Old Forge and the Fulton Chain
After the relative solitude of Blue Mountain Lake, Indian Lake, and even Raquette Lake, Old Forge and much of the Fulton Chain come as a disheartening shock. The roads and hamlets here are surprisingly built up, and tourists slurping down ice-cream cones seem to be everywhere.
Nestled in the western foothills of the Adirondacks, the Fulton Chain is a series of eight lakes, flanked by long ridges. None of the ridges reach higher than 600 feet, but they feature steep, glaciated cliffs that drop dramatically down into the lakes. Excellent bird’s-eye views can be had by hiking up Bald Mountain or by taking a ride up the McCauley Mountain chairlift.
Heading west from Raquette Lake on Route 28, you’ll come first to Eighth and Seventh Lakes—the most pristine of the Fulton Chain—and to the attractive hamlet of Inlet. About two miles beyond Inlet is Big Moose Public Road (County Road 1), a wooded back lane that leads north four miles to Big Moose Lake. So far, so good. But then, about 10 miles beyond Inlet lies Old Forge, dominated by endless souvenir shops, motels, and the Enchanted Forest/Water Safari theme park.
One of the Adirondacks’ most famed and popular canoe trips begins in Old Forge and proceeds north through the Fulton Chain to Raquette Lake, Long Lake, and the Raquette River. Canoeists can then head to either Saranac or Tupper Lakes. The entire route is about 100 miles long, involves about nine miles of portage, and takes about six days. To canoe just the 18-mile-long Fulton Chain, from Old Forge to the Eighth Lake Campground, takes a full day and involves 1.7 miles of portage.
Detour to Big Moose Lake
Located off the beaten tourist track, Big Moose Lake is worth a detour, especially for fans of Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy. Dreiser based his classic on an actual tragedy; it was in the lake’s South Bay that Chester Gillette drowned Grace Brown. Bear left on Big Moose Road upon reaching the lake, and you’ll come to the old railroad station (now Big Moose Station restaurant) where Gillette and Brown alighted. Bear right and you’ll reach the former site of the Hotel Glennmore, where the couple registered and rented their boat. The hotel is gone now, but several outbuildings remain.
Writes Dreiser: “The quiet, glassy, iridescent surface of this lake…seemed, not so much like water as oil—like molten glass that, of enormous bulk and weight, resting upon the substantial earth so very far below…Everywhere pines—tall and spearlike. And above them the humped backs of the dark and distant Adirondacks beyond.”
Old Forge Arts Center
The oldest multi-arts center in the Adirondacks, founded in the early 1950s, the Arts Center (Rte. 28, Old Forge, 315/369-6411, www.artscenteroldforge.org, 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Mon.–Sat., noon–4 p.m. Sun., free gallery admission, events $5–12) occupies a former boat-storage barn. The main gallery focuses on changing art and photography exhibits, while in the Adirondack room are selected works—such as quilts and baskets—from the permanent collection. Film, concert, and lecture series are presented throughout the summer, along with crafts workshops, children’s programs, and nature hikes.
Hiking Bald Mountain
Four and a half miles east of Old Forge rises Bald Mountain, which offers superb views of the Fulton Chain for surprisingly little effort. From the well-marked parking lot at the foot of the mountain, the trail climbs only 400 feet in less than a mile: “If the climb were not too short to call a hike, or if you were not apt to meet hordes of other hikers, it could be one of the most satisfying treks in the Adirondacks,” writes hiking guru Barbara Martin in Fifty Hikes in the Adirondacks.
To reach the trailhead, take Route 28 to Rondaxe Road and watch for signs.
Outfitters and Guides
In Old Forge, boats and canoes can be rented at Rivett’s Boat Livery (on the waterfront, 315/369-3123). Adirondack River Outfitters (315/369-3536, www.aroadventures.com) conducts guided rafting trips down the Hudson, Moose, Black, and Sacandaga Rivers. Tickner’s Moose River Canoe Trips (315/369-6286, www.ticknerscanoe.com) offers guided canoe and kayak trips, along with instruction, rentals, and sales.
The low-slung Van Auken’s Inne (Forge St., off Rte. 28, Thendara, 315/369-3033, www.vanaukensinne.com, $90–130), with its long, two-tiered porch, contains 12 renovated guest rooms with private baths. Some open out onto a breezy second-story balcony, while on the ground floor are a comfortable lobby, tap room, and restaurant, all filled with antiques.
Big Moose Station (Big Moose Rd., Big Moose Lake, Eagle Bay, 315/357-3525, $17), in the old Adirondack Railroad station, serves American cuisine made of fresh local ingredients. The restaurant is open for dinner only.
Housed in its namesake, complete with soaring ceilings, exposed beams, and a waterwheel, is the historic Old Mill Restaurant (Rte. 28, 315/369-3662, $15) in Old Forge. On the menu are a multitude of traditional American favorites, including steak, pork chops, and shrimp and chicken dishes.
In Thendara, the 1893 Van Auken’s Inne (Forge St., off Rte. 28, 315/369-3033, $16) serves contemporary American and continental fare. On the lunch menu are salads and sandwiches, while the dinner menu includes everything from grilled veal chops to fresh fish.
© Avalon Travel and Sascha Zuger from Moon New York State, 5th Edition