For outdoors lovers, the North Country is the heart of New York State. Blessed with deep pine forests, softly rounded mountain peaks, and isolated islands set on quiet lakes, the Adirondacks and the Thousand Islands region can make for endless days of adventure. If you're staying in hotels, settle in Old Forge before starting off, then switch lodgings throughout the tour as you see fit. Start: Old Forge.
Days 1 & 2: Blue Mountain Lake & Raquette Lake Area
From Old Forge, drive east on Route 28 and go north on Route 30 to start off the week with a great overview of the park at the Adirondack Museum. Along with the history, flora, and fauna you'd expect, you'll also find great interactive exhibits, making this museum perfect for kids as well as adults. It's easy to spend a full morning here. Be sure to pack a picnic lunch and enjoy it out on the shores of gorgeous Blue Mountain Lake. Then strap on your hiking boots, make sure you have drinking water, and tackle Bald Mountain, just east of Old Forge -- it's a short but steep climb, and the summit will reward you with a great view. With your remaining energy, drive back to Old Forge and wander the town, enjoying the kitschy rides and games.
On the second day, hit the water. This area is famous for its chain of lakes; the only way to really get a sense of them is to go out with a canoe or kayak. Mountainman Outdoor Supply Company in both Old Forge and Inlet can set you up with the equipment; then spend the morning paddling as the mist rises from the lake. Drive over Route 28 to Raquette Lake and see how the Vanderbilts went "camping" (in 27 rooms, with a bowling alley!), at Great Camp Sagamore. You can tour what was their retreat for more than 50 years, just south of Raquette Lake.
Day 3: Lake George
Part of this park's appeal is that it makes for great driving. Take your time heading east on Route 28 over to the Lake George area. Then go out onto the lake with Lake George Steamboat Company on one of its narrated cruises aboard a steamship paddle-wheeler. Drive up to Bolton Landing and enjoy a drink or dinner at The Sagamore, one of the few historic hotels left in the park.
Day 4: Lake Placid
Meander up I-87, then cut over Route 73 and take Route 86 into the town of Lake Placid, which is famous for hosting both the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics and remains a center for Olympic training. Get a taste of history in the Winter Olympic Museum at the Olympic Center, and check out the rinks where Sonja Henie and Eric Heiden captured hearts and gold medals. Then get ready for some Olympic adventures yourself, out at the Verizon Sports Complex, 20 minutes west of town. You can jump in a bobsled (don't worry, professionals drive it), either on wheels or on ice. Grab a bite in town, then go off to High Falls Gorge, 8 miles east of town, which allows for a great stroll along the Ausable River. The trail runs past 700 feet of waterfalls and across bridges as you admire the water spilling over ancient granite cliffs. Come back into town as the sun starts to set and casts its rosy glow over Mirror Lake. Enjoy dinner and stay overnight in Lake Placid.
Days 5, 6 & 7: The Thousand Islands
Spend the morning saying goodbye to the Adirondacks aboard the Adirondack Scenic Railroad on a 1-hour journey through the forest between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake. Then say a longer goodbye as you drive west on Route 86, out of the park on Route 3 to Watertown, then on Route 12 up to the Thousand Islands region. Count on a few hours for the drive. You have a few options for the rest of Day 5: Either delay your departure from the 'dacks by stopping in a few towns like Childwold and Cranberry Lake; or test out the St. Regis Canoe Wilderness Area; or just head straight to the Thousand Islands, to Clayton, the center of the area's activity, and explore the town. Dine and stay in Clayton.
On your second day here, check out some of the area castles, built by wealthy industrialists in the early 20th century. Pack a picnic lunch for your castle outing, then hop on the two-castle tour run by Uncle Sam Boat Tours. You'll get a good overview (or rather, water view) of the many islands that lie in the middle of the St. Lawrence River. You'll stop off at Dark Island and take a guided tour of Singer Castle, built by the director of the Singer Sewing Company and opened to the public in 2003. Then it's over to Boldt Castle, on Heart Island, built by Waldorf=Astoria owner George C. Boldt. Enjoy your picnic lunch on the 5 acres of grounds, then explore the turrets, admire the 365 windows, and wander among the formal gardens. You have an unlimited stop here, so whenever you're ready, just catch the shuttle back to the mainland. In the late afternoon, head over to the 1000 Islands SkyDeck, 400 feet off the ground and with a 25-mile view over the St. Lawrence River. It's over the Canadian border, so bring your passport.
Start off Day 3 with a fine tradition here -- fishing, followed by a shore dinner. Many of the fishing charter companies run these trips and they've been happening up here since the early 1900s. You'll spend the morning fishing, and then stop on a deserted island. Your guide fries up the just-caught fish, then serves it up with potatoes, corn, and dessert. Walk off your decadent lunch by heading over to the Antique Boat Museum, which boasts the largest collection of inland freshwater boats in the U.S. You'll see more than 200 boats, from a 19th-century dugout canoe to 1920s racing boats. The sunset is gorgeous, so grab a table on the water to enjoy it.
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.