A road runs through it
By Peter Kick
Are you wondering if there’s a place where you can go with your mountain bike, your tandem touring kayak, your trout rod and hiking boots, and use them all on the same day without moving your camp? Welcome to the Moose River Recreation Area in the southwestern alley between Indian Lake and Inlet—a cross between a state campground and untamed backcountry.
My attractions to the Moose are its miles of easy, scenic, double-track and dirt-road rides and the secret trout ponds at the ends. So, this huffer’s idea of a good ride may seem pretty chickeny: 10 or 20 miles of rolling terrain, my panniers stuffed with the necessities, the promise of a little privacy, and the opportunity to camp or explore at will in the scenic plains of the Moose with my camera, a fly rod, and my girlfriend. We like to smooth it in solitude as much as anyone else. Sunscreen, Gore-Tex, pile-lined stuff and sometimes a tent (don’t forget the bug dope)—yuppie bike packing, if you prefer.
The 50,000-acre wild forest is a mixed landscape of scrub forest, old growth, knuckly mountains, scenic rivers and glacial ponds. On a map, it resembles a big, filleted herring with a 23-mile backbone of a road that’s so long and rugged it’s an adventure to even drive it, and lots of little rib roads where nowhere is everywhere at hand. All told, it has 40 miles of dirt roads and 140 primitive campsites. Forget about bathrooms and showers. If your previous camping experience has been limited to state campgrounds, this is the equivalent of graduate work—a true learning experience.
Register at either the Limekiln entrance, if coming from the south or west, or Cedar River entrance, if from the north or east, and grab a free leaflet that includes a map and other useful information for hikers and campers.
The Moose offers countless possibilities for mountain biking. You can have loads of fun just pedaling the dirt roads, but if you like more adventure, turn off down one of the trails. The following four routes are recommended as a good introduction:
Each June, cyclists race between Inlet and Indian Lake in the Black Fly Challenge. Part of the route follows the Moose’s 23-mile Main Road between the Limekiln and Cedar River gates. The road is potholed, hilly and sometimes very dusty. Traffic is limited, but in some cases, especially on weekends, slightly renegade. Be cautious around curves. Keep youngsters close to you. This is, in many ways, a no-man’s land—an isolated stretch of backcountry. Dozens of bike-legal side trails offer limitless exploration potential. Watch for private club postings, and observe off-limits wilderness restrictions. Campsites are abundant: A favorite but busy place is right at Wakely Dam near the Cedar River Flow.
Just west of Wakely, you can ride your bike to the boonies near Carry Lean-to. Observe the wilderness area signs as you approach the lean-to and lock your bike to a tree to go have a swim in Cedar River. Look for the gated lefthand turn at 1.2 miles after west of the Cedar River entrance. This is a somewhat rockier route than most, demanding intermediate skills. Zoom downhill easily past wildflowers and spruce thickets, passing the flow, and curve around over Wilson Brook, bearing left at a Y thereafter. Pull over at 4.25 miles at the wilderness area signs and hoof it to the lean-to, another 0.3 mile beyond.
This is an ideal family or beginner ride, following easy double-track most of the way. The Mitchell Ponds trail does get difficult after a tiny picnic site at the eastern pond, reached in 2 miles, but the route leads to bluffs with a good view. The area is surprisingly well-marked and maintained. You’ll encounter few obstacles. If starting at the Limekiln gate, the trailhead will be on the right after 8.6 miles. From the Cedar River gate, it’s 12.7 miles.
You’ll find signs for the Beaver Lake trail on the right just after crossing Moose River on Otter Brook Road. You can camp right there, at one of several sites, or on Beaver Lake, at an attractive site along the shore. The charming 2.3-mile trail, another double-track route, is my first choice for rideability. Plus, you get a look at some old-growth white pines.
Once you’ve sampled the Moose, you’ll probably want to come back. If so, you’ll find plenty of other roads and trails to explore.
DIRECTIONS to Moose River Recreation Area:
For the Limekiln gate: From Inlet, drive about 1 mile east on NY 28 to Limekiln Road, turn right onto Campsite Road (a.k.a. Limekiln Road) and drive 1.8 miles; turn left and go 0.2 mile to the gate.
For the Cedar River gate: From the junction of NY 28 and NY 30 in Indian Lake, drive 2.2 miles west to Cedar River Road; turn left and go 12.7 miles to the gate.