© Courtesy of the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism
Snuggled into the stunning wilderness of the Adirondack Mountains, the charming town of Saranac Lake offers classic winter adventures and activities with a nostalgic feel. It’s the kind of place where you can go sledding, skating, and skiing all in one day, with plenty of time for hot cocoa and relaxing by the fireside.
With mountains, lakes, and forests in abundance here, outdoor adventure has long been part of life in Saranac Lake. From its earliest days as the hunting grounds of the Iroquois to the logging of the first European settlers, the first vacationers on guided adventures to the village’s storied history as a place of healing and rejuvenation, Saranac Lake’s beautiful, rugged wild spaces have always been the center of life.
Today, winter adventures have a classic feel that never gets old and makes it the ideal destination for you to enjoy a winter experience that is totally unique to you!
The newly created Adirondack Rail Trail is a hub for winter activities. Located on the former trail of the Adirondack and Saint Lawrence Railroad, the trail is open to the public, whether you travel on cross-country skis, snowshoes, snowmobiles, or horseback! Linking the communities of Tupper Lake, Saranac Lake, and Lake Placid, the trail offers adventures from a short morning jaunt to a full-day outing.
Easy to get to, as it travels through the village, the trail gets you out into snowy Adirondack scenery in just minutes, where forests, frozen ponds, and wildlife converge. Other local, close-to-town spots for skiing and snowshoeing are the peaceful Jackrabbit Trail; Dewey Mountain, where local Olympians train; and the Paul Smith’s College Visitor Interpretive Center, which also has indoor exhibits on natural history.
How many towns do you know that have a ski slope right in the middle of town? Saranac Lake has one! Just a minute or two of driving from downtown will get you to Mount Pisgah, a ski area beloved by generations of locals and visitors alike. Gentle slopes mean that Pisgah is an ideal location for beginners and families, and there’s even a wonderful tubing area that will bring out the kid in anyone.
In the mood for something a bit icier? Visit the Civic Center for open skating on indoor and outdoor rinks, or check in at a gear shop to get the scoop on ice fishing on local lakes and ponds. You’ll even find guides who can take you out and show you how to get lured in by this classic Adirondack sport.
In the late 1800s, people from around the world began to come to Saranac Lake seeking treatment for tuberculosis. Cure cottages and elegant mini hospitals tucked into the landscape were a refuge of fresh air and welcoming care. One of the activities created to cheer patients was the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival, which continues to this day with eagerly anticipated themes, activities, a handcrafted ice palace, and celebrations of all things winter.
Each year, local volunteers cut blocks of ice from Lake Flower and assemble them into a stunning, sparkling palace complete with lights, tunnels for kids to crawl through, and distinctive ice sculptures. Days during the Carnival are filled with ice skating, curling, a version of bowling on ice, live music, restaurant specials, and a grand, must-see parade.
The outdoor adventures are grand, but so are the hotels and restaurants, galleries, and shops. Downtown, with its numerous historic buildings, including the fabled Hotel Saranac, is a great place to enjoy a leisurely stroll on a snowy day. As you stroll downtown, you can take the time to peek into the numerous art galleries, which host exhibits and sales of the work of local painters, potters, and jewelry artisans.
In fact, art is everywhere, from scenic murals to sculptures inspired by nature. While downtown, you can treat yourself to a cozy new jacket or sweater from locally owned-and-operated clothing and gear stores, some of which have been around for decades and are much beloved by the locals.
Good food is kind of a big deal in Saranac Lake, with plenty of local flavor, local ingredients, and Adirondack-inspired dishes on the menu. Local chefs have fun with their menus, whether it’s at a fine dining experience or a casual bistro. Since this is classic Adirondack, and decidedly Saranac Lake, visitors will find the atmosphere in our restaurants to be just the right shade of relaxed, where it’s encouraged to linger over dessert with friends or extend the experience by wandering over to the bar for a seasonally inspired cocktail or locally brewed ale.
Saranac Lake is a wonderful place to raise a family and for a family vacation, there can’t be anything better. Outdoor activities are a must, but there is an abundance of indoor activities that appeal to children (of all ages!) and will keep them enthused and entertained. The Adirondack Carousel, which features hand-carved and painted Adirondack animals, is a sweet, classic treat that is one-of-a-kind. Just around the corner, downtown has fun offerings such as a toy store with regular game nights, a Lego-themed shop with building experiences in-store, events at the library, and Play ADK’s Main Street Clubhouse, the preview of what will be an exciting children’s museum.
Despite all there is to do here, Saranac Lake maintains a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere with a charming downtown, easily accessible activities, and a welcoming local community. This is the place to go when you want to get away from it all, when snowshoeing up a gentle wooded trail sounds like heaven, and when you want to share the joys of a classic winter with family and friends.
Saranac Lake is a small mountain town; a unique place born from its rich history and the contributions of the people who have called it home. We’re here because we love it here — come see why, relax, and have some fun!