A summertime family camping trip has happened now for two years in a row. Dare I say a new family tradition might have been born? Our first camping-with-kids expedition began last year with our road trip to Maine’s Acadia National Park. It was a trip so phenomenal, so chock-full of adventures and opportunities for littles of all ages that it took two posts just to cover all this goodness. This year, we kept it a little closer to home with a few days at the foot of the Adirondacks indulging in some family camping in Lake George.
The last time I was here I was a kid myself, albeit a giant kid of the teenage variety, a kid nonetheless. Back then I was content to spend my days at the lakeside beach and enjoy some ice cream in town before sitting around the campfire telling funny stories and talking about our day. Now, however, it’s quite a different story. Now there is only so much sitting a preschooler can take, only so many hours that the same strip of shoreline can serve as fascinating fun. Likewise, we’re overdue for a little more action ourselves. We’re ready to take full advantage of this fun new stage of parenthood blissfully free of bulky diapers and flimsy strollers, and with the kiddos now possessing a nifty little thing called coordination, as well as more stamina and kick-ass gross motor skills- they are ready too.
So this time around, we let ’em have it.
We pitched our nylon home away from home this year at Hearthstone Point State Campground, on a site just steps from its beguiling little strip of sandy shoreline. It is located about two miles north of Lake George Village, close to pretty much any of the amenities you’d want to enjoy during your visit to the area. During the inevitably arduous setup process, a heady combination of sidewalk chalk, a pair of curiously friendly ducks, scooters, and a healthy indulgence in good old-fashioned exploration kept all four kiddos occupied, happy, and out of mischief.
Growing up, my family came to Hearthstone a lot and I was happy to see that everything we’d always loved about it then is still true today. We love that the grounds are conspicuously clean and well-maintained and that the campground’s main bathroom and shower facilities are spacious and private- even more so now that they’ve undergone a complete renovation. Additionally, every site at Hearthstone has its own designated fireplace for evening fires and there are plenty of open places for the littles to ride their bikes and scooters and play lively games of tag- not to mention making sandcastles or swimming at the beach.
Ominous clouds notwithstanding, we headed out right on day one for the first activity in our lineup- the summit of one of the regions iconic landmarks- Prospect Mountain. Just outside of town, it offers breathtaking 100-mile panoramic views via either a 5.5-mile drive (for a fee) or a 3-mile hike (free). If you choose to drive, as we did (see clouds above), there are a few scenic overlooks you can stop at along the way. Once you get to the top, you will park and then either board the free shuttle or hike the final short distance to the peak. If you’re hiking all the way, know that the well-marked trail is suitable for experienced and non-experienced hikers alike and that it can be accessed right in town off Smith Street.
On a clear day at the peak you can enjoy unobstructed views all around including the Adirondack High Peaks, the Berkshires of Massachusetts, the Green Mountains of Vermont, and the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Closer still, you can peer down at tiny Lake George village. That afternoon, heavy clouds impeded much of our view but we enjoyed what we could see and took our time taking it all in. We saw one of the last paddlewheelers in America, the Minne-Ha-Ha, steam her way around the pristine lake far below, and read about the curious history of the Prospect Mountain House, the resort hotel that was once situated here, and the inclined railway that ferried passengers to and from it. Remnants of both still remain at the summit.
Partaking in some canoeing or kayaking (or any watercraft action for that matter) with toddlers is the very antithesis of a good time. I’m sorry, but it just is. Your ability to look around and take it all in is impeded by the necessity of having to keep certain riders from going overboard. The freedom to just lay back and relax is obliterated by their incessant climbing, moving, and clinging. You see where I’m coming from, right? But that all ended last year. This year, the final little in our troupe finally vacated that 3-year probation period which makes their little group of four much more pleasant waterborne company.
We celebrated this newly unlocked level of maturity by checking out Lake George from a different perspective- right at its surface. We headed up to the picturesque little resort town of Bolton Landing about 20 minutes from our campground to rent a canoe from F.R. Smith & Sons Marina. We paddled out past Green Island and the lovely Sagamore Resort and then turned north to circle around nearby Crown Island at a relaxing, leisurely pace, a stunning heron keeping us company part of the way. The experience was absolutely wonderful and unforgettable- and not only because we successfully avoided capsizing! Without a doubt, it is something every family camping in Lake George should do if they’re looking for a scaled-back and simple way to enjoy one of the best attractions the area has to offer- the beauty of the lake itself.
After our canoeing expedition in Bolton Landing, we decided to stick around and check out a little more of what this charming, quaint little hamlet had to offer. It turns out, quite a lot! The narrow streets bustle with activity as visitors and locals alike fill the tiny village with life. The main thoroughfare is replete with inviting gift and antique shops, boutique stores, and unique restaurants at every turn. It was such a great place that we made sure to come back and visit again before we left.
While there, we lived up to our promise/bribe of ice cream at the local (and awesome) Ben & Jerry’s ice cream shop which features an ample front porch from which customers regularly sit and watch the world go by as they enjoy their sweets. We perused a few antique shops and boutiques and then eventually sat down for what we were really after- food. Our choice that day was the Huddle, where we talked plans and future adventures over glasses of sangria and local craft beer while relishing the crispy calamari and fried shrimp in sweet and spicy Thai sauce on the recently completed outdoor patio. Our next time in town we tried something different. We went for the Guinness cubano and lobster roll at the Lakeside Lodge and Grill. Both places were exceptional! We can’t wait to go back and try something different. Bolton Landing is, without a doubt, a certified foodie town.
There are few things cooler to a kid than riding a horse.
I haven’t figured out exactly why that is yet. Is it a desire to feel close to such a gentle and sage representative of the animal kingdom? Is it to align their reality with the vision of the tough, horse-riding wrangler they see in their mind’s eye? I can’t quite put my finger on the answer. But whatever the case may be, I am happy to oblige whenever the opportunity for a positive interaction with well-cared-for equines presents itself. And here in the Adirondacks we had just such an opportunity at Saddle-Up Stables.
Around since 1945, Saddle-Up Stables offers daily hour-long trail rides through the woods for adults and older children as well as hand-led pony rides for the littles ones. Our kiddos were all about those ponies. There was quite a bit of action going on that day and we had to wait for a bit, but there were plenty of ponies and horses along the fence that the children loved to watch and talk to as they waited. When their turn finally came around, each and every one of them was beaming with pride as they got boosted on, ready to enjoy yet another round of whatever it is they imagine in their heads whenever they find themselves in the vicinity of these majestic animals.
In the days ahead we explored even more of what Lake George has to offer for families both right in town and deeper into the Adirondack Mountain region. Our adventures that week saw us rafting, hiking, and even tramping through caves in torrential rain. It was exactly the kind of weeklong active fun we’d been waiting so long to have with our littles. Check out the rest of our Lake George hits and misses soon in our upcoming post, Family Camping in Lake George (Part II).