Predictions are for better than average amounts of snowfall this season which should make for some great winter trail activity. We are part of the Adirondack Park; 6-million-acres of winter wonderland playground, but let's keep in mind, that land is both public and private. If we simply want to venture out, not necessarily hitting a formalized ski center, where do we go? Whether we seek outdoor winter solitude, an opportunity to view wildlife and nature, or a location for a quiet outing with family or friends we know where we are welcome along the Adirondack Coast thanks to CATS (Champlain Area Trails). We also have an idea of what to expect when we get there, even if covered with snow.
CATS has assembled a wide variety of trails within the Lake Champlain Region that welcome us year round. Choose from trails that take us to mountain top vistas, wildlife viewing areas, along the banks of streams, rivers and ponds and provide us with opportunity to take in all the wonders Adirondack nature has to offer. Trails and trailheads are well-marked and often include a sign to note any restrictions.
Currently 49 unique trails are in the total collection assembled in one easy-to-follow comprehensive map-guide. And, the collection continues to grow.
Penfield Pond Trail
Two new trails added to the CATS list this year that are waiting for winter exploration are the Penfield Pond Trail in Ironville and the Art Farm Trail in Wadhams. The Penfield Pond Trail is accessed off Peasley Road in the Town of Crown Point, hamlet of Ironville, a mere 2/10th of a mile from the Penfield Homestead Museum. The trail is about one-mile in length, roundtrip, and is considered “moderate.” A good share of it meanders along Penfield Pond for some great viewing. I’ve had individuals tell me they’ve seen moose in this pond, and I’m aware otter are plentiful too, so bring a camera and watch for the wildlife.
Art Farm Trail
The Art Farm Trail is actually privately owned, but available to us for exploration thanks to the diligent work of CATS and the generous hospitality of Edward Cornell, renowned artist and theatre director (among his many other talents). The trailhead can be found on Sayre Road, about 6/10th of a mile north of the Lewis-Wadhams Road which connects those two hamlets. The trail is about 1.5-miles roundtrip and is also considered “easy” as it passes through fields, woods, and by a pond. Unique to this trail is that it passes by some of Cornell’s incredible sculptures. Some find the variety of sculpture in contrast to the surrounding nature, while others find it melds beautifully. Nevertheless, there is a story told there that you won’t want to miss.
CATS has put together several trail recommendations for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in easy, moderate, and difficult categories. Also in the “easy” category is the Crown Point State Historic Site - I would recommend this one myself if only for the phenomenal location. Glide, or snowshoe, by 18th century forts that are National Historic Landmarks, while taking in breathtaking vistas of Lake Champlain, the lower Adirondack Mountains, and new Lake Champlain Bridge. The windswept landscape and the gray stone of the British fort ruins can be quite the visual study in black and white. This is also a great birding location. Bald eagles are sited regularly as well as many artic migratory birds during the winter months. The open terrain invites an increased wind-chill factor however, so be prepared to protect your face.
The site’s ski trail is marked, but not groomed.
Coot Hill Trail
The Coot Hill Trail is recommended as a “moderate” snowshoeing and cross-country skiing trail in the winter. You can begin where the plowing stops at the end of Lang Road off White Church Road in Moriah. From there the trail follows the road about ½ mile to an old cemetery. Turn left at the cemetery and begin an approximate ¼ mile climb. You will be astounded at the incredible site distance at the peak. The view overlooks the peninsula of Crown Point and across Lake Champlain and valley to the Green Mountains of Vermont. Personally, as I approached the peak, I would step out of my skis. The drop-offs from the peak are considerable and I wouldn’t trust my brakes to get anywhere near them.
Cheney Mountain Trail
Cheney Mountain Trail is recommended as a “difficult” cross-country challenge, though it’s not that long; only 1.5 miles round trip. Difficult trails can be steep and narrow. I’ve hiked Cheney, but would never try it on skis with my ability, despite having backcountry skis with steel edges. (Are you starting to detect that I am rather cautious on skis?) There are a few tight, relatively steep turns flanked by a whole lot of trees along the trail. Some of the trail is actually rather easy, but if you are up for a bit of a cross-country skiing challenge and are quick on the turns, this trail with a few tight spots, may suit you. I’d prefer it on snowshoes, though some narrow spots may make it difficult to parallel the ski tracks; a must-do for winter trail etiquette. Regardless, the reward at the top will be great. There are three different overlooks giving you different vantage points over the lake and into Vermont. Find the trailhead on Pelfershire Road off NYS Route 9N & 22, just a couple of miles north of the Village of Port Henry.
Snowshoe & Brew?
If the idea of a winter snowshoe or ski trek under the moonlight, complete with camaraderie and campfire, appeals to you - head’s up! Beginning on January 22nd and extending until April 2nd on select Friday and Saturday evenings, Halfmoon Snowshoe Nights (aka Snowshoe & Brew) will be held at Noblewood Park in Willsboro from 7 until 9 pm. Located 3 miles north of Essex on Route 22, this park boasts about 1 mile of easy trails along the Boquet River and ending at a lodge on the bluff with an incredible view of Lake Champlain and the Green Mountains to the east. Pass through the beautiful moonlit, crystalline snow-covered paths within the forest groves in the park, either by snowshoe or cross-country ski. Then relax and experience fireside camaraderie while sharing folklore and a brew of your own choosing. BYOB and a fun-loving spirit. (Tip: Baileys goes great in hot chocolate.)
Stay tuned to our events calendar for further information on these Snowshoe & Brew select dates and other Snowshoe Night events popping up in surrounding communities.
This week in related ADK pre-ski season news: Wax On!