Disclaimer: The tourism board of Lake Placid invited me on this trip. As always, all opinions are my own. Also, there may be affiliate links sprinkled throughout, which means that at no cost to you, I’ll make a small commission if you purchase/book through those links.
I was never a lake person growing up — as a native Floridian, my childhood vacations took place on the beach. I never had the chance to experience the classic American lake vacation I would see in the movies.
That was until this summer, when the tourism boards of Lake Placid and the Adirondack Mountains invited me to experience Upstate New York for a few days. All it took was one trip to Lake Placid for me to understand the allure of a lakeside summer getaway.
I was blown away to find so many exciting things to do in Lake Placid in the summer. From early morning dips in the lake to all-day hikes in the Adirondack Mountains, New York’s favorite lake destination offers something for everyone, adventure travelers and laidback vacationers alike.
The small mountain village is located in the Adirondacks about five hours by car from New York City. Known for hosting not one but two Winter Olympics, the town is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts in every season.
Visitors flock there in the winter for skiing, snowboarding, ice-climbing, bob-sledding, ice skating — you name it. In the summer, ice skates are replaced by bright orange kayaks on Mirror Lake, a picturesque lake that runs parallel to the town’s charming Main Street.
Since air travel isn’t advised for the foreseeable future, there’s no better time than now for a summer road trip. For New Yorkers, that means more time to explore places closer to home.
>> Related: How To Road Trip Safely During a Pandemic
Where Is Lake Placid?
Lake Placid is located about 300 miles north of Manhattan, or about a five-hour drive from the city. Nestled within some of the highest peaks of the Adirondack Mountains, the town sits only about an hour and a half away from the Canadian border.
Lake Placid, along with nearby Saranac and Tupper Lakes, belongs to the Tri-Lakes region of New York.
The easiest way to get to Lake Placid is via car. Yet there are many other ways to make the trip upstate. Visitors can fly into Adirondack Regional Airport, as well as Plattsburgh or international airports in Burlington, Montreal and Albany a couple of hours away. Amtrak and bus services are also an option.
In order to enjoy all the summer activities in Lake Placid, though, I recommend having a car to get around to all the different sites and attractions.
Top Things To Do In Lake Placid In The Summer
Lake Placid isn’t all about lake life. While enjoying time on lake is one of the best things to do in Lake Placid in the summer, there’s so much more to discover in New York’s premier lakeside destination.
From hiking in the Adirondacks to swimming in waterfalls, there’s no shortage of summer activities in Lake Placid.
Kayak & Swim in Mirror Lake
While it’s easy to mistake the sparkling lake at the center of town as the “Lake Placid,” it’s actually Mirror Lake. Several lakefront hotels and homes surround the picturesque Mirror Lake, which offers panoramic views of the High Peaks.
No trip to Lake Placid is complete with a day on Mirror Lake. It’s a fantastic spot for kayaking, paddle boarding and swimming, especially if staying in a lakefront hotel.
I watched the sunrise and sunset on Mirror Lake nearly every day during my stay at the Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort, which has a private beach with free kayak and paddle board rentals for guests.
High Falls Gorge
High Falls Gorge is a privately owned nature park home to several waterfalls. Visitors can snake through the gorge through an easy walkway that includes a few suspension bridges offering wonderful views of the falls.
It’s a great option for those who don’t want to tackle an actual hike but still want to appreciate the beauty of the Adirondack region. The walk takes no longer than 30 minutes, and there’s a $13 fee to enter in the summer.
Swimming in Copperas Pond
A short walk through the woods leads to a hidden pond known as Copperas, where visitors can swim, canoe and hike between other nearby ponds.
John Brown Farm
For a historical outing head over to abolitionist John Brown’s farm house. John was a celebrated figure in the fight against slavery. His grave lies in Lake Placid, in front of his 19th century home.
Visitors can walk back in time with a visit to his farmhouse, as well as his grave. A few trails also offer relaxing walks around the scenic property.
Whiteface Mountain Summit
Whiteface Mountain is the fifth highest peak in New York. The panoramic view from the summit stretches as far as Canada: On a clear day, the Green Mountains of Vermont, White Mountains of New Hampshire and skyscrapers in Montreal can be spotted from the top.
The unique thing about Whiteface is that there’s a road that takes visitors up to the summit. After a short walk from the parking area, visitors find themselves on top of one of the highest peaks in the Adirondacks.
Of course, hiking up to the summit is also an option. Learn more about hiking Whiteface Mountain here.
Cliff jumping at Flume Falls
Probably one of the coolest swimming holes I’ve ever visited, the Wilmington Flume is a narrow gorge home to three waterfalls. It’s a popular spot for swimming and cliff jumping.
It’s easily accessed from the main road after a quick downhill walk through the woods, which is probably why it was so busy during my visit.
Explore Main Street
Lake Placid’s Main Street is as charming as a European ski village. Small shops and restaurants line the street, many of them offering views over Mirror Lake. For those staying in a hotel on or near Main Street, there are many dining options within walking distance of every property.
It’s also worth exploring the town’s quirky stores like The Adirondack Popcorn Co. and one solely dedicated to beef jerky.
Best Hikes in Lake Placid
One of the best things to do in Lake Placid in the summer is hiking. There are hundreds of incredible trails in and around the Lake Placid region. I was able to tackle two of them during my stay: the Indian Head hike and Cobble Lookout hike.
*Note: Since both of the Lake Placid hikes I’m about to share are quite popular already, it’s important to be mindful of your impact on these sites. Remember to always practice Leave No Trace. Don’t leave any trash behind, don’t disturb the wildlife and don’t take anything from the park. Consider signing the Love Your ADK pledge before visiting. Learn more here.
