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Saranac Lake is a lovely, quiet place to spend the night, but Lake Placid is where the action is in the northern part of the park. If you want proximity to nightlife, spas, and restaurant options -- fine dining and otherwise -- stay here. Remember that even in the off season, when events like major hockey tournaments take place, you may find rates rivaling those of the summer season.

Accommodations in the area range from tiny lakeside motels (of varying quality) and chains to exclusive getaways and secluded campsites. For the ultimate in luxury, you can't possibly beat The Point, Saranac Lake, (tel. 800/255-3530), a retreat so exclusive you don't get directions until you've paid -- a hefty rate -- in full. The 11 huge rooms at this all-inclusive Great Camp are as amazingly comfortable and sumptuously decked out as you can get -- with massive stone fireplaces and custom-made beds -- and the excellent staff will tend to your every wish. The newest upscale (though not nearly as costly as the Point) kid-on-the-block is the Whiteface Lodge, 7 Whiteface Inn Lane (tel. 800/903-4045), with a spa, bowling alley, and movie theater.

A good chain option: The Best Western Mountain Lake Inn, 487 Lake Flower Ave., Saranac Lake (tel. 800/780-7234), has clean, spacious rooms and an indoor pool.

Campgrounds

For a truly unique experience, canoe out to one of the solitary sites on Saranac Lake Islands, Saranac Lake (tel. 518/891-3170; www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/24496.html), and pitch your tent away from the crush of car campers. Sites cost $21 and are available mid-May to Columbus Day. Whispering Pines Campground, Route 73, Lake Placid (tel. 518/523-9322), is a sprawling campground right on the outskirts of Lake Placid. You can set up deep in the woods, but be prepared for loud partyers in RVs. If you're one of them, you'll love it here; tent campers in search of a back-to-nature experience will want to look elsewhere. Tent sites are $19; water and electric hookups are $25 to $29. Ausable Point Campground (tel. 518/561-7080; www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/24452.html) sits on a stunning patch of land overlooking Lake Champlain with 123 sites. There's a shoreline of natural sand, and the campground borders a wildlife management area with a hiking trail; sites are $21. Open mid-May to mid-October, Cranberry Lake Campground, off Route 30 in Lake Cranberry (tel. 315/848-2315; www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/24460.html), sits on a lake in one of the most undeveloped parts of the park, yet the campground is easily accessible.

Backcountry Blunders: Do's & Don'ts

  • Don't camp within 150 feet of roads, trails, or bodies of water.
  • Lean-tos are for everyone; yes, you must share!
  • No outhouse? No problem: Dig a hole 6 to 8 inches deep and at least 150 feet from water or campsites. Cover with leaves and soil.
  • We like you smelling fresh, but no soap within 150 feet of water.
  • Giardia is one bug you can avoid: Boil, filter, or treat water.
  • Use only dead and down wood for fires.
  • Carry out what you carry in.
  • Leave wildlife and plants undisturbed -- doing otherwise is not nice and it's illegal.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.