Cranberry Lake-Carthage Bicycling along the Olympic Byway

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bike map symbolsThe 55 miles along the Cranberry Lake – Carthage segment of the Olympic Byway takes you across the Adirondack Park boundary, over the Oswegatchie River and into the Black River valley. Other communities along the ride include Wanakena, Star Lake, Harrisville and Natural Bridge. The Black River Trail Scenic Byway crosses the route near Harrisville.

Wanakena Foot Bridge over the Oswegatchie

Wanakena Foot Bridge over the Oswegatchie

Road Bike Opportunities

There are a number of on-road rides and loops along this segment of the Olympic Byway. Always dress for the weather and carry water, snacks, map, repair kit and cell phone, as well as review your route with someone knowledgeable of the area. This is a predominately rural area so consider that services may be unavailable along your ride.

Family Rides – An enjoyable ride on wide tires is the Sissy Danforth Rivergate Trail which is made up of two segments of the old Penn Central Railroad bed that have been converted to a dedicated pathway by the 1000 Islands Land Trust and their community partners. There is a total of 25 miles of rails-to-trails path in the area of Clayton, Orleans, Theresa, Redwood and Philadelphia. The two pathway segments meet south of Theresa and they can be accessed from several points. The surface is dirt and cinder, so wide tires are recommended. see alsoParks & Trails NY and 1000 Islands Land Trust.

  • For a shorter ride closer to Watertown, try the Calcium Trial, a well-maintained, gravel trail that is wide and flat except for a small uphill section near the Calcium end. The trail features wooden bridges and a large pond. It is 2.1 miles from end to end.
  • Or, right in Watertown check out the Black River Trail, a wide paved trail that is a favorite with families. This trail is well used from dawn til dusk. The trail is 3.3 miles from end to end and is well marked with mileage posts from each direction. The Black River end of the trail features a picnic area and access to wide rocks at the edge of the Black River. The river edge is not fenced off and the current is often swift so keep a close eye on children and pets. The parking area is near the junction of Ridge Road and Woodard Road.


Moderate Ride – Watertown-Carthage-Evans Mills Loop, a nice 50-mile loop, mainly on backroads.

Training Ride – Watertown-Alex Bay-Dexter Loop, a 3/4 century ride up to the St. Lawrence River and back.

For information on touring routes in the area, check out:

Mountain Bike Opportunities

There are well-equipped bike shops in Watertown that can provide maps and advice on mountain bike rides in the area.

The Otter Creek Horse Trail System – One of the region’s best-kept mountain biking secrets, it is located at the western edge of the Adirondack Park southeast of Lowville and provides great mountain biking for riders of all ability on its well-signed dirt roads and riding trails. The 65 miles of interlocking trails provide plenty of room for mountain bikes and horses. Be considerate of horses on the trail. As you get away from the staging areas you will likely have the trails to yourself. The Otter Creek Trail System uses a series of sand roads and woods roads that wind along spirea flats, wooded areas and picturesque ponds. It is a varied and scenic terrain as you follow a number of creeks as well as the beautiful Independence River. The riding is fairly easy, mostly flat to rolling with an occasional climb over a ridge. Try the Blue Jog Trail from the staging area out to the Confusion Flats Trail where the landscape changes dramatically, opening up to the sandy expanse of the flatlands.

Carpenter Road TrailsThe Carpenter Road trail system is on the eastern edge of the Tug Hill Plateau just north of Turin off Route 26 and offers 8 miles of scenic pathways for bikers during the summer season. The majority of the trail system is fairly easy grade. The West Loop Trail is one of the most popular, 2.3 miles traversing a white spruce plantation as well as a number of natural forest areas (see also NYS DEC).

Rodman-Barnes Corners-Inman Gulf Trails – Situated in the northern portion of the Tug Hill Plateau, adjacent to NYS Route 177 in Jefferson County, south of Watertown between Lowville and Adams Center. Traversing this 12,000-acre woodland are nine different trails varying from .6 to 2.5 miles in length. Most are loop trails with skill levels varying from novice to intermediate. There’s a variety of terrain from level and slightly uphill/gentle downhill to more challenging climbs and downhill runs on intermediate trails. The land cover types range from northern hardwoods and conifer plantations to open wetlands.  Some trails provide spectacular views of Inman Gulf. For more of a challenge try the Inman Gulf Trail with its hilly sections and views of the stream and Rainbow Falls (see also NYS DEC).

Peavine Swamp TrailThis 4-mile one-way ride follows the course of Peavine Creek in the Cranberry Lake Wild Forest and leads to a lean-to on the Inlet Flow of Cranberry Lake. A highlight of this trail is old-growth timber (found on the half near Inlet Flow) on lands acquired by the State of New York in 1881, including some hemlocks over 40 inches in diameter as well as large spruce and cherry. Moderate difficulty.

Check out these other mountain bike resources covering this segment of the Olympic Byway:

Not to Miss

  • Gleasmann Falls on the Independence River, east of Lowville – This 2.9-mile trail takes you through meadows of raspberries and wildflowers and crosses Burnt Creek before heading into the Independence Wild Forest where it connects with other trails in the system. Beneath 75-foot cliffs, the river drops 60 feet over a series of cascades.
  • Wanakena Suspension Bridge -The Wanakena Footbridge spanning the Oswegatchie River at Wanakena has the distinction of being the largest suspension footbridge in the United States. Built in 1902 by the Rich Lumber Company, this suspension bridge spans 171 feet between the supporting towers.
  • Turning Point Park in Carthage – The northern terminus of the New York State Canal System’s Black River Canal, the place where boatmen had to turn around due to the rapids downstream.
  • New York State Zoo at Thompson Park in Watertown – Dedicated to New York’s wild animals and wild places.
    also see Adirondack Scenic for many more points of interest along this route

Bike Events in the Area

  • Race with the Wind, Lowville, 3rd Sunday in September – Mountain bike through the Tug Hill Plateau in Lewis County, in the shadows of the largest wind farm east of the Mississippi. Much of the route is off-road with some single-track trails. The main route is 50 miles and there is a 20-mile route suitable for beginners or families.
    also see the complete list of bike events for the region

Bike Shops Nearby

Visitor Information

Check in with Chamber offices, bike shops and other sports shops in the area to get the latest information and review your route with someone knowledgeable of the area. When biking, dress for the weather and carry water, snacks, map, repair kit and cell phone. When biking in rural areas, services could be few and far between, and cell phone service may not always be available. See the Before You Ride notices in the bottom section of this website, as well as the Disclaimer notice.

Below are some of the sights along the way – scroll over an image to see its title, or click an image to enlarge it and then move through the entire gallery (click on one of the large images to return here).



Warren County Bikeway Glens Falls Lake George Village