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This Small Town in New York Is the Perfect Summer Getaway — With Lakeside Resorts, Hiking Trails, and Craft Breweries

Travel + Leisure logo Travel + Leisure 6/27/2022 Anne Olivia Bauso

Jerry Trudell the Skys the Limit/Getty Images © Provided by Travel + Leisure Jerry Trudell the Skys the Limit/Getty Images

Dubbed the "Queen of American Lakes," Lake George stretches more than 32 miles north to south through New York's beautiful Adirondack Park. It was a critical Revolutionary War-era link between colonial New York and Montreal, and roughly a century later, it emerged as a summer playground for the mega-rich industrialists of the Gilded Age. Summer visitors continue to descend upon Lake George in droves for its gorgeous scenery: deep blue water (ready for fishing and boating of all kinds), forested shores, and soaring peaks — some of the tallest in the state.

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Lake George, located in the Adirondack Mountains, has been a summer escape for New Yorkers and Northeasterners since the late 19th century. In the winter, the snowy mountains attract visitors to ski resorts, ice festivals, and snowmobile trails, but it's really all about summer here, when the warm weather allows for all sorts of outdoor enjoyment: swimming, boating, parasailing, hiking, camping, biking, and more. And downtown Lake George ("the village") springs to life with summer vacationers enjoying the pubs, taverns, ice cream shops, arcades, lakefront parks, and in-town beaches.

Canoeing, kayaking, powerboating, sailing, waterskiing, parasailing: take your pick, the gang's all here. At 32 miles long, three miles across at its max, and as deep as 195 feet, Lake George accommodates just about every type of watercraft. If you don't BYOB (bring your own boat), there are gobs of rental services in town, as well as tour operators and parasailing outfitters.

Scenic steamboat cruises are a classic Lake George outing; the 1817-founded Lake George Steamboat Company offers cruises daily in the summer. The steamboat pier in downtown Lake George hosts the annual Rock the Dock Music Festival (this year on July 22, 2022), a family-friendly night of live jam music, art, and local food and beer vendors.

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Meanwhile, miles of hiking trails around the lake lead to mountain overlooks, waterfalls, and secluded country ponds. The popular-with-families Schumann Preserve at Pilot Knob culminates at a gazebo overlooking the water, while the rather challenging Prospect Mountain Trail follows an old tramway up to the 2,030-foot summit (and its 100-mile views, which include Lake George and the Adirondack High Peaks). Not up for the trek? You can always board a free shuttle or drive the scenic Veterans Memorial Highway to the top.

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Shelving Rock Falls is a favorite for photo ops, and it's doable for most ages and fitness levels, so hikers looking for a real day of it often pair the waterfall with Sleeping Beauty Mountain. And what began in 1882 as a railroad line is now the Warren County Bikeway, a nine-mile paved route for walking and biking (and snowmobiling, December through March).

Courtesy of Adirondack Winery © Provided by Travel + Leisure Courtesy of Adirondack Winery

Gallery: Grasshopper Loop Trail, the Bay Area’s newest hike, is perfect for beginners (SF Gate)

If a wine or beer trail is more your speed, take to the Adirondack Craft Beverage Trail, a collection of more than two dozen craft drink makers across Lake George and neighboring counties.

The main street in the village is home to High Peaks Distilling, Lake George Distilling Company, and Adirondack Winery (its chilled Amethyst Sunset red is a favorite with both casual drinkers and competition judging panels). At Adirondack Pub & Brewery, New York apples, wheats, and other ingredients are used for making seasonal beers, which are matched with a menu of hearty comfort food (think fried cheese curds and half-pound burgers).

For craft drinks with a side of bucolic scenery, a 15-minute drive will bring you to Springbrook Hollow Farm Distillery. The 200-acre operation churns out small-batch homemade gin, vodka, rye, bourbon, New York apple-infused moonshine, and other spirits made from the Adirondack Mountains water.

At the lake's southern tip sits the Lake George Battlefield Park Historic District, a 35-acre space preserving sites from the French and Indian War and Revolutionary War. The nearby Fort William Henry Museum provides an even closer look at colonial life during the French and Indian War. The lakefront Wiawaka opened in 1903 as a retreat for women, mostly workers in the textile industry; today, the site offers free tours (for women only in August) of its buildings, gardens, and woodlands.

Where to Stay in Lake George

a small boat in a large body of water: Courtesy of The Sagamore Resort © Provided by Travel + Leisure Courtesy of The Sagamore Resort

The village and surrounding area are stacked with family-friendly lakeside resorts, old-timey motor inns, guest houses, cottage and cabin rentals, and camping options. Here are some favorites.

Set on a private, 70-acre island off Lake George's western shore, The Sagamore is a landmark luxury resort that hearkens back to early Lake George tourism, when financiers, railroad tycoons, and other elite Northeasterners journeyed here for the natural beauty and fresh pine-scented air. The 1883 icon (now on the National Register of Historic Places) features an 18-hole golf course, eight restaurants, and, of course, stunning water views.

For another sort of island overnight, book a campsite (far in advance) on one of Lake George's many islands. These islands (accessible by private boat or water taxi, if you're not a boat owner) range from small dots with a handful of camping options to large, wooded areas with wildlife and up to 90 sites.

The first of Oxford Cottages' two waterfront cabins was built by the owner's grandfather in 1939; the second, set on a perch right over the lake, was added in the 1950s. Not a lot has changed since and that's exactly how guests like it. Rustic cabins and cottages are a big draw for Lake George vacationers looking for simple lakeside getaways. The lakefront Diamond Cove Cottages is a popular pick for its flat grounds (including a private beach) and ample amenities like grills, kayaks, rowboats, and games.

Right at the south entrance to Adirondack Park is the serene Stone Gate Resort, with lodging and cabins beneath a canopy of pines. There's a private sandy beach with boat rentals, as well as a heated swimming pool, bocce and horseshoe games, and nightly campfires. On the dock, you can claim an Adirondack chair and simply watch the bright sailboats and kayaks quietly drift by.

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