Woods & Water: One of the most famous draws to the area, outdoor opportunities in the Central Adirondacks are favored by legions of new and returning Adirondack visitors. The area’s variety of outdoor recreation opportunities is immense, but here are some good places to start. Hikers can choose anything from level, flat lake and trail loops to steeper mountain grades to trek, and there’s no shortage of routes around.
Cyclists can take advantage of Old Forge’s extensive snowmobile trail system, which becomes a recreational mountain biker’s playground once the snow melts. Follow the trail system laid out on the snowmobile maps and create a customized route, or take a spin on the trails that run close to Carter Station for a few miles of wooded rides with ponds to stop by for a rest or a picnic. Dedicated trail networks for each level of cyclist are available at Fern Park, Maple Ridge, and McCauley Mountain. And road bikers rejoice: the loop that Route 28 and South Shore Road forms around the first four lakes in the Fulton Chain is an excellent excursion. South Shore has much less traffic and gentler hills, while Route 28 is best for a more experienced biker due to higher traffic volume and steeper grades. This stretch connects Old Forge to Inlet, and there are plenty of things to do and see along the way; take advantage of the fun that one town has to offer, and then hop on your bike and head to the other.
Paddling is extra-sweet in the Central Adirondacks. Over 12 miles of the upper section of the Moose River are open for flatwater paddling from various put-ins with only one portage. Furthest upstream, near Eagle Bay, Rondaxe Road’s bridge is a great launch; just outside of Old Forge, at North Street, the red, white and blue bridge is an excellent start. Green Bridge, further downstream, has a put-in spot as well. If lakes sound more appealing, check out the put in at smaller lakes like Moss, or take on the Fulton Chain. The First through Fourth Lake segment sees more motor traffic, but Seventh and Eighth lakes, just past Inlet, offer more in the way of secluded paddling. Big Moose Lake is a short drive from Eagle Bay and provides a quiet paddling experience. A few miles past Big Moose, Stillwater Reservoir features dozens of designated campsites on one of the most remote and pristine bodies of water in the Adirondacks. Stillwater provides enough exploratory opportunities for a week, but smaller sections can be explored in an afternoon. Motor traffic is allowed, but stays largely within the designated channel, and the fishing is some of the best in the area. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, try whitewater rafting. Whitewater Challengers and Adirondack River Outfitters run trips suited for adventurers of every skill and experience level on the Moose River from May to October.
Tours and Attractions: For a different take on nature, take off for a scenic seaplane ride or saddle up for a horseback ride. Seaplane rides from Seventh Lake allow a one-of-a-kind view of the Adirondacks. The extensive trail network in the region provides enough terrain for anything from an hour of horseback riding to a full-day adventure, and trips to Cascade Lake, Cascade Falls, Moss Lake or a general Adirondack woods tour are popular options. Those who crave a bird’s eye view of the area but don’t want to hit the trail or board a plane can still take in the sights at the McCauley Mountain chairlift, which remains open during the summer for scenic rides. The views extend to the whole Fulton Chain, and the ride is an excellent way to take in world-class Adirondack views without a strenuous hike.
Enchanted Forest/Water Safari in Old Forge is one of the area’s most famous attractions, and New York State’s largest water theme park has earned its reputation as one of the best. The park offers more than 50 rides, including over 30 water rides. Games, food, a petting zoo and a kids’ area round out the selection to make this an all-ages favorite stop. They also offers stay-and-play packages with the Old Forge Camping Resort and the Water’s Edge Hotel, for those looking to make the experience last longer than a day.
The Loomis Brothers’ modern-day counterparts “rob” the Adirondack Scenic Railroad’s passenger train on scheduled rides throughout the summer. This unique ride is ideal for adventurous kids and adults alike, or anyone who has wondered what the 1800s were like in the Adirondacks. Scenic boat tours along the Fulton Chain range from two to four hours and choices include sunset, sightseeing, and heritage cruises; and on certain summer nights, fireworks cruises. Other unique options include a mail boat tour, where up to ten passengers can ride along on a narrated historical tour with stops to deliver mail to lakeshore homes.
Museums and Art: Local museums and galleries make the Central Adirondacks a culture enthusiast’s playground. Old Forge’s new Arts Center, the View, is a local treasure. A brand new, eco-friendly building was unveiled in 2010. Beautiful architecture and a state-of-the-art facility are just a few the View’s highlights. With an extensive list of exhibits and a growing list of workshops and classes, the View is the nucleus of the Central Adirondack arts community. Nearby, local artists and business owners form a patchwork of unique art shops and galleries in Old Forge and Inlet, each with its own distinctive feel. Set aside a few hours to explore, and you’re sure to walk away with a new understanding of the area, its arts and culture, and even a new piece of artwork for your collection.
Those looking to get a glimpse into the area’s history will be pleased to find the variety of resources available to them here. In Old Forge, Town of Webb Historical Association’s Goodsell Museum is includes an Adirondack exhibit, and the museum’s research library houses an extensive collection of books, maps, vintage photographs, business records and genealogy records are all available to the public.
Shopping and Dining: Shopping and dining in the Central Adirondacks provide as much diversity as outdoor pursuits do. Specialty stores, souvenir shops, bookstores, clothing stores, art galleries, craft shops and more line the streets, providing hours of browsing potential. Locally created Adirondack-inspired art, books, jewelry and souvenirs can be found behind every window and storefront. Some shops, like Old Forge Hardware, even boast a bit of local history themselves; the “Adirondacks’ Most General Store” is housed in an historic building, constructed in 1922.
When stomachs start to growl, remember that the area has no shortage of pubs, restaurants, ice cream stands and other eateries. Main Street Station from Big Moose and Tony Harper’s from Raquette Lake bring a taste of the Adirondack’s favorite establishments into Old Forge. You’ll find authentic Italian at Billy’s Restaurant, American fare at the Old Mill and diner classics and local specialties at Walt’s Diner. A gourmet bistro with vegetarian and vegan offerings, a full-service coffee shop and a variety of pubs and diners round out the sit-down options. Ice cream stands and arcades offer informal fare. Stop by Old Forge’s Montezuma Winery for a tasting of all their signature varieties, including a honey wine called mead and a variety of summery fruit-based options. Pick up a bottle of wine then stop by one of the local farmer’s markets to gather the rest of your picnic. Old Forge’s Farmer’s Market, behind Main Street on Joy Tract Road, is open from 2 – 6 every Friday of the summer season and provides shopping as well as a chance to pick up the freshest ingredients and try some new foods. Inlet’s ongoing produce market boasts a selection of plants and flowers in addition to its fresh food offerings for an extra splash of summer.
However you choose to spend your time here, be sure to take time to sample every chance for vacation fun that can be found in the Central Adirondacks. With just a little bit of planning, it’s easy to create the perfect trip to suit your tastes and keep you coming back for many summers to come!