lake view and mini golf

There are a number of popular hikes in the Lake George area, such as Prospect Mountain and Buck Mountain, two moderate to difficult trails that offer views of the lake from the top.

But the lesser known Berry Pond Trail also has great views, varied terrain, and less traffic, plus it intersects with other trails, providing multiple options. The trailhead is at the Village of Lake George Recreation Center on Transfer Road off Highway 9N. Follow the road to the parking lot and you will see a kiosk with a faded map. Follow the blue marked path which enters the woods and crosses a small stream. Soon you will be on the initial ascent, a steep 280 foot incline, and the hemlocks are getting thicker.

The Berry Pond Loop Trail is a 5.7 mile hike with views of Butler Pond and the Adirondacks.

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From there the trail climbs another 520 feet and more than a mile remains to Noosa’s Bluff (elevation 1,620 feet). There, after passing through thickets of ferns, an alpine glade opens up to views of the South Basin of Lake George, while across the trail are sweeping vistas of Butler Pond and the Adirondacks.

Both sides of the trail are thick here with native milkweed and pollinators covering the pale pink flowers. The blue trail descends to intersect with the orange trail and you can either descend to rejoin the blue trail to the parking lot (for a total of 4.5 miles) or continue to loop around Berry Pond for a 5.5-mile hike. 7 miles. .

Milkweed blooms pale pink all along the Berry Pond Trail.

Milkweed blooms pale pink all along the Berry Pond Trail.

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After a morning hike, head to the village of Lake George for a hearty lunch. It’s just an eight-minute drive from the trailhead, and all along the edge of the lake are restaurants, pubs, and casual cafes, like The lagoon (204 Canada Street) or the Lookout Bar & Grill (28 Beach Road)a perfect place to dine overlooking the lake.

But the best way to see the lake is from the water. After lunch, head to the Lake George Steamboat Company (57 Beach Road) and take a 1-hour paddlewheel cruise around the southern end of the lake. End the day with a lively round of mini-golf at pirate cove (2115 US-9) and a generously sized soft serve ice cream.

Day 2: More mountain trails, river fun and artisan cheese

The majestic Hudson River is almost unrecognizable here near its native land: Fast and narrow, it is a young river. Drive along its eastern shore on River Road outside Lake Luzerne, a dirt road that winds up to the Bear Slide Trailhead (1368 River Road) where Buttermilk Creek flows to the river, which is part of the Hudson River Special Management Area. Walk past the main parking lot to the secondary parking lot to find the entrance to a beautiful out and back trail. It’s less than two miles with a short steep section at the start, but the magic comes from the water sliding down Bear Slide, a large natural rock formation. There is a picnic table by the shallow pool at the bottom, but beware the rocks are extremely slippery – better for sliding than climbing.

Bear Slide is a rock formation over which water flows.  It's almost like a long natural slide.

Bear Slide is a rock formation over which water flows. It’s almost like a long natural slide.

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The trail continues upstream past a large swamp and ends in a forest trail. You can turn around and backtrack, or if you have a good map, hit the forest roads to extend your hike and rejoin River Road. Back on River Road, you can race down the bank to set foot in the Hudson or sign up to float down the river with tubby tubes (1289 Lake Avenue)who drop off their customers on this stretch of the river.

To explore more of the Hudson, book a railbike tour at Railway revolution (3 place of the railway) at North Creek, near Gore Mountain. Cycle the old railway line, through wild grasses, flowers and tall trees, with glimpses of the river beyond. Cross a high trestle bridge and pause on the banks of the Boreas River (which joins the Hudson), before turning around and heading off again, thankfully downhill.

Revolution Rail offers bike-rail tours along an old railroad near Gore Mountain.

Revolution Rail offers bike-rail tours along an old railroad near Gore Mountain.

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After a full day and nearly 13km ride, you’ll be ready to refuel and relax in the historic hitch post (1256 Lake Avenue) at Nettle Meadow Cheesemakers. Cheese platters are filled with their award-winning goat, sheep and cow cheeses, including the spectacular Kunik and crowd favorite Three Sisters, as well as local preserves and fruits.

Where to Stay in the Lower Adirondacks

Huttopia Adirondacks (1571 Lake Avenue, Lake Lucerne) makes it easy to enjoy nature in style, bringing charm and ease to a glamping getaway. Cozy tents cover the resort’s wooded hillside and rest on raised wooden platforms with decking. They’re fully stocked with plates, cutlery, camping chairs, and a wood-burning stove, and you can cook on the gas grill or your personal fire pit.

Huttopia Adirondacks rents glamping tents on raised wooden platforms at Lake Lucerne.

Huttopia Adirondacks rents glamping tents on raised wooden platforms at Lake Lucerne.

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At the central lodge, the camp store stocks essentials and the bistro serves pancakes for breakfast and pizzas for dinner. Kids of all ages will love the large pool and activities like morning yoga, movie night, and s’mores on the bonfire. Trapper Duo rate (for two) starting at $120/night; Trappeur+ (for five) from $170/night.

Huttopia's central pavilion includes a swimming pool, a bistro and a grocery store.

Huttopia’s central pavilion includes a swimming pool, a bistro and a grocery store.

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If you’re looking for the comforts of home, consider a luxury short-term rental like this Vrbo in Ticonderoga in northern Lake George. With four bedrooms and three bathrooms, this lakeside home sleeps up to 10 people, features a lakeside summer house, swimming dock and tree house for kids. $375 a night.

The Sagamore (110 Sagamore Road, Bolton Landing) is the ultimate resort experience on Lake George. The historic 1883 property has several restaurants, a movie theater, mini-golf, pools, and water activities ranging from lake cruises to parasailing. From $499 per night until the end of summer.

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