Don’t stay inside this winter
Climbing a mountain in the winter requires a lot of preparation and a bunch of gear. It’s fun, beautiful, and rewarding but it’s also a lot of work. The good news is snowshoeing doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, if you can walk, you can snowshoe!
If you’re new to snowshoeing or you’re simply looking for a way to get out for a few hours, Saranac Lake’s cross-country ski and snowshoe centers — Dewey Mountain Recreation Center and the Paul Smith's College VIC — are the perfect places to go. Not only do they offer clear, well-marked trails, they also offer some conveniences you won’t find 5 miles into a backcountry hike.
Why head to a snowshoe center?
Both Dewey and the VIC rent snowshoes. Dewey’s can be taken off the property if you want to get into the backcountry, while the VIC has Jenkins Mountain on site if that’s what you’re looking for.
Driving with all of your gear on isn’t fun
If you’re heading to a trailhead in the mountains, you have two choices: bundle up before the drive and sweat all the way there, or just go with your base layers and deal with getting layered up in your vehicle so you don’t start the hike shivering.
Both Dewey and the VIC have warm lodges, so visitors can bundle up indoors and thaw their toes after a few hours outside. The lodges are also a great place to eat lunch, stash extra gear, and use the restroom.
Everything is clearly marked
Most backcountry trails are narrow, and they wind between boulders and trees as they approach their destination. If they’re well traveled they’re pretty easy to follow, but if you’re the first person on a trail after a heavy snowfall you have to rely on trail markers — small round discs nailed to trees — to find the route.
A lot of the trails at Dewey and the VIC are groomed so they are wide, clear, and easy to follow. Each facility also has large, colorful trail maps, and intersections are well marked.
The backcountry is great for providing things like adventure and solitude. Sometimes it’s nice to be among fellow snowshoers, though! Dewey Mountain and the VIC both host regular events throughout the winter, and most of them are participatory. Keep reading to learn more!
And if you enjoy competition, don't miss Adirondack Snowshoe Fest, which takes place at both locations!
Meet Dewey Mountain Recreation Center
This town-owned trail network is easy to get to from downtown and is welcoming to locals and newcomers alike. Don’t be intimidated by the word “mountain” in the name — Dewey’s trails are mellow compared to some of the neighboring mountains, like Ampersand. Ski and snowshoe rentals are available by the day and half-day, and those rented for off-premises use are considered full day.
The lower trails are easier and lighted at night, while the upper mountain trails are ungroomed for a backcountry experience. The vertical drop from summit is 440 feet — if you’re up to the climb, head to the top on the East Side trail and enjoy views of the Saranac Chain of Lakes before descending the West Side trail.
Dewey hosts a number of races and events. If you want to try skiing, head there on the second Wednesday of the month. Rentals are free from 5-7 p.m. with the purchase of a trail pass. And don’t miss a Friday Night Ski Jam, a free event with food and live music in the lodge, and a bonfire and lighted trail skiing outside.
Dewey has 13 km of ski trails and 4 km of snowshoe trails to enjoy.
Dewey Mountain Recreation Center is so accessible, it's practically downtown! Leaving Main Street, turn right on Route 3, toward Tupper Lake. The ski center is on the left, after about a mile. There is ample parking in the large lot.
Meet the VIC
It’s a longer drive to the VIC than to Dewey, but the trail network there is more expansive and the terrain is more varied. Snowshoe and ski rentals are also available for use on the trail network, and considering how expansive that network is there really isn’t a need to stray from the property.
The VIC is all about variety. There are dozens of ways to combine trails, as well as short, mellow loops like the one to Barnum Pond, and longer loops like the trail around Heron Marsh. Anyone looking for a challenge can take on Jenkins Mountain — the summit has a great view of the VIC’s wetlands and waterbodies, and on clear days the mountains to the south are a site to behold. Careful observers will notice the VIC’s variety isn’t just about the terrain. Every Adirondack ecosystem except high alpine tundra is here, so be prepared to see the forest types change as you explore this beautiful place.
The VIC has 40 km of maintained trails for classic skiers and snowshoers, 15 km of groomed trails for skate and classic skiing, and 10 km of snowshoe-only trails along ponds and up Jenkins Mountain.
In downtown Saranac Lake, take Route 86 west toward Paul Smiths. At the intersection with Route 30, turn right on Route 30 and look for the VIC entrance on the left after about a mile. Parking is just down the road.