Submitted by guest blogger Olivia Dwyer
Even as volunteers dug and mapped 75 miles of mountain bike trails within minutes of her house, Lake Placid resident Sophie McClelland chose to get her adventure fix the old-fashioned way: in hiking boots, exploring the region by foot.
“It’s hard to invest in a mountain bike when you can explore out the front door on your feet,” says the 29-year-old, whose knowledge of the area’s hiking trails and swimming holes is encyclopedic.
But then a friend loaned McClelland a hardtail bike. And suddenly, she understood what the big deal was all about. “Mountain biking is not just about an ultimate destination,” she says. “It’s about all the thrills along the way.”
Part of the fun is a rapidly growing off-road cycling community. McClelland rattles off the group rides she can join each week: a Lake Placid cruise each Wednesday. The women’s ride on Thursdays. Friday means Hardy Hour in Wilmington, and Sundays take her to Elizabethtown for an Otis Mountain meetup. “We’re trying to make the most of the landscape and have some fun,” she says. That doesn’t stop at the trailhead — beers, barbecues, or a river dip often follow.
Like many of the region’s riders, McClelland is a member of the Barkeater Trails Alliance (BETA), a nonprofit that builds and maintains bike trails in the region. Executive Director Josh Wilson credits BETA’s dedicated volunteer workforce with creating most of the region’s trails in less than 10 years. “You earn trail karma and meet local riders,” he says.
As BETA grows, the local scene thrives. The organization has mapped trails in four towns; find a foldable, water-resistant guide ($16) at area bike shops. BETA supporters also uploaded local trail beta to the Trailforks app. The group’s members near and far gather on Labor Day weekend for the Wilmington MTB Festival, heading out for group rides and clinics each day before live music and a bonfire. And watch for a new project: up to 30 miles of singletrack in the Saranac Lakes Wild Forest.
McClelland will be there, too. She joined the BETA board three years ago — a sign she’s all-in on mountain biking and the sport’s growing presence in the Adirondacks. “I love the rugged terrain, and the tight features test your focus and reaction times,” she says. “And when I pick up a tool and dig, I’ve contributed to our trails and helping everyone else get out, too.”
To follow in McClelland’s tracks, start at local bike shops. Find repairs and service at outposts such as Keene’s LeepOff Cycles (23 Market Street; 518-524-0212) and Saranac Lake’s Human Power Planet Earth Bicycle Shop (52 Dorsey Street; 518-354-8497). Visit Lake Placid for rentals: Placid Planet (2242 Saranac Avenue; 518-523-4128) offers Specialized hardtails and full-suspension rigs from $35 a day, while High Peaks Cyclery stocks a selection of Giant, Yeti Cycles and Liv models with aluminum and carbon frame options starting at $100 a day.
Geared up? Use the guide below to pedal through a weekend tour of Adirondack singletrack.
Welcome to the ultimate outdoor playground. Renowned for Whiteface Mountain’s quad-burning ski slopes and the Ausable River’s pristine trout fisheries, this mountain town now features 25 miles of bike trails.
Start Here: A progression-friendly layout waits on Hardy Road. Hone skills down low on Coniferous, a buffed, 0.6-mile loop blanketed in soft pine needles. Then climb All In, a three-mile lollipop, and catch natural airs on the descent.
High Gear: The Poor Man’s Downhill plummets 1,318 vertical feet over three miles, a straight shot through rocky terrain. A free town shuttle helps bikers tally laps on some summer weekends; call 518-946-2255 for more information.
Eat & Drink: Explore eight miles more on the Flume Trails on Route 86, then mosey next door to R.F. McDougall’s Pub. Order a Black & Bleu burger and choose an adult beverage from nine rotating taps.
The county seat was a gateway to the Adirondacks back in the rail and stagecoach days. Nowadays, two-wheeled transportation is all the rage.
Start Here: Tucked off Route 9N just 2.5 miles from the high street, the Blueberry Hill system counts 12 miles of trail. Hulbert meanders through low valleys, while Giant View cranks uphill for a look at the 4,627-foot High Peak.
High Gear: “Dirt Church” convenes at Otis Mountain on Sunday mornings at 9 a.m. Steep hillsides hint at the 600-acre zone’s previous life as a mom-and-pop ski area. Let gravity take over on Flowbee, which drops 500 vertical feet through sun-dappled forest.
Eat & Drink: The Deer’s Head Inn has welcomed dirt-spattered travelers since 1808. Lamb chops and cave-aged cheese highlight the farm-to-table menu. Catch zzz’s in renovated quarters upstairs (rooms from $125).
Locals DIY-ed mountain bike trails in New York’s Olympic village two decades back. Those burly tracks remain, joined by beginner-friendly networks off Bear Cub Road and flowy singletrack by Craig Wood Golf Club.
Start Here: Mount Van Hoevenberg offers on-site bike rentals and lessons for all ages, from toddlers on balance bikes and up. Access 30 kilometers of beginner and intermediate trails with a $10 day pass.
High Gear: The Lakeshore Trail lives up to its name. A technical stretch that jumps and rolls above Lake Placid’s edge, find it off the Jackrabbit Trail from the Hadjis Way trailhead.
Eat and Drink: Keegan Kramer, co-owner of Liquids and Solids, pedals Lake Placid trails daily in summer. Stop by for poutine with pickle gravy, washed down with Maine Beer Company’s Woods & Waters IPA, and a side of local trail intel.
If you are looking for a beer brewed just for the Barkeater Trails Alliance, ask for BETA Beer after your ride. A portion of every sale goes directly to support the building and maintenance of the trails. This hazy IPA brewed by Big Slide Brewery and Public House is refreshing and goes to a great cause.
While BETA volunteers build out the new Saranac Lakes Wild Forest—look for volunteer opportunities here or on the group’s Facebook page—get your legs ready at dual networks close to Main Street amenities.
Start Here: Mount Pisgah Ski Area serves up 5 miles of singletrack come summer. Pick a scenic, intermediate route uphill through hardwood forest. Or take a cue from the kids pushing their bikes up grassy ski trails to access The Cure’s machine-built berms.
High Gear: Head southwest of town on Route 3, where 5.5 miles of bike routes switchback uphill from Dewey Mountain Recreation Center. Warm up on Monopoly, a 1-mile trail built in 2018, and then power through steep, rocky climbs to top out on Mumbly Peg.
Eat and Drink: Get your java fix at Origin Coffee Co. Look for BETA’s Josh Wilson serving up espresso and breakfast sammies loaded with two eggs, bacon, avocado, and cheddar.
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