Some bikers, like me, are looking for back roads, no traffic. Winding, up-and-down dirt roads where the pickups don’t come flying by at 65 miles per hour. Not the single-track obstacle courses favored by many of the devotees of mountain bikes, but hard-packed dirt roads, where two people can ride side by side, talk about the scenery, get some good exercise, and not worry about either speed records or motorized traffic.
There’s an ideal place for this sort of biking in the Town of Newcomb, in the Essex Chain Lakes Complex recently bought by the state and opened to the public in 2015. I took my fat-tire bike there one sunny day late last August, got to see some new territory, and worked up a serious sweat.
I drove in to the Deer Pond parking area, unloaded my bike, and set off, heading east. It’s rolling and occasionally steep, right from the start. (The roads in there are a little confusing and not yet well marked, so before you go, download this map from the DEC.)
The first lake you come to is Fifth Lake, a lovely, characteristically Adirondack pond, which empties, in a not exactly scenic way, into Fourth Lake through a huge culvert, over which the road passes.
From there you bend south and pedal through the woods to a junction, marked, with humor, by the rod-and-gun club that used to lease these lands. Turn right, and you’ll head south toward Indian Lake. Bear left, as I did, and you continue east, toward the Hudson.
I huffed and puffed, up one hill and down another, as the road winds through the woods, sometimes with vistas across some recent logging sites, more often with the forest up close. I passed a side trail to Jackson Pond, saving it for my return trip, and eventually made my way to what is known as the Polaris Bridge, straddling the wild Hudson River. Good place for lunch.
At this point the road going further east is closed to the public, so it was time to head back to the car, retracing my route, with a detour to Jackson Pond, probably the scenic highlight of the day. This is a stunning little body of water that no car or truck can reach. You can walk to it or ride your bike. No motors on it, and no motors can reach it. Idyllic—the Adirondacks at their best.
Don’t forget your water bottle!
Info on the Essex Chain of Lake Biking from the NYS DEC website. Link Here.
General information on biking includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations.
Nearly 20 miles of administrative roads in the Complex are open for bicycling. The roads open for bicycle use are in Bike Map and in the following list:
• 8.5 miles of the Chain Lakes Road North from the Goodnow Flow Road to the Cedar River;
• 1.5 miles of the Drake’s Mill Road from Chain Lakes Road North to the Hudson River Access Site at the Polaris (Iron) Bridge;
• 2.5 miles of road from the Chain Lakes Road North to the Deer Pond Parking Area;
• 2.5 miles of road looping around Deer Pond;
• 0.3 mile of road from Chain Lakes North to Jackson Pond;
• 3.0 miles of the Chain Lakes Road South from the Outer Gooley Parking Area to the Cedar River; and
• 1.0 mile of road from the Chain Lakes Road South to Pine Lake.
Best access to the Essex Chain of Lakes from Long Lake is via the Town of Newcomb and down Goodnow Flow Road. Long Lake offers year-round accommodations, lodgings, gas, retail and convenience stores. Long Lake is centrally located to a great variety of Adirondack recreation for all skill levels.
Biking is prohibited beyond the Polaris (Iron) Bridge into the Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest.
Bicyclist should not travel on the Goodnow Flow Road beyond the intersection with the Chain Lakes Road North. The Goodnow Flow Road becomes a private road shortly after the DEC sign for “Essex Chain Lakes and Hudson River Access” sign at the intersection with the Chain Lakes Road North. Turn left at the sign on to the Chain Lakes Road North.
Thanks to Andy Murray for his guest writing.