1. Where to Stay
Lose yourself in knotty-walled rusticity at the Black Mountain Lodge (from $79) on Route 8 in North Creek. Ex–Queens resident Marion Eagan took over the well-priced, 25-room motel in 2005 and gave it a thorough redo; the new linens and carpeting plus the spotless housekeeping make it feel newly built.
Keep your eyes peeled for grouse and barred owls while strolling the groomed cross-country trails behind the Cedarwood Bed and Breakfast (from $135), five miles from downtown North Creek. Each room in the classic, antique-strewn New England inn has a historical theme; one of the nicest is the Poet’s Room, a peach-colored homage to Jeanne Robert Foster, an early-twentieth-century writer who once lived in the house.
For a little (okay, a lot) more luxury, indulge in high beds, stone fireplaces, and Jacuzzis at the Fern Lodge (from $350; rate includes breakfast) off Route 28 in Chestertown, about fifteen minutes from North Creek. If you don’t have the energy for paddling the adjacent, three-mile-long lake (the Fern’s innkeepers will loan you a kayak), borrow a movie from the DVD library and get cushy in the downstairs screening room with its nine recliners and Bose sound system.
2. Where to Eat
After a morning hike, grab a two-inch-thick brownie and a double-shot cappuccino at Café Sarah (260 Main St.; 518-251-5959) a homey, mismatched hangout on Main Street. Or drop by later in the day for a pesto-smeared mozzarella-and-tomato sandwich, served hot or cold on crusty bread. Breakfast burritos and hike-ready boxed lunches are also available.
Stockpile some carbs at the Place (5156 Rt. 8; 518-494-3390), a too brightly lit Italian eatery in Chestertown, twelve miles away on Route 8. Warm your hands over the zuppa di clams ($20.50), a heaping bowl of steamed clams and shrimp over linguine. Or just replenish protein with a twelve-ounce sizzling steak (also $20.50), nicely trimmed of all fat, yet still flavorful.
There’s no better deal in town than the turkey dinner at the warmly lit, low-ceilinged Black Mountain Restaurant (2999 Rt. 8; 518-251-2800). For a little under $11, you get moist breast meat over a mound of homemade dressing with mashed potatoes and seasonal veggies. On Saturday nights, try the prime-rib special ($19); the huge slab comes with your choice of potatoes and sides.
3. What to Do
November is the perfect time to go hiking in the ‘Dacks: the leaf peepers are gone and ski season hasn’t started yet, so you’ll have the place practically to yourself. Start hoofing it at Crane Mountain Summit (take a right turn on South Johnburg Road, one mile outside of Weverton, a half-hour from North Creek off of Route 8), where a nicely varied, four-and-a-half-mile loop takes hikers up a steep rock face—and a fifteen-step ladder—to the 3,254-foot summit. On the way back down, you’ll pass Crane Mountain Pond, a lovely freshwater bit of stillness, and the perfect spot for a picnic. Allow about four hours to complete the loop.
Chimney Mountain (hook left on Big Brook Road in Indian Lake Village, eighteen miles from North Creek), is a shorter but equally interesting 1.4-mile climb. It offers 360-degree views at the top—a rarity in the Adirondacks—plus lots of rocky outcroppings where you can take a gorgeous, much-deserved breather. (There are also lots of off-trail caves, though they’re too slippery to explore during the colder months.)
Looking for something less taxing? You can scarcely drive a mile in this region without passing a trailhead. Follow Route 28 north four miles past Indian Lake. On the right are pullovers leading to trails that plunge deep into the woods. On your left is the trailhead for Sawyer Mountain, a short, sweet hike that takes you up only 630 feet but ends at a picturesque summit.
4. Insider’s Tip
Most state-licensed wilderness guides in the North Creek area specialize in whitewater rafting, but Judith Harper is a true trail nut, searching out people-free mountain paths that don’t make it into the guidebooks. Call ahead to book a half-day or full-day hike ($45 per person for a half-day hike; discounts for more people or full days), and Harper will lead you to one of her finds. With any luck she’ll point out mink, otters, fishers, coyotes, or fox, and along the way, she’ll teach you to identify their tracks.
5. An Oddball Day
Feet tired? Get on a horse. Circle B in Chestertown, fifteen minutes from North Creek, is a working 500-acre ranch that’s been in Chris Boggia’s family for 46 years. His crew leads both beginner and experienced riders on ambles through pine woods and across fields with mountain views, with a little cantering thrown in. (Rides start at $26 an hour; hayrides and winter sleigh rides also available.)
To stretch your legs afterward, head back north on Route 28 to Thirteenth Lake (follow signs for Garnet Hill Lodge to reach Thirteenth Lake Road). A two-mile long trail winds along one side of the lake—watch (and listen) for loons, the quintessential Adirondack bird with a crazy, cackling call.
On your way back to civilization, stop at SensibiliTeas. Housed in a former shirt factory in Glens Falls, about 45 minutes south of North Creek, the store offers 475 varieties of loose teas, lined up in sniffable tin containers along the long shelves.
6. Related Links
The Adirondack Mountain Club gives comprehensive write-ups of local hikes—plus tips on hiking during hunting season.
Fiddle around with Birding in the Adirondacks’ maps and pull-down lists to find where various birds are typically spotted.
Adirondack Explorer magazine publishes articles on a range of outdoor activities including canoeing and cycling.