The Northeast can sometimes be tough on riders, but Upstate New York offers an experience that is much lighter in traffic and heavier in hospitality. Here you’ll find historic villages woven together like a fine American quilt. There is lush farmland, brimming with colors during the autumn, and sparkling with flowers and greenery during the summer and spring. You can wiz through old forests and rolling hills, glide past lazy rivers, zig-zag through backroads, and climb up soaring peaks.
If that isn’t enough to whet your appetite, just think of the stunning lakes. A simple ride around the circumference of a lake is pretty much as complicated as a good ride in Upstate New York needs to get. All that riding builds up an appetite, and there’s no better state to tuck into an old tavern and enjoy a well-deserved burger after a great day. (And if you’re so inclined, a cold beer)
We’re about to give you the lowdown on some of the most famous, and glorious, rides in the region. If you’re facing those winter blues and just aren’t getting out on the bike as much as you’d like this time of year, then allow this little tour to take you out on the road in spirit.
Let’s dive right in and start with one of the best rides in New York. The Adirondacks are known for their majestic mountains which form a circular dome, reaching about 1 mile high. The highlight here is Lake Placid, among the Fulton Chain of Lakes. Start from Route 90’s exit in Utica, and then head onto Route 12 North. This will lead you to Route 28 North and ultimately Route 30 near Blue Mountain Lake. Be sure to have a leisurely ride around the lake, and pop into the Adirondack Museum for a bit of history.
The Adirondack Hotel on Long Lake is a great place to have lunch, or even stay for the night. Be sure to try the Poutine. (Canadian animal-style fries with cheese curds. Just saying). Now, if you’re ready to keep riding, head towards Tupper Lake by way of Route 3 East, on to Route 86, and find yourself at Lake Placid. The village is a great place to stop at the end of a long day and the Lake Placid Pub & Brewery is where you can celebrate. Try the Schulzy, a juicy burger with cheddar and American cheeses, bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayo, and ketchup. Doesn’t get any more classic than that.
Central New York
The center of the state offers some pretty pristine rides, if you know where to go. The Eastern Gateway to Skaneateles is ripe with opportunities for riders. You’ll encounter 13 curves along the way. According to legend, there is a ghost that haunts those curves, and she’s wearing her vintage prom dress. It’s unclear as to whether or not she’s single. Take St. Agnes Hill to Route 175, then Cedervale Road. Proceed to Route 20 and stop for soft serve ice cream at a place called Skan-ellus.
Once you’re full of dairy, head west on 20 to Skaneateles. Lunch at Lakehouse Pub is in order at that point, and the Roast Beef Sandwich is recommended. This is a motorcycle-friendly joint, so make yourself at home. If that place is packed, and it sometimes is, head four miles north to the Red Rooster Pub. This great little roadhouse joint has a patio, so if it’s a nice day you and your fellow riders can enjoy lunch al fresco. Head back to Syracuse from here by continuing up Jordan Road to Route 5, then hang a right. This ride will offer you about 42 miles of contentment.
The Catskill Preserve
If you’re looking for a 4-hour tour, the Catskill Preserve is the answer. Nobody ever regrets a day spent in the Catskills, and when you experience it on your motorcycle it’s ten-times better. You’ll find that the roads in the Catskills don’t get a lot of traffic, and the pavement is quite smooth, so it’s ideal for a peaceful ride.
Experience long stretches of open road, as well as stunning panoramic mountain vistas along Route 23. A good place to start is the town of Catskill, taking Route 23 West to Durso Corner, onto Route 29, and back to Route 23 for a twisty, winding thrill ride looping you into Catskill again. This 200-mile journey goes past babbling brooks, reservoirs, and a number of fun, quaint towns along the way. Please be sure to check out The New York Restaurant, with legendary pierogis and French onion soup.
For a shorter ride, maybe about 45 minutes, there’s the Mohawk Towpath Scenic Byway. This twisting stretch of road takes you along the Mohawk River just north of Albany. It makes for a lovely afternoon ride, and aside from the well-maintained twisty roads, you’ll also enjoy lovely scenery and numerous historic towns along the way.
Start in Schenectady, then wiz along the tree-lined stretch curving along Mohawk and old portions of the Erie Canal. Check out the Vischer Ferry Nature Preserve and stop for a picnic lunch. Or if there’s no grub in your saddlebag, pop into the Vischer Ferry General Store (Closed Monday-Wednesday). This ride is not complete until you behold Cohoes Falls and the Cohoes Falls Overview Park.
State Route 3
We’re going to end our little Upstate New York tour with the behemoth. A solid ride along State Route 3 is unforgettable, and offers you about 170 miles of serenity. Route 3 travels east to west, from Plattsburgh along the banks of Lake Ontario and then down to Keeseville in Western New York. This is perhaps one of the best mountain rides that New York has to offer. You’ll enjoy the soaring High Peaks Wilderness Area, Natural Bridge, Saranac Lake, Cranberry Lake, Lake Placid, and Wilmington; a beautiful destination town.
These are smooth roads, so no real challenge if you’re a novice rider. But there are plenty of twists and turns to pique your interest. Be sure to ride to the top of Whiteface Mountain, then twist your way around sparkling lakes, dense wilderness, and enjoy the unforgettable memories made along the journey. Lounge on the deck of the Wilderness Inn II in Wilmington for some remarkable seafood. Oh, and there’s the “Saturday Night Prime Rib Special.” Who can argue with that?
Upstate is great for motorcyclists, not just for its beauty, but because it gives you that feeling of getting away from it all. God smiled down on gear heads when he created this remarkable region of New York State.