Those traveling on the back roads between New York City and Montreal generally fall into two groups: bicyclists and motorcyclists. I’m a fan of both two-wheel forms of transport but a motorcycle was the vehicle of choice for this trip. If you have a few days to spare and a motorcycle at hand, this is a great way to see some of the rural areas of New York and Quebec while passing through some gorgeous mountain ranges and tiny hamlets. What follows is a brief account of a trip I took a couple weeks ago with my friend Jeff. If you are interested in the details, keep reading. If you are really interested in the details of the routes, you will find Google Maps of each day’s travels at the end of this post.
The genesis of this trip was the desire to take a fairly quick road trip to somewhere interesting (that is probably the genesis behind most trips actually). Having never been to Montreal, it seemed like a perfect destination. But, this particular trip was more about the journey than the destination. If I were to do it again, I would lengthen the itinerary to include one or two more days in Montreal. This is a city worthy of some exploration.
We started out early on Tuesday morning in an attempt to get out of Manhattan without sitting in traffic. This was also to be biggest riding day so getting a few miles behind us early was essential. While seasoned motorcycle touring folks might laugh at a paltry 300 mile day, this was enough distance for us to cover in one day. Our destination was Lake Eaton, near Long Lake, New York. Our route took us up through some great back roads that make you feel like you are much farther away from New York City than you really are. Much of the early route here was directly lifted from some of Jon Kadis’ NYC Metro Routes. The weather was perfect for riding, sunny and cool. We arrived at Lake Eaton with plenty of light left in the day which gave us ample time to set up our tents–seasoned campers, we’re not.
We got a sprinkle of rain overnight, just enough to soak some of our gear. The morning skies looked threatening, so we didn’t waste time getting on the road. Route 30, which we had been following for a good portion of the previous day was also the route that would take us to the Canadian border. This road was lightly traveled and offered a nice mix of gentle curves, a couple twists and one or two impressive vistas of the Adirondack mountains. Those looking for some more challenging twisties will probably find them on some of the smaller roads that intersect with Route 30.
The border crossing into Canada is easy on Route 30 (Route 138 in Canada). We were the only ones crossing at the time, so no lines. Once on the other side, the corn fields in Canada look pretty much the same as the corn fields in the US. Sure, the speed limit is in kilometers and the road signs in French, but the scenery doesn’t change that much after the border crossing–that is until you pass through the town of Huntingdon. This is a small, rural town unlike one I’ve seen anywhere in the US. The slightly dusty village seemed more European than what one expects to see in North America. The two and three story buildings were set close to the narrow main street and the denizens of this little village were enjoying their lunch at several outdoor cafes.
We rolled into Montreal in the early afternoon and found some space at the Hotel Nelligan. This is not the cheapest hotel Montreal has to offer by any means, but I highly recommend it. The staff was very friendly and accommodating and the location was perfect. Plus, in our case, the fluffy beds were going to be a nice change from the hard ground of the previous night’s accommodation. The underground parking garage is for valet parking only. But, the doormen had no problem escorting us down there with our bikes so we could park them safely for the night.
Unfortunately, our schedule did not allow for much sightseeing in Montreal. We did take a quick walk around Old Montreal and Plateau Mont Royal. But, we didn’t try the one restaurant I really wanted to check out, Au Pied de Cochon. We just weren’t in the mood for a foie gras fest that night. This restaurant alone, however, may be good enough reason to return to Montreal.
The next morning brought some rain. We contemplated waiting to see if the clouds would break, but the forecast was not promising. Things were only to get worse as the day went on, so we packed up and hit the road. By the time we passed into Vermont, the skies were mostly clear and the weather quite warm. We did get buffeted by wind most of the way, but I’ll take that over driving rain–or wind and driving rain–any day.
The original plan was to find a camping spot somewhere around Arlington Vermont. I knew of one campground there but they did not allow motorcycles. One of the locals told us to check out a nearby campground which turned out to be the scariest I’ve every seen–think Deliverance with trailers and without the river. Luckily, the manger had gone out drinking with some friends and no one was sure when she would return. We had a quick look around and decided to leave while we still had the chance. We ended up adding a few more miles onto the planned route and cutting back over into New York to find Cherry Plain State Park. This was a quiet little park sitting a couple miles off of Route 22. If you plan to stay the night here, note that there isn’t much around the park in the way of restaurants or anything else. We ended up at Pizza Plus which was a good 5 miles down Route 22. So, you would be well served to pick up any needed supplies on the way in.
Our relative good luck with the weather turned on Thursday night. Just as we had got the camp fire burning and finished eating our dinner, a thunderstorm rolled in. It poured spectacularly overnight and well into the morning. This, however, gave way to a beautiful, sunny, cool morning. Motorcycle camping does not offer much in the way of shelter. This is a little disconcerting when huddled in a tent under pouring rain. At least if you have a car nearby, you can go sleep there if the tent becomes uninhabitable. Lucky for us, both of our tents’ waterproofing held through the night.
Since we had put a few miles between us and the scariest campground ever the day before, we had a shorter than anticipated day on Friday. Our trip down Route 22 and across to the Palisades was quick and most of it was over familiar territory. We arrived back in New York City sometime between 12:00 and 13:00, well before the summer Friday traffic started. So, even our entry into the city was relatively traffic free.
As for the route, I don’t think I would change too much. Coming in and leaving Montreal was fine, but if I were to do it again, I would get on the highway somewhere outside of Montreal. The landscape changes quickly from farms to auto dealerships on the outskirts of the city and it is probably better make that part of the trip as quick as possible. A similar, minor route change might also be in order around Burlington. Coming in from the North is nice and Burlington offers many places to stop for lunch or a rest. The southern part of our route out of Burlington was somewhat less exciting though–auto dealerships and big box stores again. Lastly, I would probably take a spin through Western Massachusetts rather than going directly from Vermont to New York. There are some fun roads around Bash Bish Falls State Park which should not be missed if in the area.
As promised, maps for each of the four days’ routes are posted below. Big thanks to Andre of The Brooklyn Motorcycle Riders Meetup Group for the Adirondack route recommendations. Anyone who has any recommended modifications or side trips for these routes, please leave a comment or shoot me an email. Ride safe!
Routes (Google Maps):
Day One: NYC to Long Lake, NY (298 miles)
Day Three: Montreal, QC to Cherry Plain, NY (250 miles)
Day Four: Cherry Plain, NY to NYC (157 miles)