Destinations: Fort Ticonderoga, New York

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The roads, the scenery and the fort itself make Fort Ticonderoga, New York a worthy destination for a motorcycle trip.
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Surrounded by Carillon Battlefield, Mount Independence and Mount Defiance, Fort Ticonderoga occupies a historic corner of upstate New York. The roads, the scenery and the fort itself make a worthy destination for a motorcycle trip.

Fort Ticonderoga played a significant role in our nation’s early history, in large part due to its strategic location on a small water link that runs between the lower part of Lake Champlain and the upper part of Lake George. The fort has a commanding view (and commanding fields of fire) over what was an important path between Canada and the northern United States, and points south. Most things moved by boat in our early history, and the Lake Champlain/Lake George waterway formed a vital transportation corridor. The French built Fort Ticonderoga, originally named Fort Carillon, in 1754 during the French and Indian War. In 1758, 3,500 French troops successfully repelled 16,000 British troops trying to evict them. A year later the Brits routed the French, and on the way out the French blew up the fort’s powder magazine. At the start of the American Revolution the British still held Fort Ticonderoga, but in May of 1775, Ethan Allen and his famous Green Mountain Boys, along with Benedict Arnold (yes, that Benedict Arnold) crossed Lake Champlain, surprised the sleeping British, and scored our first Revolutionary War victory.

U.S. troops held Fort Ticonderoga until July of 1777, when the British pounded the fort with cannon fire from nearby Mount Defiance. The Americans counter attacked, and the British left in late 1777 after surrendering at Saratoga. After that, the U.S. used the fort as a base for invasions into Canada and elsewhere.

When the conflict between England and the U.S. ended, the fort was abandoned and ownership fell to the State of New York. Over the years, Fort Ticonderoga became a blighted property, but that changed when William Pell bought it in 1820 to make it into a summer home. Fort Ticonderoga became a hotel until descendants of the Pell family restored the fort to its original configuration in 1908. In 1909 President Taft attended as it was opened to the public. The fort has been a public treasure for more than 100 years, with over 80,000 visitors annually.

Fort Ticonderoga is open to the public from late May to late October. It is a major museum and research center, and Revolutionary War re-enactments occur frequently.

The ride to Fort Ticonderoga through upstate New York is magnificent. Watch for the well-marked exit off I-87 north, then turn right and go through the town of Ticonderoga, and then turn right again to enter the Fort Ticonderoga grounds. When leaving the fort, turn right, drive a mile until the road ends and take the historic 7-minute ferry ride across Lake Champlain into Vermont. We did so just after it rained, and Vermont looked as if the green saturation slider had been set at maximum!

You can make the fort and back in a day from New York City. A better idea is to spend a leisurely day riding up the Hudson River valley, visit the fort, cross over into Vermont, dine at a local restaurant and spend the night in one of the many B&Bs, and then meander back through New England the next day.

The Skinny

What: Fort Ticonderoga in upstate New York, a historic park at the junction of Lake Champlain and Lake George. It’s about 270 miles north of New York City.
How to Get There: From the New York City area, take I-87 north. From Vermont, navigate your way to the southern end of Lake Champlain and grab the ferry. From Canada (yep, it’s not that far), take 15 south, cross the border and take I-87 south.
Best Kept Secrets: The gardens (a great walk through the Fort Ticonderoga property). Side trips to Mount Independence and Mount Defiance, providing great views of Fort Ticonderoga. The Fort Ticonderoga Fife and Drum Corps.
Avoid: Speeding. The enforcement on New York’s interstate highways is pervasive. And don’t leave home without a camera!
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