Camping is one of the best ways to experience the natural beauty, serenity, and wildness of the Adirondacks. For many, it is also a cherished family tradition that brings back wonderful memories and helps us reconnect with those closest to us. Growing up, my parents frequently brought my brother and I to the Adirondacks to camp. In addition to building a stronger bond between us, it also helped me form a strong connection with the Adirondacks — so much so that I eventually made it my home. Recently, my dad came to visit and we decided to recreate some of my greatest childhood memories — and make some more — by going camping at Forked Lake Campground in the heart of the Adirondacks.
Neither of us had been to Forked Lake before, but their selection of boat and trail access campsites meant we could easily transport both our gear and our dogs to the site. They also offer a great compromise between primitive and full service camping. With the exception of five RV/drive-in campsites right near the entrance of the campground, standard sites aren’t accessible by car and don’t offer water or electric, so you definitely get the sense that you are in the wild. At the same time, they do have privies, fire pits, and picnic tables, and the main lodge offers water and amenities, so you still enjoy some convenience.
We loaded up the car with tents, cooking supplies, food, water, fishing poles, an ancient 70-pound aluminum canoe, and two mutts, and headed out in the late afternoon. Forked Lake is located just south of Long Lake, which meant we had to stop at Hoss’s Country Corner and The Park for last minute supplies and ice cream before heading into the woods. I reserved a site in advance, so we weren’t too worried about getting there early as long as we made it before the 9 p.m. check-in cutoff. We probably should have tried for earlier, though, because the sun was setting as we put the canoe in the water and loaded it up with our gear.
To get to our site, my dad paddled the canoe with the heavy supplies, hugging the shore as he went along. Large, numbered placards facing the lake label the sites, so even in the fading light of dusk he was able to find our spot – Site 25 – with ease. I loaded up my backpack with the lighter supplies (and those we knew for sure shouldn’t get wet) and hiked myself and the two dogs in via the small trail that runs behind the sites. This task was a little harder in the waning light. The trail is narrow and doesn’t appear to get much use. Despite being clearly marked with both trail markers and site numbers, I experienced moments of uncertainty, so I suggest getting there in daylight if you plan to hike in. Even at that, it only took me about 15 minutes to make my way to Site 25.
I arrived just as the sunset was performing its grand finale, and the view across the lake was simply stunning. We took a moment to revel in the beauty and then set to work setting up camp before we lost any more light. Our site was nicely separated from those on either side of us, giving us an excellent sense of privacy and remoteness. The sites are definitely more wild than groomed, but we found two mostly flat spots for our tents and were set up in no time.
The next order of business was dinner. Totally out of light by this point, we decided to forgo campfire cooking and instead stick with our blast stoves. I had pre-chopped some venison and veggies, and we sautéed those up with butter and served them over not-so-bad dehydrated mashed potatoes I had left over from a previous backpacking trip. Overall, I would give it a 9/10 on the camp meal scale. We made sure to thoroughly scrape our plates and wipe them down before packing all of our food and cooking supplies into the provided bear box. With all the work done, we made ourselves comfortable by the fire.
Bonfires are always nice, but there’s something about a campfire when you’re actually camping that is somehow more relaxing. The crackle and pop of the fire, the chorus of bull frogs, and the call of the loons, echoing over the lake in an ever-increasing crescendo, created the perfect soundtrack for our evening. It was incredible how perfectly serene the evening was given how many campsites there are on Forked Lake. People were respectfully quiet and we rarely heard a peep from anyone around us, except for the sounds of their own fires. We talked, we reminisced, and we grew sleepy. Eventually we headed off to our respective tents and turned in for the evening.
Partially due to restless dogs, we woke early in the morning. My dad stoked the fire and I set to work preparing breakfast over the campfire coals. That early in the morning, the sound of sizzling bacon was music to my ears. I prepared pancakes (from pre-mixed batter), bacon, and eggs, and my dad brewed an excellent cup of camp coffee. Who needs a swanky brunch spot when you have a fire, a picnic table, good company, and the great outdoors?
Check out time is 11 a.m. at Forked Lake, so we had a bit of time to kill before we departed. We tried our hand at fishing, and successfully caught a few weeds but nothing more. We also took the dogs for their first canoe ride! Despite my dog constantly moving from side to side to watch my paddle and drink off the side of the boat, we managed not to capsize ourselves. Time flew by, and before long it was time to pack up and go. Much like we arrived, my dad paddled our gear back to the main lodge and I hiked two tired, happy dogs back to the car.
On our way home, we made a stop at Buttermilk Falls. The trailhead is located on the same road as Forked Lake Campground and the falls are less than a quarter mile from the road. Rock outcrops make for excellent viewing platforms, and even after a few dry days the water was flowing heavily, creating a beautiful, milky white (some may even say buttermilky) veil. Buttermilk Falls is definitely wider than it is tall, but the sheer magnitude of water makes it impressive nevertheless.
Forked Lake Campground is an excellent choice for those looking to escape the every day and experience the Adirondack wilderness without committing to a full backcountry adventure. Close to a wide variety of dining and amenities in Long Lake, and not far from the Adirondack Experience, the Museum on Blue Mountain Lake, there is lots to do and see in the area if rain rolls in or your party tires of exploring the expansive lake and surrounding land — although it's hard to believe that could be possible! It was a great place for my dad and I to relax, enjoy the outdoors together, and reconnect. It’s also a place we now look forward to sharing with others!
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