I once heard someone say that all other sports wish they were invented by the vikings. Cross-country skiing may have originated in Scandinavia, but it’s certainly become a global activity. Snowshoeing has a similar backstory. Both winter activities, originally used for transportation in deeper snow, are done frequently here in the Adirondacks, not out of necessity, but for fun!
Hamilton County - with it’s small towns and big outdoors - is a winter treasure trove of outdoor activities. Yeah, it might be a little colder and the days might be shorter, but there are plenty of things to do to keep you warm. While downhill skiing may appeal to a wider audience, spending time on the trails in the backcountry woods is a great way to enjoy winter’s fresh air and admire the wild natural beauty of the Adirondacks.
So, if you’re ready to get out on your cross-country skis or snowshoes this winter, check out these trails that lead to scenic, frozen ponds, stunning natural vistas, and great adventures.
Four-season fun is right outside your door! Fern Park is open for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, with free, fully groomed single and double track cross-country ski trails that are also open to snowshoes. This location is perfect for someone who is just getting into winter activities. There are 20-miles of trails, 14 of which are groomed. When you’re ready to get a little more adventurous, 6-miles of trails along the outer loop remain ungroomed.
The best part? Not all skiing has to be during daylight hours: 1.2-miles of the trail system is lighted for night skiing until 10 p.m.
Foxey Brown Trail
In the late 1800s, a man who went by the name of Foxey Brown settled down on a remote piece of land in the Adirondack wilderness. Foxey Brown, a now famous hermit, not only lives on in stories, but a new cross-country ski trail also bears his name. The Foxey Brown Trail is mostly level, but on the longer side, just over 6-miles to do the loop, to be exact. A level grade is perfect not only for skiing, but also a relaxing snowshoe hike.
A moderate distance loop around Moss Lake is a perfect off-piste option for cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. There are no big hills to navigate, but there are big views across the frozen lake for those who even venture just a little way down the trail.
Adirondack fire towers are popular, and rightly so! They afford us an opportunity to visit a piece of history in its rightful setting. How cool is that?
While not every tower in Hamilton County is appealing to the masses for a winter adventure (one requires a 15+ mile round-trip outing), these awesome links to the past make for great destinations on snowshoes. Be sure to carefully study maps to take elevation gain into account; not every trail is easy to navigate on skis.
Lapland Lake is Hamilton County’s hidden gem Nordic center. Over 50km of trails are groomed for skate and classic cross-country skiing. It’s not all skiing, though: 12km are designed specifically for snowshoeing. The variety of terrain (from mellow, beginner paths to steep, expert-only hills) makes this a perfect option for all abilities.
Many of the trails are one-way, helping create a unique, peaceful experience that isn’t typically found at Nordic centers.
This is a direct contrast to Lapland Lake. This is wilderness at its finest! You won’t find groomed trails here, but don’t worry, the trail to Puffer Pond isn’t scary. Snowshoeing may be the best option as this trail gains and loses quite a bit of elevation along the way and may not be the easiest to ski. Since the trail to Puffer Pond is about as wild as it comes, be sure you’re prepared for a winter outing: lots of warm layers and emergency field equipment are recommended! However, the reward is an excellent view of the Siamese Ponds Wilderness.
If you’re up for a little more exploring from the same trailhead, a snowshoe hike up Chimney Mountain makes for an excellent side-trip.
I’m a big fan of exploring new places. Two locations I recently discovered in Hamilton County that satisfied my need for wildness were the trail around Sagamore Lake and the peaceful path to Cascade and Stephens ponds. On both trips I found nothing but quiet trails through the wilderness. (I’m also happy to provide dining recommendations upon request, because, after all, the best part about cross-country skiing is definitely eating afterward.)
But hey, don’t just take my word for it! Book your stay in Hamilton County today so you can experience a wonderful winter exploring the best of the big outdoors!