Whallonsburg photograph by Johnathan Esper
Whitehall to Willsboro
With bucolic scenes of gently rolling farmland, steepled churches and sailboats on Lake Champlain, this cruise up the park’s east side may have you wondering if you’ve crossed into Vermont. Closer inspection reveals a distinctly Adirondack flavor to the quaint hamlets along the route.
Directions: Take Route 22 north from Whitehall up the east side of Lake George and on to Crown Point, near the site of pivotal forts during the French and Indian and Revolutionary Wars; Port Henry and its Bulwagga Bay, rumored home of Champ the lake monster; charming Westport; tiny Wadhams and Whallonsburg; and Essex, where the entire Village Historic District is on the National Register of Historic Places. In Willsboro, continue on to Point Road to see the Adsit Log House, which dates back to the 1790s.
Pit Stop: Little Wadhams is home to the big flavors of Dogwood Bread Company (2576 Route 10, www.dogwoodbread.com). Stop in for coffee and sandwiches, soups and fresh-baked snacks.
Viewpoint: On Willsboro Point, Noblewood Park is a birdwatching hot spot with can’t-miss Lake Champlain views.
Off-Road Romp: If you have time to explore a few back roads, the journey to the Wildway Overlook trailhead, near Whallonsburg, is as idyllic as the hike itself. The 0.7-mile walk to the Champlain Valley overlook won’t leave you breathless, but the view from the top will. Plan to stay long enough to watch birds of prey swoop past your perch. Find directions to the trailhead at www.champlainareatrails.com.
Lake Country: Routes 30 & 28
There’s an embarrassment of roadside riches on this north-south corridor, from the woodsy boardwalk waiting at Paul Smith’s College VIC (www.paulsmithsvic.org) to the bonny shades of Long, Blue Mountain, Raquette and Fourth Lakes. Lakeside communities are spaced out like pearls, so your next opportunity for snacks, shopping or bumming around on a beach is never far away.
Directions: From Route 30 in Paul Smiths, follow Route 86 to Donnelly’s Ice Cream—it may shut down in the fall, but the glorious view of Whiteface and the McKenzie Range from the former farm across the road never closes. (The 238-acre property is now protected by Adirondack Land Trust; the organization is in the planning process to allow for public access.) Turn right on Route 186, which hooks up with Route 30 again in Lake Clear. Continue on Route 30 through Tupper Lake. In Long Lake, turn right on Route 30/28N. In Blue Mountain Lake, continue straight at the split with Route 30 and follow 28 to Old Forge.
Pit Stops: Just outside of Long Lake, the ADK Trading Post (1601 Tupper Road, www.adktradingpost.com) has groceries, gifts and some of the best breakfast sandwiches and paninis around. On Fridays through Labor Day there’s a special treat: hot or cold lobster rolls. If you need a little pick-me-up down Old Forge way, stop in to Ozzie’s Coffee Bar (3019 Route 28, on Facebook) for a coffee, tea or frozen lemonade, along with salads, hot and cold sandwiches and baked delights.
Viewpoint: You can’t beat the views from Tupper Lake’s causeway along Route 30. Unless you count the lonely
little isle in Rock Island Bay at a must-stop pulloff about seven miles past town.
Off-Road Romp: Death Brook Falls, along Route 28 in Raquette Lake, is a teensy 0.6-mile round trip, but the payoff is spectacular. Look for the trailhead near the turnoff to Golden Beach Campground.
Northern Exposure: Route 3
This northern artery travels Blue Line to Blue Line, from the river-and-field views of the Saranac Valley through the Saranac Lakes and past Tupper to Cranberry Lake. Along this water-rich way, there are options for fishing, paddling and other play—including the Wild Walk at Tupper Lake’s Wild Center (www.wildcenter.org), which brings you up into the colorful treetops.
Directions: As a side trip, take Picketts Corners Road, in Saranac, to Dannemora. Turn left onto Route 374 and climb to the top of 2,241-foot Dannemora Mountain. There’s a pulloff near the summit to fill a jug from the natural spring’s spigot before coasting back down to town, gazing at one of the North Country’s prettiest views of the High Peaks.
Pit Stops: On the east end of Route 3, Saranac Farmhouse Pantry (3223 Route 3, farmhouse-pantry.com) offers hot and cold drinks—including root-beer floats and sangria slushies—along with sandwiches, salads, baked treats and more. To the west, in Cranberry Lake, the newly reopened Birch’s Lakeside (7140 Route 3, www.lakesideoncranberry.com) has a deli and groceries as well as Adirondack gifts and souvenirs.
