We wouldn’t recommend tackling the entire Northern Forest Canoe Trail, a 740-mile inland water route crossing New York, Vermont, Quebec, New Hampshire, and Maine. A through-paddle of the whole beast—originally a network of Native American trading routes that was mapped in 2006 by a non-profit group of paddlers—requires 55 miles of portages. But for a three-day canoe trip in the lower 48, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything better than the 42-mile segment from the town of Long Lake, New York, to the village of Saranac Lake in the Adirondacks. This chunk, on the route of the annual Adirondack Canoe Classic, is accessible and user-friendly, with two portages and a set of locks as it traces Long Lake, the Raquette River, and the three Saranac Lakes. And the sense of wilderness is profound: once you put in, there’s just the densely forested beauty of the ’Dacks, with the High Peaks rising to the east. Lean-tos are scattered along the route. Get maps from northernforestcanoetrail.org, and rent your boat—and arrange a shuttle back to Long Lake—from Lake Clear-based Mac’s Canoe Livery (rentals from $35 per day; shuttle, from $125). Before putting in, treat yourself to a night at the Adirondack Hotel on Long Lake (doubles, $120).
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