Winter Hikes in the Adirondacks

Solitude on Gothics Mountain

Standing alone on the summit of Gothics leaves a person with a feeling of awe as to how big and beautiful our Adirondack Mountain Ranges are.

Joanne Kennedy

Winter hiking in the Adirondacks promises unmatched solitude. Deep snow speeds progress through rugged terrain, but subzero temperatures, hurricane-force winds, and limited daylight hours introduce new challenges to trekkers who visit between December and March. Adirondack hiking trails beckon with adventure even in winter and most trails are open for recreation. Before setting out, check the DEC's website to find out if there are any avalanche or storm warnings.

In the Adirondacks, even several feet of snow and freezing temperatures won't discourage avid outdoors enthusiasts. Hiking boots alone can't navigate deep snow. When precipitation accumulates or wind piles up snow drifts, each step punches a knee- or thigh-deep posthole. Foot travel becomes slow, difficult, and—as energy wanes and ice crystals work beneath layers—dangerous.

Instead, use snowshoes or cross-country skis to move efficiently over snow. With snowshoes, bindings secure boots to two metal-framed plastic platforms about the size of a tennis racket. Expanded surface area keeps hikers atop snow layers. Or employ cross-country skis—although skis designed for backcountry tours look much different than those in Olympic broadcasts. Wider bases keep skiers afloat when the snowpack increases, and shorter lengths keep them agile in thick forests. Fish-scaled bases add climbing grip, and metal edges dig into ice. Adjustable poles with oversized powder baskets give snowshoers and skiers stability—swing poles ahead, plant them in snow, and stride or glide onward.

Practice skills in the backyard, then gradually build winter hiking experience. The Tug Hill Plateau gets the most snowfall in the Adirondacks; visit Barnes Corners in the Tug Hill State Forest for a 4.5-mile tour on Inman Glide Trail with views of frozen Rainbow Falls. Ready for more? In Newcomb, winter morphs the Camp Santanoni access road into a 9.8-mile trip for skiers. And in the High Peaks, the five-mile glide from Adirondack Loj to Avalanche Pass reveals a frozen lake framed by cliffs, where ice crystals sparkle in the winter sun. The Adirondack Loj just outside of Lake Placid is open for winter camping in the Adirondacks.

 Winter hiking and camping can be strenuous, so it is important that participants understand the symptoms and signs of frostbite and hypothermia, as well as plan their routes and overnight sites carefully.

Winter Hiking Routes:

• Whiteface Mountain
• Scarface Mountain
• Giant Mountain
• Pitchoff Mountain
• Cascade Mountain
• Haystack Mountain
• Ampersand Mountain

What to wear:

• Base layer that is made of a wool blend, polypropylene or polyester
• Wool or synthetic fleece shirt fleece or wool jacket
• Waterproof pants
• Waterproof jacket with a hood
• Winter hat with ear protection
• Balaclava / facemask
• Mittens / gloves (preferably waterproof)
• Moisture wicking socks and dry spares
• Winter boots
• Gaiters to keep snow out of your boots

Don't forget to bring:

• Fire starting supplies
• Heat blankets
• Extra food and water

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