518-532-7616 (summer) >> 518-942-0028 (winter)
Open May 10-25 and June 22-October 27, with a merciful hiatus during part of the blackfly season. Lodge rooms cost $110 per night per person; cottages, $125-$150 (includes all meals and activities). In keeping with its Emersonian character, the lodge has no Web site.
NOW MORE THAN EVER, New Yorkers, or anyone else needing space and distance from a city, will appreciate Elk Lake Lodge. This 1903 Adirondack hideaway commands a stunning view, indeed the only view from a manmade structure, of a private wilderness comprising a 12,000-acre boreal forest and 600-acre emerald lake. The isolated retreat, 240 miles north of New York City (100 miles south of Montreal), anchors a 40-mile network of half a dozen mountain trails that visitors share with patrolling deer and black bears. With all this pristine privacy, you'll be longing for the claustrophobia of New York City's No. 6 subway line by week's end.
AT THE LODGE Eight wood-framed cottages are scattered along the lake's eastern shore, their knotty-pine interiors filled with comfortably rustic furnishingssorry, no Jacuzzis or wet bars. If it's available, reserve Windfall, a cabin whose terrace faces the sunrise, or ask for Little Tom, the cottage closest to the lake and thus the best from which to hear a nocturnal loon concerto. Just a couple hundred yards away, in the lodge's timbered dining room, guests warm their hands by the fieldstone fireplace and their bellies by dining on pork chops, shrimp scampi, and other great American comfort foods, while overlooking the ramparts of New York's other dramatic skyline, the Adirondacks.
THE SPORTS In mid-May, the islands on Elk Lake are covered with witch hobble and star flowers, making them picnic-perfect. Thanks to a lakewide ban on speedboats, the noontime stillness can be deafening. Grab a pack lunch and one of the lodge's canoes, and try to catch dinner en route. Fishermen, like the squadrons of native ospreys, don't need much patience to catch lake trout and landlocked salmon. Miles of easy lowland trails, edged by mushrooms, fiddleheads, and carpets of lady slippers, weave along the shore and across little bridges: Try the Sunrise Trail, a six-mile out-and-back hike.
BACKCOUNTRY FORAY Aim for 4,857-foot Dix Summit, a dramatically poised peakaccessible from a lodgeside trail. Backtrack down the five-mile-long driveway, and at the top of the hill on Elk Lake Road follow the Dix Trail 3.5 miles to the Lillian Brook Lean-to, an opportune place to overnight. The next morning, pass Dix Pond and climb 1.9 miles and 2,000 feet toward Hunters Pass. Approaching the windswept ridgeline, the trail crosses a narrow arETe and tackles a series of cirques where stunted trees sprout improbably from nearly vertical faces. At the summit, a kingdom of peaks lies before you and 5,344-foot Mount Marcy frames tiny, sparkling Elk Lake.