Off-Road Romp: At the pulloff for Ampersand Mountain (its trailhead is across the road), there’s a half-mile trail over a narrow footbridge to a backwoods beach on Middle Saranac Lake.
Moose River Plains
Hit the foliage mother lode in this remote yet vehicle-accessible 64,322-acre wild forest with a coast along a lonely dirt road. You’ll pass lakes, ponds and millions of trees but, for 22 miles, not a single house. The scenic bonanza doesn’t end once you exit the plains: there’s long, narrow Cedar River Flow; a broad, Montana-esque river valley where you may catch a glimpse of craggy Sugarloaf Mountain; and a spectacular view of Blue Mountain’s rockslides set off by multicolored slopes.
Directions: From Old Forge, take South Shore Road (Route 118) to Inlet. Turn right on Route 28, then right on Limekiln Road. Turn left on Moose River Plains Road (aka Limekiln Lake–Cedar River Road), a well-maintained dirt road. Continue onto Route 28/30 to Blue Mountain Lake, then follow Route 28 west through Raquette Lake and past the Fulton Chain of Lakes to return to Old Forge.
Pit Stop: Stock up on snacks and sandwiches at Kalil’s Grocery (169 Route 28, Inlet; on Facebook) before heading into the Plains.
Off-Road Romp: Helldiver Pond is just a 0.8-mile hop from Moose River Plains Road. The trail is designated as accessible and the small kettle pond at the end is a popular moose-spotting destination.
Around the Block
In these parts, a trip around the block is a full-day excursion, and not just because the “block” is 100 miles long. You’ll want to have your blinker finger ready for the many pulloffs and photo ops lining this drive through the heart of the Adirondacks.
Directions: From Northway Exit 29, head west on Blue Ridge Road (aka County Route 2 or Boreas Road). Watch for The Branch’s cascades, Adirondack Buffalo Farm and the balancing rock just east of the bridge over the Boreas River. Turn right (west) onto Route 28N, continuing through Newcomb and Long Lake to Blue Mountain Lake. Turn left onto Route 28/30 to Indian Lake, then follow Route 28 to North River and along the Hudson River to North Creek. Turn left onto Route 28N, then right on Olmstedville’s Main Street. Go left onto Trout Brook (aka Leonardsville) Road, turn right on Hoffman Road (Route 24) and follow to Schroon Lake. Northway Exit 28 is north of the village.
Pit Stops: North Creek is a good bet for a refill, with breakfast and lunch sandwiches, baked goods and coffee at both Izzy’s Market and Deli (282 Main Street, on Facebook) and Café Sarah (260 Main Street, on Facebook).
Viewpoint: Don’t miss the sign in Newcomb for the sweeping High Peaks panorama at Overlook Park.
Off-Road Romp: Between Blue Mountain Lake and Indian Lake sits Rock Lake trail, a 1.6-mile round trip to secluded waters with a view of Blue Mountain.
The Classics: Route 86
The trip from the Adirondack Life offices—in a little church on Jay’s village green—through Lake Placid and on to Keene Valley is packed with iconic scenery: the West Branch of the Ausable River tumbling through Wilmington Notch, the Cascade Lakes set against dark cliffs, the High Peaks rising beyond Marcy Field. The backdrop never gets old, but dressed in the splashy colors of fall it’s absolutely stunning.
Directions: From Route 9N in Jay, take Route 86 to Wilmington. At the four corners, turn left to continue on 86. Turn left onto Sentinel Road in Lake Placid, then continue onto Route 73. Follow 73 through Keene and Keene Valley.
Pit Stop: Grab adventuring provisions at Keene’s Cedar Run Bakery & Market (2 Grist Mill Lane, cedarrunbakery.com), with its rotating stock of grab-and-go sandwiches, salads and buddha bowls, including a variety of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options.
Viewpoint: The Jay Covered Bridge stretches across a picture-perfect span of the East Branch of the Ausable River. From the four corners on 9N, turn onto John Fountain Road. Parking is on the right.
Our network of roads weave across the Adirondack Park, snaking through forests, along lakes and rivers, and around, up and over mountains, dicing up wildlife pathways. To respect and protect our wild neighbors, slow down where they pass. Use caution on warm, rainy spring nights when frogs and salamanders are on the move, as well as in fall, when deer are more likely to sprint across roadways. The Adirondack Council’s Rewilding Advocate John Davis says, “The tragedy of roadkill could be ended” if our infrastructure, particularly along Interstate 87, followed the example of places such as Banff National Park, in Alberta, where wildlife overpasses have proven their worth, reducing animal and motorist deaths.