Uncovering the best lakes in New York has been a literal breath of fresh air and a much-needed escape.
While I’ve always been spellbound by nature’s healing powers, its magnetic pull has been even stronger these past few months.
Although at-home staycations and virtual experiences have helped scratch the travel itch, there’s nothing like experiencing the outdoors in person.
Plus, it’s highly tempting to hightail it to the nearest lakeside retreat given that road trips are all the rage.
Consequently, I’ve highlighted the best lakes in New York under a five-hour drive from Manhattan to help you plan.
Whether you’re wetting your feet with a day trip or plunging into a weekend escape, this list has you covered.
Let’s dive in!
While most people associate Lake Placid with the lake of the same name, Mirror Lake takes all the popularity trophies.
In fact, if you’ve ever seen pictures of the Adirondack lakes, chances are, shimmering Mirror Lake was on top.
Aptly named for its mirror-like quality, a look into the water reveals a beautiful reflection of surrounding Lake Placid village.
Mirror Lake is one of the best lakes in New York because it’s ideal for everyone from water sports enthusiasts to photographers.
Plus, it’s the lake for all seasons, offering kayaking, paddling, and canoeing in summer and ice skating and pond hockey in winter.
Mirror Lake can get pretty crowded, particularly in summer, as this tends to be the Lake Placid hotspot.
You can find more information on boat rentals here if you’re looking to enjoy a day out on the water.
Alternatively, hiking enthusiasts will enjoy a leisurely 2.7 mile walk along the lake’s perimeter.
In regards to accommodations, you can’t go wrong with the beautiful Mirror Lake Inn.
While we haven’t stayed here ourselves, I’ve heard very good things and I couldn’t resist snapping a photo!
You can find metered public parking spots located near the lake along Main Street. There are also several public lots directly off of it.
Mirror Lake is located at Mirror Lake Drive in Lake Placid, NY. It’s just under five hours from New York City by car.
Lake George is also located in the Adirondack region and is commonly referred to as the “Queen of the American Lakes.”
This popular lake boasts a shoreline of a whopping 109 miles as well as over 300 little islands!
It’s the ideal place for vacationing families looking for a nature fix who don’t want to sacrifice the amusement aspect.
Lake George can definitely be a fun area, but that also depends on your idea of fun.
If you’re the type of person who enjoys touristy family vacation destinations, you’ll be right at home.
Expect kitschy souvenir shops, 1970’s-style motels, and mini golf courses around every corner.
Lake George is located about 3.5 hours from New York City by car.
The Finger Lakes region is often considered the most impressive collection of lakes in New York.
There are 11 lakes in total, and Seneca is the largest of the collection and the deepest in all of New York State.
I originally won a trip here (including wine tastings) back in 2018 and quickly fell in love with the area.
Speaking of wine, if you’re an oenophile, you’ll be in heaven here. That’s because the Finger Lakes region is considered the top wine region in the United States.
You’ll definitely want to dedicate more time to this trip if you love lakes and wine tastings.
I recommend staying at Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel, where we enjoyed two relaxing nights.
The Finger Lakes are located just under five hours from New York City by car.
Lake Minnewaska truly exceeded my expectations. Plus, this gorgeous lake is only a short drive from New York City.
Stef and I have already visited twice to hike and take photos and we’ll definitely return again.
This deep-blue lake is part of the Minnewaska State Park Preserve located along the Shawangunk Ridge in Ulster County.
A beautiful nature preserve, it includes a total of 21 moderate trails offering panoramic lake views and gorgeous scenery.
After hiking, you can cool off with a refreshing lakeside swim in one of the two available swimming locations.
In addition, if you’re looking for more of a “shower” experience, you can hike to Awosting Falls, a 65-foot cascade!
Visitor information for Lake Minnewaska is constantly being updated. Head here for the most up-to-date news and social distancing guidelines.
Lake Minnewaska is conveniently located just under two hours from New York City by car.
Mohonk Lake is also located in Ulster County and completes the idyllic setting of the famous Mohonk Mountain House.
The dramatic scenery surrounding the lake features stunning overlooks and enchanting forests that look straight out of a fairytale.
Mohonk Mountain House has full autonomy over all lakeside activities, including row boating, canoeing, fishing, kayaking, paddle boarding, and swimming.
Although the lake is only a half-mile long, it’s well worth a day trip here, if not a weekend escape.
I was not-so-pleasantly surprised that there was a 2-mile hike to the top when we first came here to shoot!
Unfortunately, you’ll need to park at the bottom of the property unless you’re a hotel guest or you have a dining reservation. From there, you’ll have to make the climb on foot.
While this isn’t ideal, I can honestly say it’s worth the climb.
Plus, I can now say this hike was rather mild after hiking the Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain.
I just wish I knew the deal before I foolishly arrived in a cute outfit with a full face of make-up. Ladies, you’ve been warned! You will get sweaty on this hike if you’re coming in summer.
In addition, prior to hiking, you’ll need to purchase a hiking trails pass online. Head here for pricing information as well as current hiking guidelines.
Mohonk Lake is conveniently located about two hours from New York City by car.
There’s nothing quite like being by a lake to lift your spirits and awaken your soul. I hope this list has inspired you to enjoy a fun lakeside getaway just a few hours from Manhattan.
Alternatively, I encourage you to check out my Central Park Instagram guide if you’re looking to spend some time in the city itself.
What were some of the best lakes in New York that you’ve discovered on your travels? Let me know in the comments; I’d love to expand this list over time!