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Pitch a Tent, Rent a Cabin, Hookup an RV — However You Camp, The Lake George Area Has Your Site
The word “camp” will likely bring up images of a tent pitched out in the woods, or a compound of cabins where children spend summer vacation paddling canoes and braiding plastic gimp key chains. You might think of a pop-up camper or a 38-foot motor home. You probably won’t picture a three-story mansion with wide piazzas, broad stone fireplaces, numerous outbuildings and landscaped lawns that sweep down to a lake.
That is how the wealthy of the Gilded Age “camped” in the Adirondacks years ago. The history of the Adirondack Great Camps is fascinating, tied to names such as Rockefeller, Vanderbilt and Durant. Visitors are often amused that the term “camp” is applied to these lavish estates, but camping means different things to different people. That “camp” can mean a wilderness lean-to, a lake front estate and everything in-between demonstrates how fundamental camping is to the whole Adirondack experience, and visitors to the Lake George Area have multiple options when it comes to planning an Adirondack camping trip. So, what is your ideal camping experience? Whatever environment you are seeking, whatever shelter you desire, the Lake George Area has it all.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) operates four public campgrounds in the Lake George Area. You may reserve a site online at Reserve America, or by phone at (800)456-CAMP. Reservations may be made up to nine months in advance. Sites do go quickly. The DEC campgrounds all have tent and trailer sites, hot showers, flush toilets and dumping stations for RVers. Pets are allowed. Be sure to bring proof of an up-to-date rabies vaccine.
Just outside of Lake George Village, this campground puts you close to the action while the tall pines provide a forest setting. A trail at the back of the campground brings you to Battlefield Park and a short walk to the public beach. The Charles R. Wood Environmental Park and Festival Commons are right next door. A five-minute walk brings you to all the shopping, restaurants and taverns on the Village’s main drag. Greater Glens Falls Transit runs a regular trolley route right past the campground Memorial Day through Labor Day with weekend service through Columbus Day.
Hearthstone, located at Diamond Point on the West shore of Lake George, offers the best of both worlds when it comes to the Lake George Area experience. Nature lovers will relish the forested grounds and the nearby hiking trails. Hearthstone boasts a large, sandy beach for days of swimming, canoeing and sunbathing. For those seeking the hustle and bustle of Lake George Village, the shops, restaurants, pubs, video arcades and miniature golf courses are only a two-mile drive away. During the summer, the Greater Glens Falls Transit trolley route makes regular runs from the Village to Bolton Landing, stopping to pick up Hearthstone campers along the way.
Rogers Rock Campground is on the northern end of Lake George at Hague. In addition to regular tent and trailer sites, it had has areas for large groups, making it a great choice for a family reunion or company retreat. Boat owners may launch their vessels from the campsite boat launch. Reservations for use of a mooring buoy may be made when reserving a campsite. Rogers Rock is six miles south of historic Fort Ticonderoga. You may want to visit the fort and learn about the legend of the unconventional Captain Robert Rogers and how Rogers Rock, also known as Rogers Slide, got its name during the 1758 Second Battle on Snowshoes.
Bring your horse to this campground. It’s along the old Dude Ranch Trail in Lake Luzerne, the center of the Adirondack cowboy scene. Nearly two-dozen of its 165 sites are equestrian-friendly with stalls for your hoofed friend along with barns, corrals and miles of riding trails. The campground partially surrounds Fourth Lake, a non-motorized body of water about 8 miles west of Lake George Village. Nearby is the site of the oldest weekly rodeo in the country, the Painted Pony Championship Rodeo. Held every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, July through Labor Day Weekend, the rodeo at Painted Pony draws professional cowboys from across the country to compete for cash prizes.
Private Camping Resorts
The Lake George Area has more than two dozen private campgrounds. Most offer RV hookups, cable TV, swimming pools and recreation programs for children. Several offer cabin rentals with kitchens. Campers going this route need only bring sheets, towels and groceries.
Camping with Your Dog:
If a vital member of your family is of the four-legged variety, you will want to check out Lake George RV Park. The popular Lake George Area campground features a grassy two-acre, off-leash area that caters to canines. Charlie’s Bark Park offers shaded walking trails, a synthetic turf play area, agility events, dog spray fountain, indoor dog wash station and pet treat vending area.
