December 28, 2019
Peaceful yet exhilarating, snowshoeing is an excellent way to enjoy winter’s finest feature – snow! You will float across the snow with hardly a sound, letting you focus on nothing but the nature around you. With millions of acres of wilderness and plenty of natural snow coating the trails, the Adirondacks is the perfect place to get your snowshoe legs under you.
From professionally groomed trails to the barely-touched paths of the backcountry, the Saranac Lake region has miles and miles of snowshoeing trails to discover. Whether you’re a first-time snowshoer or a seasoned pro, you’ll find fun and adventure on the trails below.
Some people see breaking trail as a privilege, a right of passage, or an exciting foray into the unknown. Others see it as a deal-breaker. When it comes to snow, there’s no right or wrong! Luckily, there is a snowshoe destination in the Saranac Lake region that offers groomed trails.
The Paul Smith’s College Visitors Interpretive Center, located about 20 minutes west of Saranac Lake in Paul Smiths, offers nine miles of groomed trail open to snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. They also have 25 miles of maintained trail and six miles of unmaintained snowshoe-only trail in case you want to break trail. Trails range in difficulty and length, making this a great choice for beginner snowshoers as well as seasoned experts.
During the winter season the VIC is open seven days a week from dawn to dusk. Purchase a day pass (or a season pass) in the main lodge and rent snowshoes right there if you don’t have your own. Before you hit the trail, review a map with a friendly staff member – they are always happy to recommend the best experience for your skill level. With waterbodies and wetlands at its center, the network of trails at the Paul Smith’s VIC boasts a wide variety of stunning sights. And, thanks to their well-marked trails, navigating the routes is easy.
Maintained trails are the happy medium of Adirondack outdoor experiences. While they are well-marked and major maintenance is attended to, they are not routinely cleaned up or professionally groomed. Not too easy, not too hard. They’re just right.
There are an abundance of maintained trails open to snowshoeing in the Saranac Lake region. One such trail is at the Dewey Mountain Recreation Center. In exchange for a modest day pass fee they provide a marked and maintained loop trail up the mountain that crosses and intersects with both their groomed and un-groomed cross-country ski trails. Snowshoe up the mountain’s east side and then descend on the west. Just be sure to yield to downhill skiers and avoid walking on groomed ski trails.
The trail to Moose Pond starts at a trailhead on state Route 3 between Saranac Lake and Bloomingdale. This mostly flat, 1.5-mile out-and-back trail takes snowshoers over the Saranac River, through a young-growth evergreen forest, and then to the shores of picturesque Moose Pond. For such a short trail, this hike offers a wide variety of views and provides a sweet taste of solitude and serenity.
Baker Mountain, one of the Saranac 6er mountains, is also a fun winter hike so long as you have snowshoes and traction devices on hand. At just 1.8 miles round-trip, a hike up Baker is definitely one to add to your list. Be prepared though, this mountain gains considerable elevation in a short distance, making for a steep and sometimes difficult hike under the right (or wrong) conditions. Always be sure to bring snowshoes or crampons on winter hikes so as to prevent slips and falls.
Sometimes, less really is more. The natural trails of the Adirondacks provide an unparalleled opportunity to get out and enjoy the snow. Experience it for yourself on the Bloomingdale Bog trail. This wonderful nature experience - along a former railroad bed - runs from just outside of Saranac Lake to Vermontville. The flat, wide path makes it a popular destination for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling. The trail traverses several bridges as it passes over and through wetlands. These bridges offer spectacular views of the frozen bog and the mountains beyond. Be on the lookout for wildlife along the way, especially birds. Brave chickadees and daring gray jays have even been known to land on the hands of patient passersby.
When you hear “railroad tracks,” beautiful nature experiences might not be what immediately comes to mind. The former railways of the Adirondacks will change that! The rails that used to bring visitors and supplies to the Adirondacks now lie unused by trains in many places. Start at the old train station in Saranac Lake and follow the tracks toward Lake Clear. This route will take you through town, past lakes, and through remote forest. While walking all the way to Lake Clear might be too far for a casual outing, you can enjoy the experience for as long as you feel comfortable and then simply turn back. This is a popular snowmobile trail as well, so watch out and yield to snowmobilers.
Instead of hunkering down this winter, strap on some snowshoes and hit the trails. It’s not only a great way to experience what the Saranac Lake region has to offer – it’s also a great way to enjoy the outdoors during the snowy season. And, when the cold air starts to nip at your nose, head into town for a delicious hot chocolate and a well-earned treat at one of town’s cozy cafes.
If you want a more cultivated snowshoe experience, hire a local guide or check in with one of the local outfitters for rentals, maps, and recommendations. As with any outdoor winter activity, be sure to dress in warm, waterproof layers and keep an eye on the day’s forecast – temperatures can drop quickly and you never know when more snow might be on the horizon!
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