The Adirondack Mountains are unique among mountainous regions in the United States because of the abundance of lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams that crisscross the nature preserve. Approximately 30,000 miles of waterways run through the Adirondack Region. And within those larger lakes, we find islands ideal for pitching a tent, starting a campfire and watching the stars overhead.
Welcome to island camping, where a canoe, kayak, or on certain lakes where it's permissible, a boat, gains you access to one of the most unique experiences the Adirondacks has to offer.
There are four major island camping spots in the Adirondacks: Lake Champlain, Blue Mountain Lake, Lake George, and the Saranac Lake Chain, known as the "Saranacs." Each locale has its advantages to consider.
Island Camping in the Adirondacks
Lake Champlain's 1,100-acre Valcour Island was the site of a Revolutionary War naval battle and home to Bluff Point Lighthouse, built in 1874. Ideal for both history buffs and bird lovers, this large island is listed as a Bird Conservation Area and has also been designated as an Audubon Important Bird Area. Camping on Valcour Island provides the opportunity to explore the history and catch glimpses of unique Adirondack wildlife, all while being immersed in the island camping experience.
Put in at the Peru boat launch for a one-mile water crossing; aim for the north end to camp near sandy beaches of Lake Champlain.
Saranac Lake Chain
For an island all your own, paddle 17.5 miles across the trio of Saranac Lakes, where your boat passes 79 campsites ($22/night for New York State residents) only accessible from the water. Cast a line off a rocky point, cook dinner as waves beat a gentle rhythm, and wake to dawn light filtered through evergreens. The experience of camping on the Saranacs is an iconic Adirondack camping experience – and one not-to-be-missed.
Blue Mountain Lake
At 1,220 acres, Blue Mountain Lake's six campsites offer unspoiled views and that only-one-here vibe. Each site is free and on a first-come, first-serve basis and offers a fire ring and privy. Launch your boat or canoe from the public beach boat ramp on Route 28. Don't forget to bring your hiking boots. Ask the locals about the lake access spur trail to Castle Rock Mountain which provides a quick hike to an open summit with spectacular views of the lake and its islands.
No permit is required to camp at Blue Mountain Lake if you stay for three nights or less and have a group of nine campers or less. For larger groups and longer stays, contact the Blue Mountain Lake forest ranger office to obtain the permit. While motorboats are allowed on Blue Mountain Lake, canoes or kayaks are recommended for ease of exploration on this quieter lake in the Adirondacks.
Lake George offers the largest island camping experience in the Adirondacks, with over 380 shoreline campsites spread across 44 islands – campsites are plentiful and affordable. They're also very popular, so book ahead as much as possible. Three groups of island campsites are available in Lake George: Glen Island, Long Island, and Narrow Island. All sites come with a dock for one boat, a picnic table and toilet facility. Cruiser sites – sites for larger boats – provide a charcoal burner and privy. Sites cost $28 per night.