Essex is the center of a bicycling paradise. The roads are wide and in fairly good condition, local drivers provide wide berth and the scenery is quietly beautiful. The hamlet of Essex is at the bottom of all the hilly roads leading into it, so if you start in the hamlet, you’ll have a good climb no matter which way you go.
The easiest way out of Essex is to go north on Route 22 towards Willsboro, with good views of the lake and paved shoulders, but a fair amount of traffic. An alternative is to follow Route 22 towards Whallonsburg, the only problems being fast ferry traffic and a long hill just past Essex Farm. Once you top the hill, you can turn off onto Middle Road going north or south, or continue on 22 into the hilly part of town. (Note: The Hub on the Hill has food and drink available, as well as a bike pump!) Additionally, you could ride south along the lake to Whallons Bay. The road is gently rolling, a bit narrow, but the views are spectacular. Once you get to Whallons Bay, about 15 minutes from the hamlet, you can ride out Albee Road with more great lake views, continue south toward Westport or head west on Whallons Bay Road towards farm country. The last two routes involve significant hills but the rewards are substantial. At the top of Whallons Bay Road is possibly the finest view in the Champlain Valley, with the High Peaks of the Adirondacks to the west and Vermont’s Green Mountains to the east.
There are no really bad roads in Essex and surrounding towns and you will not get lost as long as you can see the Adirondacks to the west. Traffic moves rapidly on Route 22 and Willsboro Point is always busy. There are no places to stop for food and drink outside the hamlet till you get to Dogwood Bakery or downtown Willsboro, so bring plenty of water with you.
Safety tips: stay to the right (ride with traffic), and ride when there is plenty of daylight. Modern LED rechargeable lights are recommended to improve visibility. They’re intensely bright and can be seen from afar. Wear bright clothing. A properly fitted helmet and biking gloves are also recommended. Make sure you’re easy to see.
Should you get as far as Reber, about 20 to 30 minutes west of the hamlet on County Route 12, you might want to stop at Reber Rock Farm. They offer cyclists water and an air pump, as well as a farm store and more excellent views of the Adirondacks.
Biking in Essex and the surrounding towns provides a sublime riding experience, with country roads that invite you to see what’s over the next hill, very little traffic (except on weekends) and opportunities to discover wonderful views, smell sweet fresh cut hay, and revel in the freedom of the road.
[This article originally appeared in the Summer 2017 edition of “The Initiative.” It appears here with permission.]