Written by – Bill Hynes – Mountain biker/outdoor enthusiast/contractor
The Village of Lake Placid is the center of an ever-expanding mountain bike trail network. The rapid development of quality mountain biking trails has also led to an expansion and acceptance of mountain biking within the culture of sport. Whether exploring the wares behind luxurious storefronts or dining out on the main drag, one is no more than a mile from numerous trailheads. Trails around town vary from beginner to advanced level, consisting of crushed stone paths or narrow technical single tracks that twist their way through surrounding forests. Founded and operated by Barkeater Trails Alliance (BETA), the network provides options for all ages and abilities. BETA has created magic in the woodlands that surround Lake Placid, thanks to the efforts of dedicated, passionate volunteers, as well as local riders who have voiced support for crafting more trails and expanding the presence of mountain biking in the area. All told, BETA has designed and mapped over 50 miles of trail throughout the surrounding acreage.
For the ambitious rider, an ideal trek can cover the most notable trails around town in about four hours. A quality, full-suspension mountain bike, basic mountain bike knowledge and skills, plus plenty of drinking water are required. If you are fit and geared for the challenge, there is a particular loop which provides most all that Lake Placid’s most notable trail networks have to offer. Take note that the following ride as a whole is not intended for families with young children who are unable to pedal for long stretches, inexperienced bicyclists, or anybody cruising on a ‘Walmart special.’ However, people who fit into that mold can find plenty of adventure riding from these trailheads individually. The specific trails in this loop include, but are not limited to, Lussi/Loggers, Craig Wood, and Henry’s Woods networks. This particular loop can be easily manipulated as all three trailheads lead to various terrain and riding styles. The trip starts and ends on Main Street in Lake Placid. The loop encompasses 85% trail, 15% road, and covers roughly twelve miles. Whether a rider is seeking varying trail lengths or degrees of technicality, much can be accomplished by utilizing this basic loop as a model. Again, manipulation is at the rider’s discretion. During the brief period in which I worked at High Peaks Cyclery, I had the pleasure of guiding this loop and it quickly became my go-to. When Matt (of Live and Let Wander) came into the cyclery looking to experience mountain biking in Lake Placid, we rode this same loop turn by turn together in approximately 4 hours, including several breaks for water, snacks, and scenic photo ops.
Beginning on Main Street, riders will head out of town going downhill, past the Olympic Oval (officially known as the James B. Sheffield Olympic Skating Rink) on the right and High Peaks Cyclery on the left. Riders will continue straight through the light at the Route 73 intersection and will follow the right-hand shoulder as it curves to the left and continues on towards Whiteface Mountain. Just beyond the curve, the horizon opens up to reveal a spectacular view of the mountains and the Lake Placid Club golf course. At the end of the curve is a parking lot that appears on the right. This is the location of the Lussi/Loggers trailhead where riders will ascend through a playful warm-up style single track with a light downhill grade. The first trail to take is called Cinderella Story, which carries riders through varying cross country style single track. The path is surprisingly littered with man made obstacles for the daring to test their skills. About a mile into the trail, one will encounter an impressively long log ride. Try to send it! Trust me- the reward far outweighs the risk. At this point, one should keep his or her head on a swivel for the next trailhead, christened Flying Wasp. This trailhead will appear on the right after a few short, though noticeable, climbs. From Flying Wasp, the rider will eventually run into the Jackrabbit ski trail sign (red with white letters). Follow this sign to the right, going downhill. The Jackrabbit Trail will ultimately lead the rider over a single-lane bridge and out to River Road. To the right, just over the bridge, is a parking area that offers great scenery for a water break. After rejuvenating with water and that bonus granola bar, proceed by turning right out of the parking area onto River Road. Keeping the mountain vista on the right, continue down the right-hand shoulder to the red barn. At the red barn make a left onto the dirt road where the now-familiar Jackrabbit Trail sign will be waiting. After a short burst up the dirt road, the rider’s eyes will catch a farm gate off the right shoulder of the road, with just enough gap to pass the handlebars through. With one’s handlebars successfully through the gate, or an embarrassing hiccup, Craig Wood is next. This particular section will warm the rider right up, as some say it climbs endlessly. I promise, it is not that long. Just as the trail crests the final hill, a place to rest lies in front of a trailhead breaking off to the right. The sign to this trail reads, ‘The Back 9,’ as an ode to the section of Craig Wood golf course around which it navigates. The Back 9 loop can be followed back to the junction after about a mile of meandering through rolling terrain with a few built-in features along the way. From here, the trail will lead to some of the most fun riding the village has to offer, involving hidden spur trails that the extremely serious athletes ride. Those looking for airtime should try to ‘pop a wheelie’ on the aggressive banked out loop track that contains an intimidating drop right at the start. A rider can couple these trails together over and over, then simply head back down the trail at the main junction to journey back towards River Road.
Enjoy the long downhill cruise, and prepare for a cooldown while riding Henry’s Woods. Exiting onto River Road, riders will now turn left and head back towards Route 73. Once at 73, riders will go right towards the Village and bear left at the fork onto Old Military Road. Over the first rise on Old Military Road, riders will approach Bear Cub Lane, on the left, opposite the blue hospital sign. Two hundred feet onto Bear Cub Lane there is a sign for Henry’s Woods on the right. Henry’s Woods is owned and maintained by the Uihlein foundation. The trails are mostly double wide crushed stone paths frequented by dog walkers and hikers, some daring single track can be found up high (red trail). All trails here are well marked with colors and distances, with the kiosk at the trailhead providing a map. This network is a great way to end the ride as it is less technical and demanding compared to the first two networks. The green connector trail (Plateau) is a two-mile loop back to the parking lot with rewarding lookout points. From here, riders will catch a breathtaking view of the Village of Lake Placid with Whiteface Mountain towering in the distance. Spin a few more leisurely loops around the park before heading back down to the trailhead parking area. The village can be found by crossing Old Military Road, skirting the neighborhood back towards 73, which will lead right back to Main Street, wherever the rider’s terminus may be.
At this point, having circled the belly of Lake Placid sampling the best trail networks in town, riders will experience two states: exhaustion and deep satisfaction. In a mere four hours, riders will have covered a minimum of fifteen miles of terrain ranging from manicured crushed gravel paths to technical pinner single track and countless man-made berms, roll overs, and drops. Lake Placid is truly unique in that riders can experience diverse terrain on carefully maintained trails without ever leaving the Village or driving to one specific trailhead. Readers and riders, please use this article as a source of reference in your research while planning your own Lake Placid mountain bike adventure.
As mentioned earlier, while most of these routes are customizable for riders of all abilities and ambitions, thorough planning and research is strongly advised. Trail maps and further information can be accessed on the BETA Trails webpage (www.betatrails.org). Be safe, ride happy, and I hope to see you out on the trail!