2010 Annual Guide to the Great Outdoors
Sand by Me
A user's guide to North Country beaches
by Niki Kourofsky
Thanks to those master sculptors—the glaciers that reshaped this region tens of thousands of years ago—Adirondack beaches put dull-as-seawater, flat-horizoned shoresides to shame. Here’s just a handful of the picture-perfect swimming spots hidden throughout the park, all with toe-tickling sand, pure pools and vivid views, along with the more mundane necessities: bathrooms (or, in one case, an outhouse) and picnic sites. Since hours and regulations vary, phone numbers have been provided.
Long Lake Town Beach, Route 30
With rope swings, a slide, and a trampoline waiting to jettison the willing into about 11 feet of bracing water, Long Lake’s beach is custom-made for teens. But this pretty little tract has thrill rides for the younger set, too: mini–rocking animals and a slope just right for running, or tumbling, down to the shore. (518) 624-3077. Free.
Schroon Lake Town Beach, Dock Street
Although this may be the Adirondacks’ best-known beach, it rarely feels overcrowded—even at the height of summer—thanks to a 250-foot-long swimming area and a playground up the hill, plus plenty of scattered shady sites. At the water, a jumping dock keeps youngsters occupied, while a line of Adirondack chairs keeps parents sane. (518) 532-7675. Free.
North Hudson Town Beach, Route 9
Less than five miles from Schroon Lake’s more prominent park, this hideaway fronting 150 feet of the Schroon River is often overlooked. The water is cold—even by North Country standards—but the place’s peaceful, private-beach vibe is worth a few goosebumps. Depth depends on the year and season, but it’s often shallow enough for preschoolers to navigate and, off the far bank, deep enough for older kids to cannonball. (518) 532-9811. Free.
Wild at Heart
Beach at Middle Saranac Lake, Route 3, Harrietstown
Bring your hiking shoes if you want to reach this long strip of sand: you’ll have to hoof it down a frequently mucky half-mile trail and over a narrow footbridge guarded by frogs. (Park at the Ampersand Mountain trailhead.) The trek is a small price to enjoy a true backwoods beach, although you’ll have to share—alongside the sand castles and shells are herons, osprey and a beaver dam, as well as deer and even bear tracks. No lifeguards. Free.
Golden Beach, Route 28, Raquette Lake
One of the largest natural beaches around, this swimming hole—part of a 200-plus-site Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) campground—can be surprisingly serene, with great views and wide shallows for wobbly waders. Between swims kids can scamper over a border of sizable rocks or watch rafts of ducks bob nearby. (315) 354-4230. $8/day use.
Arrowhead Park Public Beach, Route 28, Inlet
For the budding buccaneer, the place to be is on the banks of Fourth Lake. The midsize beach at Arrowhead Park offers a playscape ship perfect for pillaging parties, lots of sand to build—and destroy—enemy forts, and a fishing dock to replenish rations. Top off the day’s adventure with a short jaunt to Northern Lights, an ice-cream and gelato mecca that draws faithful from around the park. (315) 357-5501. Free.
Usher Park Beach, Route 9L, Lake George
Down the road from the bustle and bikinis of Million Dollar Beach, this quieter alternative is best for small children. The patch is pint-size—making it easy to keep tabs on wander-happy tots—and the water stays shallow. Up the hill there’s a playground, picnic area and basketball court. (518) 668-5755. Free.
Village of Speculator Public Beach, Route 30
Right in the middle of downtown, this too-cute strand on Lake Pleasant, with room for 150 people, is the total package. Sure, it has clear water, sparkling sand and a stunning view. But it’s also a stone’s throw from a playground, boat launch, hiking and mountain-biking trails, ice-cream stands, and just a quick trip from an old-fashioned donut shop and Charlie John’s Store, an Adirondackana emporium. (518) 548-7354. Free.
Where Eagles Dare
Meacham Lake, Route 30, Duane
Just off trail—the path to 3,300-foot Debar Mountain starts from Meacham’s DEC campground—the 50-or-so-foot sandy-bottom beach, complete with playground and picnic area, sits at the tip of an otherwise undeveloped lake. A bald eagle paradise, this beautiful enclave is ringed by mountains and state land. (518) 483-5116. $8/day use.
Pine Lake Park, Route 10, Caroga Lake
Not far from the busier Northampton Beach, on Great Sacandaga Lake, this compound—attached to a private campground, but open to the public—has a retro feel, with a snack shack, paddleboats, mini-golf and the Adirondack Paradise, an old-time dance hall featuring acts like the Swing Docs and Captain Squeeze and the Zydeco Moshers. (518) 835-4930. $3/day use.
Town of Dannemora Beach, Route 374
With a roomy pavilion and volleyball court, plus a smallish beach, locals know this as the go-to spot for reunions and birthday bashes. An almost nonstop breeze and brisk water make the pebbly baylet on Chazy Lake (worlds—and miles—away from Dannemora’s maximum-security prison) the perfect antidote to a blazing summer day. (518) 492-7541. Free.