July 2019 - BICYCLING
banner photo: Dave Kraus/KrausGrafik.com
Fulton Chain of Lakes: A Great Ride – and Adventure Too
By Dave Kraus
The smooth roads, pristine forests, and blue lakes of the Fulton Chain of Lakes in the Adirondacks offer everything a road cyclist could ask for in a great ride. But do you crave a bit of adventure? Well, you can have that, too.
This easily accessible area of the central Adirondacks offers two different routes in particular that let you experience the best of the many lakes and scenic views in the area. They share many of the same roads, but one sticks to pavement while the other adds a dose of gravel road challenge.
Start either one of these rides at the public pier in Raquette Lake, a hamlet in the town of Long Lake, just off NY Route 28 that perches on the shore of its namesake. There’s plenty of parking and beautiful views across the water to the mountains beyond in the Sargent Pond Wild Forest, plus plenty of spots to relax by the water when you finish your ride.
Head back over past the church to Route 28, turn right, and the adventure begins. The highway alternates between passing through forest and giving glimpses of the many lakes that form the “chain.” After only seven miles, don’t miss the photo opportunity at the Seventh Lake Boat Launch, where floating docks let you actually get out on the lake. It’s a great place to stop and offers an alternate start and finish point. Then continue on the wide-open road to your first rest stop in the friendly town of Inlet, at the east end (inlet) of Fourth Lake.
Just before you turn left on South Shore Road, the Pedals & Petals shop offers a unique combination of bikes, accessories, flowers, and Adirondack themed gifts. Owner, and certified mechanic, Ted Christodaro has you covered. There are popular cycling energy snacks, and other shops in the village offer a wide variety of food and supplies. In alternate years, the village is both the start and finish line for the annual Black Fly Challenge: Adirondack Gravel Grinder race through the nearby Moose River Recreation Area.
As you cruise toward Old Forge on South Shore Road, you won’t see much of the lake, but you’ll get a good dose of the best the Adirondacks has to offer in wide open, smooth roads through the forest. Drop the hammer and do some intervals if you like. Or just pedal at a comfortable pace and enjoy some conversation. There’s plenty of room to stretch your legs as you ride southwest.
At mile 22, you will pedal into Old Forge, a popular western gateway to the Adirondacks and tourist destination in the town of Webb. There’s plenty of entertainment and services for travelers, and no shortage of food and drink stops at this midpoint in your ride. There’s even a hometown beverage at Fulton Chain Craft Brewery, where brews with names like Bearded Lager, Flooded Tent, and Stealth Buddha grace the menu. Make sure to stop in town and explore. The community has been there since 1798, and early 19th century settler Nat Foster is reputed to have been the inspiration for James Fenimore Cooper’s character of “Natty Bumppo” in “The Last of The Mohicans,” and other books.
After you’ve rested, head back northeast in the sunshine on Route 28 toward Eagle Bay, on the border of Herkimer and Hamilton counties, where the visitor center at mile 32 offers water and restrooms. Shortly after you leave, you arrive at the intersection of Route 28 and Uncas Road (near Inlet), where you will have to make a decision: head straight back to Raquette Lake on the highway, or take the road less travelled to some unpaved exploits.
Well, of course you’re the adventurous type, so turn left on Uncas Road and head into the forest, where the pavement ends at mile 34. You will pass vacation cabins, nestled in the woods as Uncas turns into Brown’s Tract Road, and enters Adirondack State Park land. The forest deepens, and you get a good idea of why this area was so hard to settle in the early 1800s. The forest, just off the road looks thick and impenetrable, and from mid-May through late-June the black flies can be merciless. Just remember it could be twice as bad. Only the females bite.
If you’re on a narrow-tire road bike, this is the time to take it easy. Go slow on this seasonal gravel lane, especially on the downhills, and keep your eyes open for hazards. Just be alert and this road will work fine for your road bike. Just make sure you have a spare tube with you just in case.
The forest is shaded and quiet, and there’s no sound save for the singing birds, and your own pedaling. Keep your eyes out for water to your left as you pass Upper and Lower Ponds, and then Brown’s Tract Pond Campground (run by NYS DEC) near Raquette Lake. If you’re a camper, take note. The sites here are shaded, remote and quiet.
Now get ready for some climbing as you tackle several short but steep grades. It’s the last ridge before you make the final turn back onto pavement at Antlers Road. From here it’s only a short downhill back to your car on the shore at Raquette Lake.
Now your biggest decision is which of the local eateries you want to celebrate your ride. Book a dinner date with Raquette Lake Navigation Company to enjoy dinner aboard the W.W. Durant as it sails on Raquette Lake. Or, head west to Inlet or Old Forge, or east to Long Lake, Indian Lake or Garnet Hill Lodge in North River.
You could also visit nearby Adirondack Experience, the museum on Blue Mountain Lake, that brings Adirondack history to life. The central Adirondacks makes a great weekend destination with your ride on Saturday and a day of discovery or recovery on Sunday. Or ride Saturday and go paddling or hiking on Sunday. Many of the Fulton Chain of Lakes are connected and the choices are endless.
Your adventure is complete! Paved option: ridewithgps.com/routes/30188431. Dirt option: ridewithgps.com/routes/30159071.
Dave Kraus (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a longtime Capital Region cyclist, photographer and writer who was impressed by his first visit to Fulton Chain Lakes.