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Old 02-22-2022, 04:24 PM   #1
Sinite
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Backcountry Bikepacking trail access?

I am trying to find some general rules without having to go through each UMP which may not be up to date looking for bike accessible trails. Is there any one place that I can find this information?
For example, bikes are allowed on trails in "wild forest", but not in "wilderness" areas?
I have been hiking and canoe tripping in the ADKS for years. Looking to add a new dimension with my fat bike/bikeraft setup.
Thanks in advance!
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Old 02-22-2022, 05:33 PM   #2
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With regards to destinations for bike packing, the Lake George Wild Forest is the first area that comes to mind. I can think of a few others- I'll write a longer post later tonight.

EDIT: I deleted most of the content of this post as it wasn't quite 100% accurate. See my post below for better info!

Last edited by DSettahr; 02-22-2022 at 07:43 PM..
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Old 02-22-2022, 06:19 PM   #3
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Thanks so much! I tried googling this info but must not have used the right phrases or something.
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Old 02-22-2022, 07:39 PM   #4
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One tool that can be helpful in figuring out just where you can legally ride your bike is the DECInfo Locator interactive map. Under the "Outdoor Activity" tab there is a "Trails" tab. You can use this to bring up a layer showing those trails that (in theory) have been designated by the DEC as open to public bicycle use. There's a caveat here though- in some cases, the DECInfo Locator is a bit less accurate than you'd expect an "official" source of information to be. And of course, just because a trail is listed as legally open to bicycle use, doesn't necessarily mean that it's feasible to actually be able to ride a bike on it.

Last edited by DSettahr; 02-23-2022 at 02:49 AM..
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Old 02-22-2022, 07:52 PM   #5
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With regards to specific destinations-

Again, the Lake George Wild Forest is the first place that comes to mind. Most of the trails on the east side of Lake George are designated as open to bicycle use, and there's a number of nice lean-tos situated on small lakes and ponds in the Sleeping Beauty/Erebus Mountain/Black Mountain vicinity.

(Interesting to note that apparently none of the Tongue Mountain Range trails are open to bicycle use, at least according to the DECInfo Mapper. They would not be the easiest rides in any case.)

The Essex Chain area would allow you to combine biking and paddling... but it's also not a very big area. I.e., you can bike pretty much all of it- or paddle pretty much all of it- in a single day. It is a nice area, though, and now that it's no longer "new" the use has died down to fairly low levels so there's a decent chance of solitude. Campfires are allowed there now, also.

The Fish Creek area might also give you some opportunities to combine paddling and hiking. Another nearby option is the St. Regis Canoe Area- bicycles are permitted on the administrative access road to Fish Pond (although not on any other trails in the Canoe Area), which is in the heart of this area.

Another possibility is the Black River Wild Forest in the southwestern Adirondacks, where there's a decent network of snowmobile trails that are also open to bicycle use that connect a number of backcountry lakes and ponds in the area. There's also a few lean-tos scattered throughout this area, some of which are quite nice.
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Old 02-22-2022, 09:10 PM   #6
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A couple follow ups - Fish Creek is good for riding. All the trails I know of in the Saranac Lakes WF are legal to ride. Those that go around the ponds south of the Canoe Area. You are limited to the Truck Trail in the SRCA, but it's a good trip out there. You could probably put a couple days together there.

BRWF would not necessarily be tops on my list, but there are some sections that aren't bad. Most issues arise from wet spots but the snowmobile trail out to Remsen Falls LT isn't bad. I haven't ridden the whole thing in years, but I hiked it not long ago and it looked better or as good as it ever was. I wouldn't recommend going around Nicks Lake though - that trail is much more difficult and you'll be pushing a lot. McKeever side is not bad, mostly road though. South toward Chub lake I'd avoid due to extensive flat, muddy spots. Connecting any of the areas described above is not easy or practical without some road riding.

The trails around 8th Lake in Moose River Plains WF are quite good. Dry and easy to follow. There's a number of ways you could loop around in there but you won't go all that far. Uncas road is dirt and low use which connects to those trails and would allow a loop.

MRPWF between Inlet and Indian Lake is OK. There are some spots where you can take old logging roads to a campsite or pond, but overall it's mostly dirt road riding.


I had never considered Hogtown LGWF for riding, but that might not be bad (I didn't realize those trails were legal). It does get a lot of foot traffic, but there are trails that are old roads and graded, and wouldn't too bad to climb on a bike.

Last edited by montcalm; 02-23-2022 at 08:02 PM.. Reason: Remsen not Nelson
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Old 02-23-2022, 01:54 AM   #7
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Thanks guys, this is very helpful!
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Old 02-23-2022, 07:46 AM   #8
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So I should've gone with my original knowledge/instincts- there is a regulation that clearly spells out where bicicyles can be used in the Adirondack Park, it's just not in the "Use of State Lands" section of the regs. You can view the regulation online here.