>> Related: Best of Hiking In Lake Placid
Indian Head hike in the adirondacks
Indian Head is one of the most scenic and popular Adirondack hikes. The trek leads to a rocky cliff that juts out over Lower Ausable Lake, offering excellent views of the Adirondack High Peaks. Hikers flock here for the stunning view from the summit, which is said to be reminiscent of a Norwegian fjord.
The trail itself isn’t too difficult, but it sure is looong. The hike up to Indian Head clocks in at about 10 miles round-trip with an elevation gain of about 1,500 feet. The peak sits at 2,700 feet.
The Google Maps app shows the location as “Indian Head Trailhead,” with an address of 24 Ausable Road in Keene Valley. It’s about a 30-minute drive away from Lake Placid. The parking lot sits across the road from the “Roaring Brook Falls” parking area.
The first portion of the hike was admittedly pretty boring since it takes place on a dirt road. Some ways up the Lake Road, however, there will be a sign for the Gill Brook Trail, which offers a much more scenic route up to the summit.
A web of trails to be explored exists in this area, including Fish Hawk Cliffs and Rainbow Falls. I originally meant to add a stop at Rainbow Falls on my hike, but I didn’t download the trail map ahead of time. Here’s a map that shows the correct route for both Indian Head and Rainbow Falls.
INDIAN HEAD HIKE TIP: Arrive early. Since this area has dozens of trails that branch off to different peaks and waterfalls, it’s incredibly popular with hikers. The parking lot was nearly full when I arrived at 7:10 a.m. I got the last parking spot!
Cobble Lookout HIKE
This is an easy trail with a grand reward. At just 2.4 miles, the out and back Cobble Lookout hike is mostly flat, with about 200 or so feet of elevation gain. The trail takes as little as 30 minutes one-way.
Yet the view at the end is one of the best I encountered. This is a great option for beginners, or for those who aren’t looking to tackle a massive hike yet want to enjoy the amazing views that come with one.
COBBLE LOOKOUT HIKE TIP: Since the hike quick and easy, this could be a great option as a sunrise or sunset hike.
Where To Eat in Lake Placid
Most of the restaurants in Lake Placid have a laidback summer vibe, especially on Main Street. Here are my top four recommendations of places to eat in Lake Placid.
Green Goddess Natural Market
This is a natural food store that also serves salads, grain bowls and sandwiches. I had the tastiest quinoa bowl with curried cashews and ginger dressing here — I loved it so much I recreated it at home! Come here for fresh ingredients and a nourishing meal.
This lakeside restaurant offers a beautiful view of Mirror Lake, especially at sunset. This is where I had my last meal in Lake Placid: a tangy chicken salad sandwich and balsamic-glazed brussel sprout salad. Come here for the view, stay for the simple yet tasty menu.
Hands down the best breakfast I had in Lake Placid. Although only two people were working the busy restaurant during my visit (and the owner was quite stressed), the pancakes were delicious! I went with the sourdough pancakes and a side of olive sourdough toast. Make sure to try their sourdough breads baked in house.
Expect a long line at Emma’s Creamery on most summer afternoons. The 50’s style ice cream parlor is worth the wait!
Honorable Mention: Stewart’s Shops is a great place to pick up an early morning breakfast sandwich or extra snacks/water before a big hike.
Where to Stay in Lake Placid
The best place to stay in Lake Placid is on Mirror Lake!
I stayed at the Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort, which offers rooms just steps away from the water. Even the rooms that aren’t on the first floor have balconies with sweeping views of the lake and surrounding High Peaks. It was one of the most picturesque stays I’ve had.
Aside from the dreamy sunrises and sunsets I was able to enjoy from my front porch, the hotel’s private beach makes it so much easier to enjoy lake activities at any time of the day. The Golden Arrow has dozens of free water toys like kayaks, canoes and paddle boards for its guests, allowing them to explore the lake as they please.
There were guests that spent the entire day at the hotel, simply enjoying the beauty of Mirror Lake. I don’t blame them!
Plus, it’s located right on Main Street, making it easy to explore the town and its many nearby dining options.
Three-Day Lake Placid Itinerary
I spent three full days in Lake Placid during my visit in early August. Three days was an ideal amount of time to enjoy both the lake and the mountains.
Still, there’s so many summer activities in Lake Placid that I can understand why someone would want to spend a whole week here. Here’s a quick glimpse at my three-day Lake Placid itinerary.
Day 1: Long Day Hike, Sunset on the Mirror Lake
- Quick to-go breakfast at Stewart’s
- Indian Head hike
- Early dinner at a local brewery
- Sunset on Mirror Lake
Day 2: Exploring the local sites
- Breakfast on Main Street (Bluesberry Bakery or The Breakfast Club)
- High Falls Gorge
- Whiteface Mountain summit via car
- Lunch in town
- John Brown Farm
- Cobble Lookout
- Takeaway pizza for sunset at the Golden Arrow
Day 3: Mirror Lake
- Early morning dip in the Golden Arrow’s private beach
- Lakeside yoga at the Golden Arrow
- Breakfast at Saranac Sourdough
- Scenic drive around Lake Placid to admire the gorgeous homes
- Kayaking & sunbathing on Mirror Lake
- Lunch at Green Goddess
- Flume Falls swimming holes
- Dinner and sunset at The Cottage
As you can see, there are endless things to do in Lake Placid in the summer. I can’t wait to return to see the leaves change in the fall and experience Mirror Lake frozen over in the winter.
I hope you enjoy a Lake Placid getaway as much as I did!
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