Classic Roads: Lakes to Locks Passage Scenic Byway

Lakes to Locks Passage Scenic Byway

The Lakes to Locks Passage is a byway in upstate New York that follows an interconnected waterway of canals and lakes extending from near Albany, NY, to the border with Quebec, Canada. This linked series of state and federal roads runs through Adirondack hamlets, charming small cities, bucolic rural landscapes, cultural and recreational sites, and historic locations dating back to the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Along the way, it crosses a stunning sandstone gorge carved by the raging torrents of the Ausable River.

There are a total of 16 “Waypoint Communities” on the route. While on U.S. 4, you will often be just a stone’s throw from the Champlain Canal. Many of the locks have parks with interpretive signs about the canal. Riders will see pleasure boats docked at many of the villages. The route is approximately 190 miles long and appropriate for most experienced street riders. A moderate cruising speed is recommended, especially through the villages and near scenic points of interest. Depending on the number and duration of stops, a one-way trip should take anywhere from two to four days.

The ride is laid out from south to north, but can just as easily be taken in the opposite direction. A fast return, for those doing a round trip on a long weekend, would involve riding on I-87, which largely parallels the Passage route. For those with more than a long weekend, a return on the Vermont side of the waterway offers an alternative perspective for soaking up the region’s scenic pleasures. The best times to travel this route are late spring, summer, and early fall.

Points of Interest

Waterford Harbor Visitor Center

Before heading north on U.S. 4, take time to peruse the visitor center and learn about the Erie Canal, which intersects with the Hudson River near this location.

Saratoga National Historical Park

British forces, invading south into New York from Canada during the American Revolutionary War, suffered a stunning defeat on this battlefield in 1777.

Fort Edward, NY

This former 18th-century military post on the Hudson River has fine examples of classic Victorian-style architecture, many of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Fort Ann, NY

This is another colonial-era village, which owes its birthright to several nearby 18th-century forts.

Whitehall, NY

Located in a valley at the southern end of Lake Champlain, Whitehall is recognized as the birthplace of the U.S. Navy. Revolutionary warships were built here by none other than Benedict Arnold, who became much more famous for another act he committed before the war’s end.

Fort Tinconderoga

The reconstructed fort, with its numerous demonstrations, guided tours, daily soldiers’ life programs, horticultural exhibits, and its prominent place in history, is a major destination for history buffs of all ages. Allow plenty of time to fully explore this celebrated location. And, if time permits, take a ride on the nearby cable ferry to Vermont and back.

Crown Point State Historic Site

Years before the American Revolutionary War, both Britain and France laid claim to the Champlain Valley. The park contains remains of two forts that occupied this strategic location: one built by the French and the other built by the British.

Ausable Chasm

Also known as the Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks, this breathtaking sandstone gorge, carved by the Ausable River, is a must-see. Adventurous folk can sign up for guided walking tours along the rim and down into the depths of the chasm.

Point Au Roche State Park

Nearing the tour’s end, take a break at this state park on the northwestern shore of Lake Champlain. The sandy beach invites a boots-off, toe-dipping stroll.