In a nutshell:
  • Wilderness Areas: Prohibited
  • Primitive/Canoe Areas: Only on specific trails designated as open to bicycle use by the DEC
  • Wild Forest Areas: All trails unless they are posted as closed to bicycles.
My original post was pretty much right on the money... shouldn't have second guessed myself!
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Old 02-23-2022, 10:59 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DSettahr View Post
Wild Forest Areas: All trails unless they are posted as closed to bicycles
I would certainly take that with a grain of salt i.e. just because you can, doesn't mean you want to!


There's no shortage of miserable trails - some quite miserable just with a bike and no overnight gear. Many people have moved on to riding on bike-specific trails but obviously that's not going to be great for bikepacking. I've never done any bikepacking myself, but having ridden a lot up here I can say that unless you're using old roads or snowmobile trail, you're most likely going to be doing more walking than riding (in which case, isn't it just backpacking?)


There's a fairly good guide that was published online of bike trails in the park with a "misery" rating. I bet with some googling you could find it. If I can find it again I'll post it - I'm sure I've posted it on this forum before in the past.
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Old 02-23-2022, 08:16 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by montcalm View Post
I would certainly take that with a grain of salt i.e. just because you can, doesn't mean you want to!
Yes, as stated above:

Quote:
Originally Posted by DSettahr View Post
And of course, just because a trail is listed as legally open to bicycle use, doesn't necessarily mean that it's feasible to actually be able to ride a bike on it.
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Old 02-23-2022, 08:20 PM   #11
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Sorry I missed that!

But to my point, there are other references on the matter. I noticed the DEC page for most UMPs list all the bike trails, and the ones I looked at I know were fairly ridable. I do know there are a number that are legal that are really walking the line.
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Old 02-23-2022, 09:15 PM   #12
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I'm glad that it is a simple rule in Wilderness and Wild Forest areas, as I had vaguely thought that was the case and have been acting accordingly for a long while. I remember asking in 2012 or so if it was legal to hide my bike in the woods near the road in a Wilderness Area where I was camping, and as I recall I was told that as long as I didn't ride it in the WA or leave it there for long enough for it to be considered abandoned that it was probably OK, so I've done that at various times. I'm looking forward to exploring some of the snowmobile trails in the Tupper Lake area to see if they are bikable in the summer and if they provide access to places I might want to go to hike.
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Old 02-23-2022, 10:58 PM   #13
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You might be interested in biking opportunities in the Watson's East Triangle Wild Forest, northeast of Croghan. In the 1970's I bought a beast of a tough heavy mountain bike, a Miyata, to ride in there. My reason was previous to that I walked with heavy pack the 9-12 miles on the Bear Pond entry road just to get in to where I could bushwhack further in. I think that was before there were any restrictions about bikes in wilderness areas, as I also rode the old logging roads north of Stillwater between the Pepperbox and 5 Ponds, with full knowledge and assistance of the local forest ranger at the time.


From the DEC website:
All roads and trails (except snowmobile trails) within the WETWF are open for biking. No bikes are allowed on the Primitive Corridors.

The gentle terrain, woodlands and a good road and trail system on the Croghan Tract CE provide a great biking opportunity. Bikers can use Main Haul Road and the snowmobile trails for a 10-mile loop that gently ascends and descends less than 500 feet. Bikes are allowed on all roads and trails on the easement but are prohibited from entering Pepperbox Wilderness.

All roads and trails (except snowmobile trails) within the WETWF are open for biking. No bikes are allowed on the Primitive Corridors.

The gentle terrain, woodlands and a good road and trail system on the Croghan Tract CE provide a great biking opportunity. Bikers can use Main Haul Road and the snowmobile trails for a 10-mile loop that gently ascends and descends less than 500 feet. Bikes are allowed on all roads and trails on the easement but are prohibited from entering Pepperbox Wilderness.

On the Oswegatchie CE, biking is allowed on all roads.
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Old 02-24-2022, 08:11 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zach View Post
I'm glad that it is a simple rule in Wilderness and Wild Forest areas, as I had vaguely thought that was the case and have been acting accordingly for a long while. I remember asking in 2012 or so if it was legal to hide my bike in the woods near the road in a Wilderness Area where I was camping, and as I recall I was told that as long as I didn't ride it in the WA or leave it there for long enough for it to be considered abandoned that it was probably OK, so I've done that at various times. I'm looking forward to exploring some of the snowmobile trails in the Tupper Lake area to see if they are bikable in the summer and if they provide access to places I might want to go to hike.
I would exercise some caution with snowmobile trails- a lot of them pass onto portions of conservation easements and/or private property that may or may not be open to public use outside of snowmobile season, and may or may not be open to bicycle use during any part of the year. It depends on the terms of the conservation easement and/or the decision of the land owner.

