When 20th-century titans of industry wanted to get away from it all, they retreated to their Adirondack Great Camps in the boondocks of Upstate New York. Roughly a century later, the Adirondacks remain breathtakingly wild—a six-million-acre state park larger than Yellowstone, Everglades, Glacier, and Grand Canyon national parks combined. They contain a mix of state-protected preserve, teeny hamlets, privately owned land, and a loose web of ribbon-like roads that weave up and over mountain passes, through old forests, alongside streams, and around a seemingly endless number of sparkling lakes.
A century ago, the Adirondacks were difficult to get to, which was very much the point—the perfect place to seek refuge from the city. Families would make the trek in early summer along with entourages that included butlers, laundresses, nannies, and maids, often arriving at their camps weeks later. They stayed the entire season, enjoying respite from the urban jungle with a raft load of lake and leisure activities, from fishing to swimming and canoeing.
Many of the original three dozen Great Camps aren’t open to the public, but you can stay at these six historic Adirondack lodges.
Book Now: thepointresort.com
It doesn’t get any more exclusive than The Point, a great camp built by William Avery Rockefeller on 75 acres of Saranac Lake shorefront nearly a century ago. It’s not exactly the kind of place that invites you to pop in for a drink and a look around. There’s no signage off Route 30 for this plush Relais & Châteaux resort, and upon reaching the end of the five-mile, single-lane entry road through the woods, you arrive at a closed gate and a no-nonsense sign in all caps: “THE POINT IS RESERVED FOR GUESTS ONLY . . . NO VISITORS.”
Yet beyond that gate is a luxurious all-inclusive retreat that’s chock full of antique furnishings, fine art, and a staff ready to attend to your every whim. (They’ll even fetch you from the airport if you arrive by private plane, as many guests do.) It’s also a surprisingly intimate haven, with just 11 rooms, each with a lake view and a fireplace. The property re-opened in 2018 after a multi-million dollar renovation.
Open Thursday through Sundays May 7 to June 1, and open seven days a week June 1 through early November. All-inclusive rates for two from $1,750 per night, with carte blanche use of sports equipment and facilities, all meals, afternoon tea, wines, and spirits.
White Pine Camp
Book Now: whitepinecamp.com
Built in 1907 by a wealthy Cincinnati and New York banker, White Pine Camp has changed hands many times since. In 1926, while under the ownership of Irwin and Laura Kirkwood, publishers of the Kansas City Star newspaper, White Pine Camp became famous as the one-time Summer White House of President Calvin Coolidge, whose journey included a 16-hour train ride from Washington, D.C., followed by a five-hour carriage ride through the woods. Newspapers marveled at the camp’s “electric lights, sunken baths, showers, deep-cushioned couches, easy chairs, fine rugs and furniture.”
Today you can stay in the lodge or one of 13 cottages, each of which can accommodate between two to seven people and features handcrafted Adirondack-style furniture, stone fireplaces or wood stoves, and scenic views. You can even reserve the President’s Cabin, where Coolidge slept. There’s an indoor tennis court, bowling alley, and two boathouses, as well as a much-photographed Japanese teahouse that sits on a peninsula jutting into Osgood Pond.
Open year round. There is a seven-day minimum in July and August, and a two-day minimum the rest of the year. Summer rates run $165–$435 per night.
The Hedges Book Now: thehedges.com
Blue Mountain Lake’s most famous camp was built in 1880 by Civil War hero and corn starch magnate Hiram Duryea. For decades, Duryea happily flaunted his wealth at his camp with European-style decorating, tennis courts, and a newfangled motorboat, while at the same time refusing to install electric lights or indoor toilets. After his death, the property was sold to the caretaker of the Great Camp Sagamore, who transformed Duryea’s camp into The Hedges in 1924 and soon added electricity, plumbing, and over a dozen cabins.
You can stay in a room or suite in one of four lodges, or in any of 15 cabins that range in size from one to four bedrooms.
Open Memorial Day to mid-October. American plan rates for two people start at $335 per night, including breakfast and dinner.
For future stays: thewaldheim.com
If you weren’t a robber baron, the other way you might come to own a great camp was to build one yourself. In 1904, master carpenter E.J. Martin built the handsome main house at The Waldheim on the northern shore of Big Moose Lake.
Over the years the Martins expanded their camp with 16 water-facing cottages, each with one to five bedrooms and at least one bathroom. Today the 300-acre Waldheim is run by two of E.J. Martin’s great-grandchildren and their spouses, and retains a yesteryear vibe.
Open July to September. In July and August, Saturday-to-Saturday stays for two people start at $1,360 in the main house or $2,124 for a cottage. From Labor Day through the end of September, two-night minimum stays for two people start at $472 in the main house or $732 for a cottage. Pricing includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Book Now: lakekora.com
Brand new for 2020, Lake Kora is set on a secluded lake on 1,000 pristine acres, originally purchased by Teddy Roosevelt’s lieutenant governor, Timothy Woodruff. It was truly a place of grandeur, with elements like imported gondolas from Venice, telephone service as early as 1903, and the somewhat dubious addition of semi-trained bears. Many original elements remain—some buildings have been repurposed over the past 125 years—but modern amenities (like a spa) bring the historical resort into the present day. It’s still privately owned, but now open for a limited number of exclusive bookings during summer and early fall.
Open July to mid-October. Minimum stay of three nights. From $19,980 for entire camp (12 bedrooms/maximum 24 guests), inclusive of all meals, non-alcoholic beverages, recreational activities and equipment, and a full staff.
Saranac Waterfront Lodge
Book Now: expedia.com
Saranac Waterfront Lodge, set on Lake Flower’s Pontiac Bay in Saranac Lake, takes inspiration from its surroundings as well as the history of the Adirondack High Peaks region, particularly the artists and philosophers who would flock there from the cities. While it may be steeped in history, the lodge is delightfully modern, with 93 rooms, an on-site marina, a “lake pub” and fireside lounge, and an indoor heated pool and hot tub. The property is also environmentally conscious (the first LEED-certified property in the Adirondack Park), and provides direct lake access, water sports, and seasonal activities.
Open year round. From $239 a night.
This story was originally published in August 2018; it was updated on October 5, 2020, and again on May 7, 2021, with recent information.