Paul Smiths Visitors Interpretive Center (VIC)
An Adirondack family ski and snowshoe destination
Just a short drive from Saranac Lake is an outstanding resource for multi-use trails for the entire family. Paul Smith’s College has constructed a rather large trail system to provide a wide range of activities at the VIC. The major emphasis and goal was to engage the college community with all phases of VIC operations and open access to the public. Paul Smiths had plans for continued development of the trail system and to this day the trails are becoming better and better and much more varied for all levels of users.
The actual visitor’s center building was once owned by the State of New York; it is now officially owned and operated by Paul Smith College. Since the transfer of ownership, trails have sprung up all over the property, which opened up outstanding winter sport opportunities in cross country skiing, skate skiing and snowshoeing.
As I mentioned, the trails and corresponding map are under continuous reconstruction and development, so be sure to check in at the visitor’s center for any changes. The visitor’s center also offers free trail maps to patrons, a small gift shop and an attractive museum.
The VIC trails were built with snowshoeing, skiing, walking, hiking, trail running, bird watching, wildlife viewing, exercise and relaxation in mind, so please be aware you will be meeting all types of outdoor enthusiasts. They will range from the athletic to the leisure walker and include all age groups. With this in the back of your head be respectful to all you meet. Hopefully, they will return the same gratitude.
Be aware that if you decide to ski the designated snowshoe trails, that they have very difficult skiing conditions. They have difficult terrain, are narrow, in some cases not traveled, and not groomed.
Snowshoeing the VIC
Jenkins Mountain Trail
One of my favorite trails is the Jenkins Mountain Trail, which leads through an attractive forest to some very eye pleasing views. Locate the gated woods road near the parking area, as you drove in on the right, and start here, this is what is referred to as the Jenkins Mountain Road. Following here you will be on a typically packed-out trail with great conditions for snowshoeing; this also gets skied quite a bit as well. There will be many intersections along this road, but have the map with you and remain on the old woods road.
As you begin to transition from woods road to foot trail you will begin to see many signs of beaver activity on both sides of the trail. Fortunately for you, you will be well above them as you run along a glacial esker. Only at one point do you have to drop below the waterline and there is a beaver dam and bridge helping you stay dry as you make your way.
Climbing back up after the bridge you will be on a much narrower esker. As this one weaves through the area, you can see parts of Jenkins to your right. If you ever get the thought. This trail meaders through open maple forest and skirts Jenkins only to eventually climb up the opposite side.
You will leave the esker to the left and drop slightly into the hardwoods and continue on a trail that was cut into a side hill. There are several very small dips and rises as you approach the first steep climb. This climb, though steep, is very short.
Up to this point you have been very patient in your snowshoe of Jenkins Mountain and it will soon pay off. At some point you will be at the base of the climb for the summit of Jenkins and when that time comes, you will know it. The climb starts off a little steep but mostly slippery and a tad bit unstable, especially when there is fresh powder or not enough snow. With small breaks in the steep terrain you will top out on the ridge and be on a much more moderate slope. Just before the summit you will be in a high elevation col with a short, steep climb ahead that exits you out on to the summit rock.
Cross country skiing the VIC
I can’t put my finger on a single most favorite trail for skiing, there are so many. Each time I head out on the trails I tend to take a different loop and incorporate different ones in along the way. Some mind you are better than others. The trails around Black Ponds tend to be a bit boney, but they are designated as snowshoe trails after all. Others have some serious drops and but many are wide with nice gradual rolling terrain. Be sure to check out the trails that lead through the marshes, passing over long boardwalk that are not even noticeable under the layers of snow. The best advice I can offer is to go out and explore and each time you do, mix it up a bit and see whats out there without going too far over you ability.
Learn more about the Paul Smiths VIC or download one of their maps. Want to learn about more places to cross country ski and snowshoe in the Saranac Lake Region?, dig a bit deeper into our website for more motivational places to visit. Prefer to explore with a local guide service?, we can help you with that too.