Trails End is a classic roadhouse bar located just outside Tupper Lake on Route 30. Step out the front door and look around. Surrounded by mountains, water and trees, a few barely discernible dwellings dot the landscape. Located at the convergence of Tupper Lake, Simon Pond, Raquette Pond, and the Raquette River, Trails End earns the distinction of being the bar with the best view in Tupper Lake, with some of the nicest people.
As we stepped from our V-6 (not our V-twin), we received a friendly greeting from the pair of musicians seated with their guitars on a long bench on the porch. Thursday is open mic night at Trails End and some like to get there early to warm up, be it musically or otherwise. Trails End is a self-proclaimed biker bar, but don’t think non-bikers are not welcome.
The bartender, Christine, greeted us right away and made us feel at home with her polite, hospitable and professional manner. She prides herself on making the best Bloody Mary in the Adirondacks. When Pam told her that Sporty, of Sporty’s Iron Duke Saloon in Minerva, has the best she has encountered, Christine begged to differ. Pam was enjoying her ruby red and vodka beverage too much to make the switch, but vowed to be back for a taste test. Maybe stop at Sporty’s for a re-taste, then on to Trails End for the comparison. Perhaps Sporty will come along to see for himself?
Inside we found the standard roadhouse attractions – pool table, dartboard (Trails End has a winter dart league), one television, and, mounted on the wall beside the door, the first breathalyzer machine we’ve encountered in our travels. Photos, pins, patches, posters and bumper stickers hang on the walls where the biker theme prevails. Seating at the bar is plentiful enough to accommodate 12 stools with lots of elbow room for pint lifting, and plenty more room for standing or circulating. A long counter sits along the front row of windows overlooking Route 30.
The liquor selection is more than the standard fare, and some trendy flavored liquors make an appearance. Beer is pretty straightforward - several primarily domestic bottled brands (with a couple of surprises) and Yuengling and Switchback draft. The bar food is of the roadhouse snack persuasion, with bagged chips and nuts, smoked meat sticks, and maybe a jar of pickled something too.
The nicest feature we found at Trails End was the people. At first reluctant, curiosity soon coaxed a few of the patrons out of their shells and they were soon telling their stories. We spoke at length with Darcy, a regular who shared her views on Tupper Lake politics and expressed frustration over the land development controversy currently driving a wedge between the residents. She also spoke of some of the more positive aspects of this town of roughly 4000 inhabitants mired in a long economic downturn.
Kenneth, one of the musicians who greeted us, invited Kim and her camera on a sunset tour of the multiple views from the Trails End’s vantage point. Delicately placing his guitar on the bench outside, he pointed out the various bodies of water and distant mountains, naming them all like a proper tour guide, his words bathed in the gilded warmth of the setting sun. He spoke of friends and neighbors who look out for one another and lend a helping hand when needed. Whether it’s funding for medical bills or stocking the food pantry, Kenneth reports that the owner organizes poker runs and is always quick to prompt his customers to contribute what they can.
Owned by biker Mark “Beard” Sutliff since the early 1980s, the business has been in operation since the 1920s. After a journey of miles of winding wilderness, its corner position and log exterior make it a visible and welcome sight for the weary traveler. Trails End is open year-round, from noon until as late as 3 a.m. seven days a week. Happy Hour is offered from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Though we didn’t get to meet Beard, we shared the story of our quest for the best 46 bars in the Adirondacks with our new friends. We had lost track of the exact number, but mentioned at the time that we had visited ninety-something bars. Later, while tallying our spoils, we learned that Trails End was actually the 100th bar visited since we started in January, 2011! In retrospect, it’s probably best we didn’t know at the time because they would have wanted to celebrate that milestone as much as we would have!
If you’re a biker, you most likely already know about Trails End. If not, stop in anyway. It’s easy to find, the view is spectacular, and the people are some of the nicest you’ll meet. Just don’t forget your Good Bar Attender manners.