Motorcycle Route: Ottawa – Vermont

The Adirondack mountains in upstate New York and the mountain ridges in Vermont are accessible as a weekend trip. There are many route and lodging options.  Just to give an example, what I usually do is cross into the US at Ogdensburg, take a winding route through the Adirondacks, and end up in a ski region in central Vermont, where many ski lodges are also open for summer stays.

My usual destination is the area of Waitsfield, Vermont. (Funny, we’ve always called it that, and the locals do too. But, technically, the intersection that defines the region is Irasville – Waitsfield is a village a couple of Km away from there.)  There are many ways to get there.  If you just want the miles to pass, Google will give you a fast route on major highways.

But why would you?  The ride down is one of the real pleasures of such a trip.  There are many great routes.  As a sample, here is the one I have settled on over the years.

This route takes about 5 hours of actual riding time, plus a couple of breaks, so about 7 hours total. It includes great twisty mountain roads, and a couple of extra-interesting twisty sections.

Here are some details of this route:

Down 416, cross the bridge to Ogdensburg. Note this is a toll bridge. The last time I checked (2022) the toll for a motorcycle was $3.25 US. You pay on the US side of the bridge. US customs is before the toll.

5 metres past the customs gate you can pull off into a little parking area and there are washrooms. This is also a good place to organize your toll for the gate, which is about 100 metres farther down the road.

Turn right onto highway 812 to head West toward Ogdensburg. There is a large gas station and fast food plaza on the left in a couple of Km, which is a handy place to fill up on the less expensive US gas.

The first major leg of the trip – after which I usually stop for breakfast – is Ogdensburg to Tupper Lake.  This uses highways 68, 56, and 3, and goes through the towns of Canton and Colton.

About 3 km from where you turned onto 812, turn left onto road 68, southbound. Signs will say “to Canton”.

About 30 Km along this highway, in the town of Canton, you will need to take a sharp right turn to stay on highway 68. It’s marked – but if you’re not paying attention and go straight through the intersection you’ll end up on highway 11 for Potsdam. Take the right turn to stay on 68.

68 is now a secondary country road, with some interesting twists and turns. Eventually, just past the tiny village of PierrePont, you will come to a stop sign at a lopsided T intersection where you will need to turn left to stay on 68. Do so.

Go all the way to the end of 68 and turn right at a stop sign, onto highway 56. There is a gas station on the corner.

Stay on 56 all the way to the end. You will enter a drive through an undeveloped park area – very pleasant scenery.

At the end of 56 you will be at a T intersection with highway 3. There is a gas station at this corner. Turn left on 3, toward Tupper Lake.  Tupper Lake is about 25 Km along this road.  It’s a fairly busy road with camper and rural traffic.

Tupper Lake is a large town with several gas stations and restaurants. I usually stop here for a late breakfast. As you pull into town, Main Street Restaurant (on your right, shortly before the Mobil station) and Lumberjack Inn (on your left, directly across the street from the Mobil station, unfortunately temporarily closed for COVID staffing issues in 2022) are both good.

Your objective is to come out of Tupper Lake on the highway which is jointly numbers 3 and 30, bound for Saranac Lake. In the centre of Tupper Lake you have to make a couple of sharp left turns, on a hill, to stay on the correct road. They are well marked.

In about 8 Km, keep to the right when 30 and 3 split, so you stay on 3, bound for Saranac Lake. You’ll enter Saranac Lake on highway 3, and you want to leave it on Highway 86 toward Lake Placid. Saranac Lake is a large town, lots of shops, restaurants, gas stations, etc. The turn from 3 to 86 is in town, a sharp, well-marked intersection.

Now we’ll ride to, and through, Lake Placid. We’ll enter the town on Highway 86, and leave it on highway 73, bound for Keene.

Lake Placid is a large tourist centre (and hosted the Winter Olympics in 1980).  If you are ready for a stop, it has everything you could want in shops, restaurants, hotels, etc.

However, because it is such a major tourist centre, it’s a bit slow to get through it. If you don’t feel like a stop, you might prefer to take the unofficial bypass and miss most of the city.

This road cuts across the South of the city and misses most of the downtown congestion.

It’s called “Old Military Road”, and is regional road number 35.  It’s not especially well marked, and you can miss it. No big deal if you do – you’ll just go through the city.  The sign just says “Keene”.

You want to end up leaving the city on highway 73 south and east toward Keene.  The olympic ski-jump facility will go by on your right as you leave town.

We’ll stay on 73 for about 45 Km, until the road passes under Interstate I-87. We’ll go through Keene and Keene Valley. We’re now riding along the steep edge of a mountain range, so the scenery is quite spectacular, with little streams and waterfalls everywhere. It can be quite cold – I’ve ridden through snow flurries – or quite mild. There are not many services along this leg, so I tend to gas up in Saranac Lake or Lake Placid, to make sure I’m not worried about fuel.  73 merges with highway 9, and is called 9 for the lower part.

Next is one of the “secret gems” of this route.  We want to get over to Lake Champlain. The major highways will do that, but there is a back road that is low-traffic and very twisty, and is worth going a little off the main track to experience.
It’s called Tracey Road, or regional road 6. It runs from where highway 73 passes under I-87 to the township of Moriah, which is part of the city of Port Henry.

About 250 metres after you drive under I-87 (staying on highway 9), watch for a left turn onto this road.  The sign says “Witherbee”, “Mineville”, “Port Henry”, and “Champlain Bridge”.

You’ll love this road. It’s about 12 Km of very twisty pavement.

It ends up in a busy suburban area, where it would be difficult to give directions. Follow the signs for “Port Henry”, which is a city on the shore of Lake Champlain.

Here is a ride, turning on to Tracy Road and following it to the end. The stop sign at the end is the point where the highlighter on the above map changes from yellow to orange.

Once rested and gassed in Port Henry, it’s time to get across the lake into Vermont. Head south on 9N out of Port Henry.  In about 5 Km, turn left onto 185, which will be marked “Crown Pointe” and “Bridge to Vermont”.

It’s about 6 Km along 185 to the bridge.  Immediately before the bridge, there is a tourist information centre on the right, with maps and washrooms.  Immediately after the bridge, on the Vermont side, there is a nice restaurant called “The Bridge”.

When you come off the bridge you are on Vermont highway 17, which you take all the rest of the way to the Waitsfield area.  One thing to watch for is a little “jog right” you have to do when 17 crosses VT highway 7.

Other than that, stay on 17 into the town of Bristol, which is another good place to stop for rest, gas, or refreshments.  Then keep going on 17.

When you come out of Bristol, the road bears both number 17 and number  116.  Watch for a split – in about 5Km – where you have to do a sharp right to stay on 17 East, as 116 continues North.

The next treat is in about 10 Km when 17 goes up over a mountain ridge. This is called the “Appalachian Gap” – or “App Gap”.  Its a couple of Km of steep road with many switchbacks, up one side and down the other.  There is a large pull-off area and lookout at the top.  Here’s a video of riding up the one side:

Once you are down the other side, still on 17, you are a few Km from Waitsfield, and are on your own to find whichever Inn you have booked.   Thy Hideaway is ahead on your left, the White Horse Lodge requires turning right on to German Flats Road, and there are many others in the area.