Limekiln Lake Campground
Location: Campground Road, off of Route 28 in Inlet, NY
Type: Overnight camping and day-use area
Camping: 271 tent and RV sites. Best sites are the ones that have direct lake access.
Things to do: Hiking trails, swimming at the lake, kayak and canoe rentals, and fishing at the lake. Shopping and restaurants catering mostly to tourists are available in downtown Inlet and nearby Old Forge.
Amenities: Many bathrooms, free showers, nice swimming area with a part-time lifeguard during the height of the season, ice for sale. Firewood is available at several side-of-the-road locations on the way to the campsite. A gas station with coffee, doughnuts, and camping supplies is less than a 10-minute drive away.
Limekiln Lake Campground is a gem of place to stay in the Adirondacks and was our first time camping outside of Vermont. The trip was daunting: the lake was more than four hours away from home, in another state, and close to the location where two violent murderers broke out of a high security prison a week earlier and were still on the loose.
The worst part of were aggressive black flies (bug spray and a citronella torch helped). The best part was the serene Limekiln Lake. We stayed at site #163, allowing us to eat dinners while watching sunsets over the lake.
Seeing or hearing wild animals is an essential part of the camping experience for me. Limekiln Lake has nature in spades; we hadn’t even set up our tent yet when two ducks swam off the lake and wandered around our campsite. The baby ducklings – just little fuzz balls no larger than a small hand – joined the welcoming committee. All weekend, they would make the rounds along the shore of the lake, wandering into campsites looking for visitors generous with their dinners. I swear I didn’t feed them bread – sorry, ducks, I’ve seen that meme! We also saw deer, turkeys, lots of birds, chipmunks, and a baby snapping turtle.
At night, the loons called to each other from between lakes, the cries echoing across the water and mountains.
One animal that we didn’t see is the legendary Adirondack black bear. Bear warnings are everywhere there and we were careful to put our food, our cooking equipment and utensils, and anything that smelled like food in the food locker – a big metal book screwed onto two cement blocks. Each site had one. They only animals interested in our food were ducks.
My father’s family grew up one county over from Limekiln and my uncle recommended that we try Bald Mountain for a hike. The 2,350-foot summit has views of a half dozen area lakes and includes a restored fire tower. Bald Mountain is a steep climb and the path alternates between dirt, bedrock, and tree roots. Still, we saw lots of young kids and older hikers standing proudly at the top. On the way down, one woman remarked that she was getting knee surgery the following week.
The small towns of the Adirondacks have long operated as tourist traps and Old Forge, located about 30 minutes drive outside of Inlet, is no exception. There are restaurants, t-shirt and gift shops, and opportunities to eat ice cream on every corner. Our trip came weeks before the traditional start of the season out there and the town was quiet, quant, and welcoming. We ate at Tony Harpers Pizza and Clam Shack and saw Jurassic World at The Strand, a retro-style movie theater with an impressive collection of vintage cameras and projectors on display.
Our camping trip ended with a spontaneous nighttime trip around Limekiln Lake after our camping neighbor, a dad with his two daughters, loaned us his canoe. We tried finding those loons, paddling in the direction of the calls. They sounded farther and farther away, perhaps in another lake.
The canoe floated directionless for a minute. Thousands of ripples darkened the surface of the lake. The sun was gone and we guided ourselves along the lakeshore, watching the campfires enviously in the woods, with starlight and the lake’s reflection of starlight, as our guides.