Generally speaking, if you stick to those portions of snowmobile trails that are on Wild Forest Lands only you should be OK in a legal sense. (Not so sure about a feasible sense... some snowmobile trails can get pretty wet/mucky in the warmer months.)

Another other small but important consideration with riding bikes on snowmobile trails- there is an exception to the Wilderness/Wild Forest policies that allows for snowmobile trails within designated Wilderness Areas if they are in close proximity to a public road (I forget the exact distance but it's a few hundred feet). While it would seem reasonable that bikes would also be permitted on those same trails, the bicycle regulations don't make any such exception.
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Old 02-24-2022, 11:28 AM   #15
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Legal issues aside, my general experience with snowmobile trails and biking is that it'll likely be good for biking if others are using it for such.

Snowmobile trails tend to get very brushy if not used in the warm months. They also rely on the ground being frozen for travel, so some do go through muck. But I'm actually surprised at the number which are very dry. Even though they are a motor vehicle trail, and it's often not the case, occasionally they will be very stony - and particularly large, round stones that are very difficult to ride through or over. IME these section usually do not last long, but at times they can be very rough and rocky - at others, a smooth, soft road or narrow burned-in singletrack through grasses.

A mountian bike is not always necessary, but is recommended. I've ridden various bike from all-out trail full-suspension bikes to gravel bikes with skinny tires and small knobs. Ideally, I've found the former way overkill and the latter sometimes outgunned - YMMV.
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Old 02-24-2022, 12:36 PM   #16
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Thanks, those are important things to bear in mind. I was thinking of some of the old roads that are used as snowmobile trails in Piercefield, but I think a lot of those pass over easements and I will need to look into the legality of bicycle use there.

My only bike for the last 11 years has been a Trek 520 touring bike with 35mm touring tires, so it does fine on dirt roads and some paths that are on old roads, but it's not suited to rough travel. It did fine on a couple of trips through the Moose River Plains road, and I was even able to ride most of the way to Mitchell Ponds on that trail, but that's about all I can do.
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Old 02-24-2022, 12:49 PM   #17
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Having ridden Mitchell Ponds - I would say depending on how you go, if you start at the more south and east terminus at the road that trail is fairly easy - it's an old woods road and it was fairly soft and smooth as I recall.

The second section going that way past the ponds (or starting from the more north and west terminus) is much more rugged. It is ridden so there is a burned in single track but it's mostly through a corridor of tall grasses with various rocks and logs strewn in the way. There was one steep section toward the end that I recall was completely worn down to rocks (this tends to be the case IME on snowmobile trails). It wasn't too rough, but I don't think a road bike with touring tires could handle it.

The great thing about snowmobile trails is they do tend to have good bridges. Far more than what you need for a bike, of course.



With all this being said though - there are a number of trails in WF areas that are completely ridable (and actually fun to ride) that aren't snowmobile trails. Here it helps to have some sort of guide or local knowledge. Personally, back in the mid-90s I did a lot of that by trial and error and I can tell you quite a few you don't want to try to ride (Third Lake Creek is particularly dreadful - although very close by there are a number of easily rideable trails in Fern Park).
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Old 02-24-2022, 01:13 PM   #18
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Coreys road near Axton Landing has many opportunities for primitive camping and is well suited for biking, not for the sake of riding, but just to get to the various campsites and trailheads. Beyond the hiking, the Raquette River is there too…
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Old 02-24-2022, 02:09 PM   #19
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Corey's Rd does look nice. I'll definitely want to try those trails, and poke around in the river.

Conifer-Emporium easement Special Rules state that the whole property is open to bicycling, along with a list of other non-motorized activities. The Special Rules for the Massawepie Easement say:

"The main road from Route 3 can be used by public vehicles, including bicycles (but not ATVs). This includes Town Line Road, Russell Road, and Carriage Road. Several snowmobile trails are designated."

Bicycling is not on the general list of approved activities for this easement, so I presume that means that bicycles are only permitted on the "main road"

I have read about the Grasse River Railroad trail being used for bicycling, but I don't know if going over all those ties on my bike would be very comfortable, so I'd probably just go around on Route 3 to get to the Cranberry Lake area.
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Old 02-24-2022, 05:18 PM   #20
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I used to ride an MTB and I have hiked most of the trails East of Lake George. Few of them would be ride able on a MTB. There are many downed trees, stream crossings, mud pits and rock gardens that would be tough to ride.

There is a dirt road that is right on the east side of the lake. It is real nice but getting to it with a bike would not be easy.
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