Think luxury and camping don’t belong in the same sentence? Check out glamping (glamorous camping). It’s a new camping concept that harkens back to Adirondack Great Camp era. Back in the day, canvas tents set up on platforms provided guest housing on the summer estates of the wealthy. In the 21st century, you can reserve the same type of shelter. No need to pack a sleeping bag, they come with real beds made up with linens. A concierge will ensure all runs smoothly with your vacation. Glamping experiences are offered by Adirondack Safari, Posh Primitive and Camp Orenda.
“Some of my favorite memories with my family and friends come from camping on the islands.” This sentiment comes from Shelby Jenkins of Queensbury, New York, whose family makes a tradition of renting a site directly on the lake each summer. “It’s the most relaxing thing to sit lakeside and drink coffee in the morning,” says Shelby. Her family stays up late into the night toasting marshmallows over the campfire, telling stories and relaxing to the sound of lake waters lapping against the island’s shore.
The 32 mile-long Lake George is dappled with more than 100 islands. The DEC maintains 387 campsites across 44 islands offering the ultimate in island camping on Lake George. The islands are divided into three groups; the Narrow Island Group, the Glen Island Group and the Long Island Group. The Jenkins family likes camping on Long Island for its proximity to the public docks on Beach Road in Lake George Village. After a day of swimming, fishing and waterskiing, they can, if the mood strikes, pile into the boat and cruise to the Village for a night on the town.
As you may have guessed, these campsites are only accessible by boat. You may put your own boat in at a public launch site, or rent a boat for the duration of your camping trip. Each DEC site has a picnic table, fireplace, outhouse and a dock with room for at least one vessel. The sites go quickly. You may reserve yours up to nine months in advance at Reserve America.
Imagine emerging from your tent at dawn to inhale fresh, pine-scented air. Replace the din of traffic and blaring media with the sounds of bird chatter, the splashing of rainbow trout in a tranquil pond and the lonely call of a loon at dusk. The Adirondack Forest Preserve has 1,800 miles of marked trails covering 2.6 million acres of land. Most of these lands are open for camping. If shedding civilization is your aim, this is the way to go.
Wilderness camping does require some specialized skills and physical abilities. You will need to carry all your gear on your back, and you may be hiking over rugged terrain that brings you to steep rock faces requiring rock climbing know-how. It’s imperative you select a route that matches your abilities. The weather can change quickly; a warm August day may become a frosty evening at sunset. Be prepared. If you are an inexperienced backpacker, your best bet is to hire a licensed guide.
In the Lake George Area, back country campers will find primitive campsites in the Lake George Wild Forest, the Siamese Ponds Wilderness and the Pharaoh Lake Wilderness. These areas are in DEC Region 5. You may contact the regional offices for more information about wilderness camping. The Adirondack Mountain Club is also a great resource for information and guides about hiking and camping in the region. You’ll find their Lake George information center on Route 9N just south of exit 21 off I-87 (the Adirondack Northway.)
Important Camping Information
In an effort to protect New York State forests from the Asian Longhorned beetle and other tree-killing insects, untreated wood (wood that has not been heat-processed to kill bugs) may not be brought into the state. Untreated wood may be moved within the state a maximum of 50 miles from its source. What does this mean for campers and their campfires? You will need to purchase treated firewood that is labeled as New York-Approved Treated Firewood/Pest-free or, purchase firewood from producers within 50 miles of where you plan to camp. You can purchase treated firewood at camp stores, convenience stores and supermarkets in the Lake George Area. Many local residents sell firewood at roadside stands. Be sure to get a bill of sale that includes the address of the wood’s source.
If you bring your own boat:
Boats brought by trailer must be inspected for invasive species before being launched into Lake George. The inspection is free and available at Lake George boat inspection stations around the lake. If your boat is carrying some undesirable hitchhikers, boat washing is offered at the inspection sites free of charge.
Fishing license requirements:
Anglers aged 16 or older must have a license to fish in New York. Licenses may be purchased online or from a licensing agent. You may purchase a license that is in effect for an entire year, seven days or just one day.