Keeping active when the snow hasn’t arrived
While not all trails in the Lake Champlain Region area are perfect for trail running, many you will find do fit the bill. Trail conditions and topography play a huge role in what’s good, OK, and not-so-OK. Trail running has hit the scene in a big way with running clubs, races, endurance races, and just plain old keeping in shape; what better place than the Lake Champlain Region to get started. Are you currently a road runner? Maybe consider venturing off into the woods and hitting the trails in search of a new endurance workout. The varied terrain is unlike what can be found when pounding pavement, and with that it works all different muscle groups including those stubborn stabilizer muscles that you forget about.
As for these select destinations outlined below I hope you will find them adequate points of interest. If you have never tried trail running before, maybe start off with an easier trail and work your way up to a more difficult one. The selected trails all fall into a moderate category; just shorten the distance if it is too much.
Split Rock Wild Forest
To get to Split Rock Wild Forest follow Route 22 north out of Westport. Drive a short distance to Lake Shore Road on your right and follow it. Continue on Lake Shore Road for just under 5 miles, you'll find the trailhead on the right. This 3,700 acre wild forest is made up of nine different trails, for which all intersect another making for nearly countless loops and adventures at your fingertips. Read my Split Rock Wild Forest blog for more details.
All nine trails within this trail network are perfect for running; some are just harder than others. For example the North Rim Trail that goes over Split Rock Mountain would be considered more of an expert running destination due to its steeper terrain and serious elevation changes. While the Robin’s Run, Lewis Clearing Bay, Barn Rock, Gary’s Elbow, Calamity and Cross-over Trails are all easy to moderate in course and can be the perfect first trail running destinations.
Champlain Area Trails (CATS)
The Champlain Area Trails are made up of over 35 miles of trails that intersect county, town, and dirt roads to connect several small communities. These trails varying from 0.25 miles to 4.0 miles round trip offer an expansive range of difficulties. Want something a bit more demanding? Be sure to check out Bouquet or Coon Mountains. Maybe you want something a bit more moderate, choose Go to the Midway or Blue Hills Trails. Maybe something easy is on your mind for a first run - the Black Kettle or Bobcat Trail might be the ticket for you. But don’t let that be the end of it, these are only a few examples of what the trails have to offer, so much more is out there.
Wickham Marsh State Game Management Area
This trail system is 862 acres and there have been several foot trails developed for trail running, hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, bird watching, hunting, trapping, fishing and education. For the trail runner these trails offer a large variety of terrain but mostly on a beginner level.
While much of the terrain is relatively flat there are a few sections of elevation change. The higher trails tend to stay along the peninsula and overlook the marsh. The ones that descend into the marsh tend to be a bit steep and can be a bit tough to run up. The trails within the marsh have excellent varied terrain with rolling hills, wet conditions, some rocky footing and in a few cases a bit of overgrowth. Some of the trails follow old woods roads while others have been newly developed where the tread is limited.
Some of the trails have not been adequately marked, so it is very important to have a map with you to avoid confusion. A few of the trails have also gone under a slight disrepair, but with future trail work always on the agenda, this could be cleared up at any time. Some of the low-lying trails have some water issues as they near the marshes and beaver areas, but are still passable.
After you give these a shot be sure to consider some of the other area trails like Coon Mountain in Ticonderoga, Cheney Mountain in Mineville, Crowfoot Pond near Witherbee, or maybe the Old Ironville Road in Ironville (just west of Ticonderoga).
Prepare - To Have Fun
Remember while trail running you have a good chance of getting dirty and wet, you may trip, you may fall, get bruised up, scratched up and damaged – but that is all part of the sport and a certain part that makes the sport that much more interesting and demanding. You will need to make split second decisions based on terrain, rocks, roots, mud, bridges, blow-down, stream crossings, and other people on the trail. So my recommendation to you is: try it and see if you like it. Don’t buy special gear and clothing until you are sure the sport is for you. Consider food that you can take in small bites like energy bars, gels, chews, and chocolates. These will make it easier to get quick energy when you need it without having to take the time to stop. Carry plenty of water; handheld bottles work great but a bladder in a small pack seems to work the best. If you end up really liking the sport then consider going to a reputable gear/footwear shop and get fitted for a good pair of trail running shoes and maybe a small pack designed for running. Other gear such as compression socks and clothing can come later as you advance into the sport. Be safe, have fun, and take lots of pictures!
After a day of running on the trail, put your feet up at one of Lake Champlain's many great Inns, Motels, B&Bs, Cottages or Lodges. Or maybe you've run up an appetite and are looking for a delicous place to eat. Don't forget to sign up to win a free stay!
Guest Blogger: Spencer Morrissey
Spencer resides and works in the Adirondack Park. He is the owner and guide for Inca-Pah-Cho Wilderness Guides. He is an avid outdoor enthusiast, a four-season 46er and a finisher of the Adirondack 100 Highest. In his spare time he has also authored three local guide books – The Other 54, Adirondack Trail Runner and Adirondack Skier. If you haven’t run into him on the trail or on the water, it’s only a matter of time. Spencer Morrissey is also a mountain guide for High Peaks Mountain Guides in Lake Placid and Rock and River Guides in Keene.