Staying Fit for the Holidays
The Champlain Area Trails (CATS) is a rather large network of trails for hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, birding, and picnicking in the Champlain Valley that stretches as far west as Elizabethtown. Many of the trails are built and maintained by a not-for-profit organization that was started back in 2009 to link communities, connect people with nature, and promote economic vitality. Along with these ever so important traits, CATS ease of access and diversity of terrain makes them the perfect destination for staying fit all year-round. Maybe you aren’t a fan of winter but you want to stay active throughout the cold spell, or maybe you are unable to hike long distances but want to stretch your legs, CATS has something for everyone.
I know for me, the holiday season is tough to balance the act of holding down a full time job, snacking, big dinners – multiple big dinners - and staying active. November to January 1st is famous for that, hence the reason we may need to have a New Year’s resolution, or revolution as I like to call it. Let me give you a short list of what’s out there in the CATS, to give you an idea of where you can go to keep active this fall and winter.
Blueberry Hill Trails – varied lengths, Easy to Moderate
This is a large network of trails that are perfect for many sports and can be found off of Lords Road in Elizabethtown. This trailhead will access thirty or so trails that will loop you through the forest over easy to steep terrain to gain views from two smaller summits and many other viewing areas in between. You can also stay lower in elevation and hike around the foothills and have a scenic walk along Cliffside.
Coon Mountain Trail – 2 miles RT, Moderate
This short hike to a rewarding view out over Lake Champlain is worth every step. You can find the trail located off of Halds Road just north of Westport. With a moderate climb and only one steep section this trail can get anyone high above the valley. A long rock staircase will help get you there as you swing around the mountain to finally top out on a rocky summit. A side trail called the Hidden Valley Trail can give you a short loop back to your car on the way out to diversify your hike a bit through more outstanding hardwood forest.
Crowfoot Pond Trail – 6 miles RT, Easy
This intriguing trail to a back-country Pond gets way back there where the wild things grow. You can access the trail from Tracy Road southwest of Witherbee. Aside from the bridge being out right at the beginning of this trail, this is a very easy access route to a hidden back-country pond. Follow an old woods road as you pass through the valley between Stiles Hill and Moriah Pond Mountain.
Mount Gilligan Trail – 3 miles RT, Moderate
This small peak lives just south of Elizabethtown along Route 9. This perfect hike is great for the entire family; you can’t go wrong with Mount Gilligan. The views are not only quite nice, but the trail is a very fascinating piece of work. Diverse vegetation, rock cliffs and two viewing platforms give you an all-around look into the area.
Barn Rock Bay Trail – 4 miles RT, Easy
This is part of the Split Rock Wild Forest and can be found off Lake Shore Road north of Westport. Start hiking along an old road and crest a small hill before you slowly descend to several side trails. The Barn Rock Trail will continue to descend down to a bay on Lake Champlain and afford you some outstanding vistas out over the lake toward Vermont.
Webb Royce Swamp Overlook Trail – 0.3 miles, RT, Easy
This is a handicap accessible trail that can work for everyone. It can be found off Clark Road which is just north of Westport. This short trail is gravel surface and leads quickly to an observation deck with nice views out over the swamp.
Belfry Mountain Trail – 0.8 miles, RT, Easy
This short trail to a historic firetower can be found off Dalton Hill Road in Witherbee. Start and end your hike along an access road that climbs easily to the summit of Belfry Mountain where the historic fire tower still rests. Enjoy sweeping views of the old mining towns and out over to Lake Champlain as you rest in the cab of the fire tower.
As you may have guessed by now I could keep going on and on about trails to hike and snowshoe, but that’s only fair – CATS is doing an outstanding job keeping these trails in the region in great shape for everyone, and with development of new trails every year, there will always be new places to explore. Interested in other hiking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing opportunities in the Lake Champlain Region, to help keep your body moving? Just dig a bit deeper on our website and see what you can find for an exciting day on the trail.