December 12, 2014
Early Season Cross-Country Ski DestinationsSure Saranac Lake is loaded with cross-country skiing destinations, but not all are perfect for early season conditions when snowfall is light and the base is very thin. But if you have the chance, these five locations have a lot to offer and all are within a stone’s throw of the Village of Saranac Lake.
Grass Pond and then the Hayes Brook Trail to Sheep Clearing
Just follow Route 86 out of Saranac Lake toward Paul Smiths. From the intersection of Route 30 and 86 in Paul Smiths follow Route 30 north, and continue for around 3.8 miles to the trailhead/snowmobile launching area on the right. Drive a short distance down this road to the parking area. The trip continues along the road – do not take the path to the back of the parking lot. Follow the road for a short distance to the marked trail on the left.
This relatively easy ski will start off and finish along an old woods road at an attractive back-country pond. From the trailhead the ski starts off very flat before a slight descent down to a crossing of the Osgood River. Take a right at the next intersection for Grass Pond; left leads along the Hayes Brook Trail to Sheep Meadows. From the intersection the trail remains mellow on only a very slight uphill track. The road will bring you to the lean-to on Grass Pond. To access Grass Pond, ski the steep/short trail down to the water. A secondary trail to the left will bring you down to an outlet and further into the forest of white coated trees.
Back at the intersection take a right to Sheep Meadow rather than a left back to the car to extend your outing. The trail soon splits offering a shortcut that leads back to the woods road. This shortcut doesn’t hold as much snow as the truck trail and has a bit more of a rolling hill feature to the terrain, stay on the road for early season. The truck road leads easily through a stand of Scotch pines but never really gets difficult. Due to the lack of use by skiers, often you will be breaking trail to reach the lean-tos at Sheep Meadows. This is an excellent spot to break out the hot cocoa and a light snack before heading back out to the trailhead.
Slush Pond Road
Begin at the same trailhead location as above. From the trailhead parking you will have to walk back to Route 30 and cross over to Slush Pond Road. Ski down this seasonal road which leads on a downhill course over easy terrain to the Shore of Slush Pond. The road is two cars wide and easy for the entire family. This road gets skied quite often but also has heavy snowmobile use. Early in the season is best for this road, stay to the sides to avoid the ruts of snowmobiles.
From the intersection of Route 3 and Route 86 in Saranac Lake follow Route 86 toward Paul Smiths. After approximately 3.5 miles there is a dirt road on the right, follow this to the parking area for the bog. The run through is just under four miles, and there is very little elevation change on this trail, making it ideal for the entire family. Bloomingdale Bog is one of the largest bogs in the Adirondack Park and home to many species of wild birds; not to mention the possibility of a moose. The gray jays are friendly and love to be fed along this trail, so bring some crackers to share. You will begin following the flat, straight grade of an old railroad. The railroad ties have been removed for the convenience of runners, hikers, skiers and mountain bikers. The ski works its way through wooded areas but soon reaches the first signs of a bog. You will move in and out of the bog area as you pass through.
Fish Pond Truck Trail
Start at the intersection of Route 86 and Route 3 in Saranac Lake and follow Route 86 toward Paul Smiths, then Route 186 to Lake Clear. Pass through Lake Clear and locate Fish Hatchery Road on the right follow this to the Little Clear Pond Access Road also on the right. After about 0.75 miles from Fish Hatchery Road the Fish Pond Truck Trail will come in on the right. Once on the trail you will notice it is properly named, as it is an old truck road. The course is wide and flat at the beginning but will soon come to a small climb over a small knob which is the height-of-land along the trail. The descent on the other side is a nice one, but not very aggressive. At the base of the descent you will cross a tributary of St. Regis Pond and start a course of small rolling hills that will pass you by a few short spur trails to other hidden gems. The road ends at Fish Pond near a lean-to, which is an excellent spot for a hot toddy.
What more is there to do? See what else Saranac Lake has to offer for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Want to do a little shopping and pick up some gear – see what we have for gear shops in the area and stop on by. We also have guide services that can get you set up with an introduction to cross-country skiing course and rentals, too.