Wife and I paddled 4 of the 12 or so ponds and lakes in this area, just opened to the public in the fall of 2013. It was a sunny calm day, with temps in the mid to high 80s.
We left home and arrived at the large parking area (with privy, which is a plus after a 3 hour drive!) and unloaded our lightweight Hornbeck Pack canoes, put on our PFDs and day packs, loaded our lightweight Werner paddles (the operative word here is LIGHTWEIGHT since we're both older) and walked the 1/4 mile to the carry at Deer Pond.
A short paddle across the narrow end of the pond brought us to our next carry to Third Lake, the largest lake in the Chain. This was a 1/2 mile, mostly on a wide dirt road. From there we launched and paddled up the lake to the small inlet to Fourth Lake, and then under a large culvert with a knotted rope on the top which aided in getting through, as there was a small collection of beaver-chewed logs partway in the culvert.
Along the way we paddled by some nice (and new) campsites put up by the state. These require permits from the Visitor Information Center off of Route 28N just outside Newcomb. Heading back we saw loons, herons, and an imaginary moose (if there ever was a place for a moose siting, this is the area!). On the drive in a deer ran across out path and then, somewhat to my wife's dismay, a bear. "Did you bring the bear spray?" said she. To which I replied, "Uhhhhhhh......". So there was a lot of singing and loud talking on the carries......
We did not explore the other lakes on this, our first trip, but will be back in early Fall to continue the adventure. We met only 3 other paddlers the entire day.
New York State has some excellent resources to reference about this area. The road in is well marked, and the sign is very visible from either direction on Route 28N in the village of Newcomb.
The shorelines of these lakes are definitely wild, so don't expect nice sandy beaches when you take out or put in. DO expect loose, waterlogged branches and muck to suck your shoes off your feet. I learned to wear my boat shoes/sandals on the carries and then to launch/pull-out in my bare feet.
This is a wild and remote area, with only a few private residences still permitted (ie Gooley Club) that will be removed by 2016-2017 so be prepared to take care of yourself. Most of the lakes can be accessed without carrying your boat, except for the two carries to Third Lake previously mentioned.
There is a state campground in Newcomb on a nice lake, and there are several B&B and motel options in the area, especially in Long Lake.
Campsites on the Chain require a permit obtained from mid May to mid October from the VIC off of Route 28N in Newcomb. Information can be found by googling "Essex Chain of Lakes Camping Permits"
Suggest you Google directions as they vary from your starting location. Once on the road in just follow the signs. The start is paved and the rest of the drive in is on dirt road, some of it rocky and rutted, with a speed limit of 15 mph....which can be twice as fast as needed in some places.
Online maps and references can be found on NYS DEC's website, or google Essex Chain of Lakes Information.