How's Saranac Lake?

I’ve got about 10 days off work in July and am looking for a long canoe trip with a friend. I’m hoping for it to be pretty far off the beaten path and within a long day’s drive from D.C.

I was looking at Saranac and it looks like it might fit the bill, but I don’t have much information on it other than Google Maps.

It looks like there are a million little lakes up there such that we could make a good route by portaging from lake to lake, maybe even a loop.

Anyone been up there? Is it pretty remote up there or does it get touristy? I’d love to hear any and all information about the area. I also looked a bit at Moosehead Lake in Maine.

Thanks a lot.

Which Saranac Lake?

– Last Updated: May-20-09 6:17 PM EST –

or the area? (Upper Saranac, Middle, Lower)

St Regis Canoe Area..Whitney Tract. Mainline route from Old Forge to Tupper Lake or up to Buck Pond.

There is a lot of paddling in this area. I recommend you pop over to . There are several maps and a good one is the Adirondack Paddlers Map and its companion Guidebook by Dave Cilley.

Now as to the touristy stuff. If you stay out of Lake Placid you will be pretty safe..the only other hangup would be Old Forge or Lake George.

But in the summer you will not be alone if you are paddling though you can pick a less known route if you have a light pack boat and see no one if on the Oswegatchie above High Falls.

You might have noticed the Saranac Lakes are full of islands. Those are actually a reservable DEC campground, Saranac Lake Islands.

The Adirondacks are a pretty big place and the places I mentioned are 100 miles from each other.

You could get a week out of the West Branch of the Penobscot-Lobster Lake and Chesuncook Lake in Maine without a portage.

Or go to Churchill Dam on the Allagash and doodle up Eagle Lake, over to Chamberlain and down the other side (go up to Allagash Lake)and loop back to the start. Thats about 100 mile loop.

Moosehead has good camping especially on the northeast side but you will want a good map to show you what is private and public land. Some of the shore is cottaged..some not.

Saranac lakes
Although scenic the 3 Saranac lakes are hardly off the beaten path. Upper & Lower are fairly heavily developed (by Adk standards, this is & both have miles of undeveloped state land shoreline) Middle is much less developed. The longest tour from N end of Upper to far NE end of Lower is 17.5 miles. Middle & Lower are operated as a campground, where fees & reservations apply. You can no longer just claim an open campsite & pay when ranger stops by. Campsites on Upper remain free, 1st come, 1st served.

As you noted there are numerous other smaller lakes & ponds nearby that can be included in a trip. Many are undeveloped & those in St Regis Canoe area are also motor-free. Numerous “small” loops are possible but unless you cover very limited mileage in a day, you’d need to expand the area covered to occupy a 10 day loop. A shuttle (bike or outfitter) would expand your options. If you e me w/ some specifics about your needs & abilities I could recommend a 10 day Adk itinerary that would satisfy. Enjoy !

“Campsites on Upper remain free, 1st come, 1st served”

We are doing a quickie three day trip in a couple of weeks from Long Lake to Saranac Lake village and that campground annoyed me…at least now I know that I dont have to reserve a campsite before doing the shuttle.

If they changed the regs this year and I wind up in jail I will let you know…

scenery but not wilderness
beautiful scenery, gorgeous islands, wilderness looking but not wilderness, much summer motorboat acitivity, camping by reservation only via ReserveAmerica. Not backcountry wilderness.


Also, sites on Upper S. tend to be busy. Downriver of Second Pond you’re beyond SI campground & sites revert to “Yay!” type. As a failsafe campsite location you can find someplace nice up scenic Cold Brook. Enjoy !

Saranac Lake
In my humble opinion anyone’s first trip to the Adirondacks should be to the St Regis Canoe Area. This is assuming you want excellent canoeing, no motorized boating and loons. From there you can plan your next trip (I visited first in 1998 and have been back every year since). Saranac Lake (the town) is pleasant and not too crazy like Lake Placid. Check out for outfitters, restaurants and lodging. Have a great time.

Lower Saranac this weekend
was busy enough to notice.

I wish canoeists stayed out of the boat channel. Bouys are there to keep from bashing props on rocks.

Interesting to watch powerboaters trying to avoid out of control paddlers on Second Pond in the wind.

Middle Saranac was less busy.

Where did all the pontoon boats come from? Let me guess…the marina on Lake Flower.

Campsites were about a third occupied. Most traffic is day traffic.

The Saranac Lakes nevertheless have some of the best paddling scenery in the USA.

Other suggestions
If you’re looking for a wilderness trip, you might try Lows Lake, the Lila Traverse (Little Tupper to Lake Lila), the Oswegatchie Traverse (Bog River, Lows Lake to Oswegatchie River), or big one, 45-mile loop starting and ending at Little Tupper.

I just did the Lila Traverse a week ago.


He’s got a ton of paddles listed up in the adirondacks with reports, maps, directions and pictures. Very interesting site.