By: Liz Palmer and Robert Roland
Now, when you think of the Adirondacks you would think winter sports. The summer and fall months also make this area a fascinating opportunity for motorcycle touring and exploring – especially the six million acre Adirondack Park.
The Adirondack Park is approximately the size of the state of Vermont – It’s a park with no fees, no gate, no rangers, and is considered a model for parks around the world. There is an imaginary “Blue Line” around its perimeter and is home to over 140,000 residents, making it a combination of both public and private land. And the good news is that it never closes.
The roads throughout the park go through many unique towns some without stop lights, villages with more cows than people - many of which have options for dinning, ranging from diners, gastro-pubs and fine dining, with lodging from B & B’s to luxury resorts.
From a motorcyclist’s perspective: The Adirondack Park’s six million acres can be framed by major highways to the west (Hwy 81), south (Hwy 90) east (Hwy 87) and to the north, the St. Lawrence River and the highways along its southern shore. Access to the park, and throughout it, is by roads designated as “Scenic Byways”. The Olympic Scenic Byway starts at Sacketts Harbour in the West, crosses Hwy 81 which you would access from the border crossing at the Ivy Lea Bridge which goes through the park, and includes Lake Placid to Keeseville at Hwy 87. This spectacular natural attraction is only four hours north of New York City, a day's drive from Ontario with two hours from Montreal.
Our route started from Toronto on our Harley Ultra Glide, Ultra Classic - a comfortable touring bike. We headed along Highway 401 East, with a choice of three bridges to the USA from Canada: Ivy Lea, Ogdensberg or Cornwall. An easy three-hour cruise at highway-posted speeds.
We took the Cornwall Bridge - picked up Route 37 east to Malone, then followed Route 30 south to Paul Smiths to pick up Route 86 - continued on Route 86 to Saranac Lake and Lake Placid – our total ride time: 6 hours.
We stayed at Whiteface Lodge, Lake Placid (www.whitefacelodge.com). Conveniently located in the heart of the Adirondacks, we found it a great base for day trips. Not only has the Whiteface Lodge won numerous awards, it’s also listed as one of the leading hotels of the world!
Whiteface Lodge is rustic-chic with all the modern luxuries of a five-star resort. Service was bar-none superior. We had a ground-level suite overlooking the tennis courts with lush gardens and mountain views. Our suite contained a full kitchen, European-styled laundry facilities, handcrafted furniture and Adirondack-style accents, with a beautiful cast-iron fireplace, with a welcoming lavish comfortable king-size bed – especially after a day’s ride. The nightly "Experience the Lodge" was a great treat - this entailed making your own s'mores around the bonfire and meeting other guests. The Spa features some interesting luxurious treatments from maple butter massage to outdoorsman facials. “A mountain resort spa experience like no other”.
Whiteface Lodge has upscale Kanu restaurant, which is exceptional, casual dining, and an old fashion ice-cream parlor. Whiteface Lodge’s extensive culinary offerings include KANU Restaurant & Lounge, as well as the tantalizing deserts available at the Old Fashion Ice Cream Parlor. The rustic elegance of KANU goes hand in hand with presenting an innovative and elegant approach to seasonal American Cuisine. The chef uses the freshest local organic ingredients along with local fish and game. Each selection is carefully paired with a specific wine chosen by the house sommelier with KANU’s award-winning wine menu.
Parking at Whiteface Lodge – We never had a problem parking close to the entrance and we usually ended up an extra large parking spot.
A good first day is to ride to the Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake. From Tupper Lake ride the Adirondack Trail Scenic Byway (Hwy 30 S) to Blue Mountain Lake. This is an easy one to two-hour ride.
The museum (www.AdirondackMuseum.org) is 24 buildings on 32 acres, and includes daily ongoing programs, art shows, several scenic areas, one of which is the café overlooking stunning views. We took the audio tour, seeing replica settings and listened to the historical development of Adirondack Park which gave us an insight into this unique area.
Another great excursion is along the Central Adirondack Trail Scenic Byway (Hwy 28). From Blue Mountain Lake go east to Fort Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain (www.FortTiconderoga.org). An easy ride with lots of options for lunch or dinner and good mountain and lake views. This fort in its strategic location has been in the hands of the French, British and now the USA. Here we found a great variety of exhibits, demonstrations, re-enactments and tours with an excellent café - an exceptional few hours if you are a history buff.
Visiting great geological attractions is another great way to explore the park. First stop - Natural Stone Bridge and Caves Park in Pottersville just off Hwy 87 (www.stonebridgeandcaves.com). Generationally owned and operated by the Becklers, their genealogy is as interesting as the caves, stones and jewels of the attraction. Appealing to the person loving geology and history, this is a walking tour. Tip: For the tour, ask for one of the family members.
The next stop - Ausable Chasm, one of the oldest attractions in the USA (since 1870) and “where the spirit of adventure begins”. Take Hwy 87 to Keeseville and you will come to Ausable Chasm (www.AusableChasm.com). This attraction has something for everyone, including a campground - perfect for the motorcyclists with a tent, float tours, rock climbing, hiking trails, in a dramatic Adirondack setting.
PRODUCTS FROM THE BIKER NATION
Dining in the park – we found many restaurants use local and fresh produce, approaching totally organic in nature. One example of this is Turtle Island Café (www.turtleislandcafe.com) – a New York Times – best restaurant, and Wine Spectator Award of Excellence in 2010! Turtle Island Café is owned and operated by the husband and wife team, Chef David Martin and Mimi Lane, who strongly believe in eco-gastronomy (recognition of the strong connections between plate and planet). David graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, has 20+ years experience and has won countless culinary awards. We were in luck – one of his popular seasonal dishes “soft shell crab” was on the menu! A truly delicious dish! Foodies also come from miles away to indulge in David’s American Hamburger. Motorcycles are welcomed here, and it’s located in the heart of Willsboro, minutes away from Lake Champlain and the Essex Ferry Dock.
Micro breweries – In the last few years there have been lots of micro breweries popping up and these are worth exploring.
This area in upstate New York has drawn nature lovers for decades, including famous families: Ralph Waldo Emerson, the Vanderbilts, and Majorie Merriweather Post.
Lake Placid hosted the 1980 Winter Olympics
Some tips on exploring Adirondack Park by motorcycle:
We found riding in the morning we got the brisk clear morning mountain air. The afternoon ride got us quietly home and ready to explore the food delights of the park’s many towns and villages.
There was always a good cell signal on all the Highways.
Weather can change very quickly in the mountains - be prepared for weather changes.
Resist the urge to “keep riding” and stop frequently to eat, take pictures or just rest.
Cycling and hiking are huge sports in the park so be aware of cyclists and hikers, especially in spring and fall.
At every opportunity fill your water containers up.
You should always work out your fuel requirements between fuel stops.
Reset your trip meter after refueling so you know what distance you can travel on your tank of fuel.
Bike Events in the Adirondack Region
Americade in Lake George – Early June. This is the world's largest multi-brand motorcycle touring rally.
Annual Warrensburg Bike Rally in Warrensburg – Early June. This family-friendly event offers great riding, vendors, and bike-related activities.
One of the most beautiful times to consider riding the Adirondack Park is certainly during the fall when the foliage has turned to bright orange, yellow, and copper, and nature is about to give way to winter. It's the perfect opportunity to enjoy what the park has to offer and at the same time the color kaleidoscope makes for stunning photographic opportunities.