One of the best ways to make the most out of a scenic drive, or bicycle trip, is to incorporate food, and an absolutely stunning ride for views and food in the Adirondacks is through the Lake Champlain region. To the east is Lake Champlain, a 490 square mile lake known as the fifth Great Lake. It's massive, majestic, and humbling. Aside from views of this lake, a drive in the region will have you coasting along the Ausable River and Boquet River. Below you’ll find a road trip I took and recommend through this scenic region with stops along the way at farm stores where you can stock up on everything from salami, to cheese, to locally made crafts. Not only will you be stocking up on delicious food, but one of the most fulfilling ways to shop is by buying direct from the producers.
Bookended by Lake Champlain and mountains, you will experience rolling hills on smooth, quiet country roads. More important, though, might be the experience you'll have stopping at farms in this fertile region and seeing firsthand why the Lake Champlain Valley is becoming a unique foodie destination. There's a growing movement of small, sustainable farms in the Adirondacks. It's camera and plate worthy. Your friends back home will be jealous that your t-shrt that reads "I Support Local Farmers," isn't just a fashion statement.
*In addition to this route, check out the Adirondacks' recently launched Cuisine Trails. These trails will also lead you on a culinary and scenic path through the Adirondacks.
To arrive in Keeseville, I took I-86 E to Route 9N (coming from Saranac Lake). Keeseville is fascinating because of its historic downtown with the Ausable Grange and Stone Mill that sits right on the Ausable River. It is home to the North Star Underground Railroad Museum and Ausable Chasm, and has a robust agricultural district located on Mace Chasm Road, where you will find several farms and one of the best Adirondack breweries—Ausable Brewing Company—with an outdoor pavilion where they host live music and have food trucks. I didn’t stop for beer on this trip, but I highly recommend you make it to this brewery during your travels.
Clover Mead Cafe and Farm Store at North Country Creamery
North Country Creamery has some of the best creamline yogurt you will find. They have a great variety of farmstead cheeses and a cafe/farm store stocked with local produce, meat, tinctures, crafts, pre-made meals, an order-to-serve menu, and coffee. Clover Mead is a proper cafe if you are looking to just relax and sip your coffee.
One tip about farm stores is that they aren’t always staffed so you ring yourself up at the computer/check-out or leave cash for your purchase. This is the honor system. When I showed up to Clover Mead, though, Cat was available and she is there during regular business hours. I ordered a coffee and said hello to the cows and then headed to Mace Chasm Farm which is about three farms over on the same road — Mace Chasm.
Mace Chasm Butcher Shop at Mace Chasm Farm
I love Mace Chasm Farm because of the variety. They are a livestock farm and butcher shop with specialty sausages, smoked meats, fresh cuts, and salamis. Their cows are 100% grass fed and the rest of the animals forage on pasture and non-gmo grains. The best part of visiting this farm is the animals. They’re everywhere, just hanging out and grazing as animals do.
To get to Willsboro I took NY-22 South. I didn’t stop at any farms in this village, but it served as an important throughway on my trip because the views of the mountains and grazing animals were unbeatable! The Ben Wever Farm on Mountain View Road has a farmstand, horseback riding lessons, and campsites. Willsboro has a farmers market on Route 22 every Thursday from 10 a.m. - 1 p.m. in the summer and early fall.
Continuing on NY-22 South, left on U.S. 9 South, left on NY-22 South, which turned into NY-22 North, led me to Essex, a hamlet on the shores of Lake Champlain. The hamlet is filled with picturesque well-preserved 19th-century brick and stone homes and churches. The Essex-Charlotte Ferry will take you to Vermont and there's a marina.
This farm produces a full diet, year-round CSA. This is no small feat and means you can get everything from greens to grains when you visit their farm store. There are a couple farming memoirs written about Essex Farm. (No big deal!) And you can hang out with the lambs when you visit their farm store.
The Hub on the Hill
This is a food hub, cafe, and commercial kitchen. The Hub distributes local farm products to stores, schools, and other businesses throughout the region and they have a commercial kitchen and farm store cafe stocked with everything from local crafts, to pre-made meals, to fresh bread. It’s a great spot to relax and to see what farms throughout the region have to offer.
Reber Rock Farm
This is another livestock farm and butcher. Their farm store is fully stocked with products from ten other producers, artisans, and herbalists. This is a great spot to pick up that special New York maple syrup, and the views are amazing!
Still traveling on NY-22 South, I arrived in Wadhams where there’s a major destination for foodies: Dogwood. Wadhams is a hamlet in Westport where there is a train depot/theater, the aptly named Depot Theatre, and Ledge Hill Brewing Co.
Dogwood Bread Company and Bakery
Every Wednesday and Friday night at Dogwood is pizza night. They have a wood fired oven and are known for their artisanal breads. They have a cafe, serve as a community meeting spot, and host live music. It’s a great space to hang out and read, or to hear live music and eat delicious pizza. And yes, the pizza is so good that the space usually fills up fast.
Right in the center of Wadhams, a waterfall rages in spring, but by mid-summer the water eases up and serves as a great swimming hole. All you have to do is walk outside Dogwood and cross the bridge. You will find this roadside attraction next to the Wadhams Public Library.
Heading south on NY-22 North, right on NY-22 South, right on Elizabethtown-Wadhams Road, left on U.S. 9 South, and left on Williams and I was in Elizabethtown, otherwise known as the County Seat. This town is home to some impressive mountain biking trails and views as you head toward Keene and Lake Placid north on Route 9 North to NY-73 West.
The Deer’s Head Inn Restaurant
My final stop had to be dinner and a drink. This farm to table restaurant is a favorite among locals and travelers alike. They offer specials to farmers and they are majority locally sourced. It’s one of the best ways to experience all the goodness in the Adirondack food scene without having to do any work. And Zohar, behind the bar, is a farmer in charge of vegetable production at Essex Farm.
Start planning your road trip in the Lake Champlain region today! Find the perfect lodging so you can spend time exploring the farms, food, drinks, lakes, rivers, and mountains in this beautiful valley.