Just Keep Running

I've spent countless hours exploring the mountains and forests around my hometown of Saranac Lake. Depending on the day, I might search out technical terrain in the High Peaks, rolling trails around a lake, or journey to a rewarding view.

Sarah Keyes

 I LOVE the Adirondacks, almost as much as I love running. The two combined is pretty powerful stuff. I've spent countless hours exploring the mountains and forests around my hometown of Saranac Lake. Depending on the day, I might search out technical terrain in the High Peaks, rolling trails around a lake, or journey to a rewarding view.

I'd like to share a few of my favorite spots with you. But first, there are a few things you'll need to take to the trails.

Running on the summit
Running on the summit

Trailing Running Necessities:

  1. Trail running shoes: The main difference between road running shoes and trail running shoes is the tread. You'll need the proper tread that suits your terrain. The sloppier the trail the more aggressive tread you'll need. Stop into one of the many running stores in the Adirondacks, like The Fallen Arch in Lake Placid, where experts can get you into the perfect pair and answer any questions you may have.
  2. Map: If it's a trail that is new to you, you'll need a map; heck, even when it's not a trail that is new to you it's a good idea to have a map. I use a number of apps on my phone or a hard copy of a map when I'm in a new area. Try TrailRunProject for trail info and satellite maps to help you navigate. When running in areas without cell service, I use the app Topo Maps, just be sure to download your area before leaving service. Additional pro tip, I will also take a photo with my phone at a trailhead kiosk, put my phone in airplane mode and reference it as needed. Lastly, throw this hiking guide in the car! Not only is it great reading material but it helps with planning.
  3. Hydration: This time of year I will not go on a run without water, I tend to perspire profusely. My body is just able to regulate its temperature well, what can I say. Depending on my intended route and distance, I'll either use a handheld soft flask that holds 17oz or a running vest that can hold a liter of water, plus room to pack other items such as nutrition, a wind jacket, etc.
  4. Be safe: This could be its own bullet list. I think you could argue that trail running is automatically safer over road running just by taking away the two-ton steel vehicles hurtling by you while you inhale road dust and exhaust, but there are a few things to think about before going out. Be prepared; if the weather is less than ideal or may change (as it does in the Adirondacks) have a waterproof layer, headlamp, and some nutrition in the form of gels or snacks. When I go out in the High Peaks (regardless of the activity I'm doing) I always carry at least those items. If just going out for a short run on town trails I usually have at least a gel pack on me. Lastly, and most importantly, tell someone where you're going. Safety first!

Now that you know the essentials let's get to the good stuff, the trails!

Best Running Trails in the Adirondacks

Saranac Lake

Dewey Mountain Recreation Area

One of my favorite local areas to run to right from my door. A local training ground for up and coming Nordic skiers in the winter, Dewey is a great spot for mountain bikers and trail runners alike. There are numerous trails at Dewey, so it's a good idea to snap a photo at the kiosk if you're new here. To keep it easy, stick to the lower mountain and explore either the red or purple trails. Tie in the green or yellow trail for more of a single-track challenge. My favorite loop is to run to the top of the mountain and down on the orange trail.

Mount Pisgah

Another trail system I access, door to trail, is Mount Pisgah. Another great multi-use area, Pisgah boasts night alpine skiing in the winter months and mountain biking, hiking, and trail running once the snow melts. Speaking of snow, this is one of the first areas to dry out in the spring, making for good early season running. With little to no flat trails, I do a lot of tempo loops here. Definitely check Pisgah out, you won't be disappointed with the single track or the views.

Running in the cloud
Running in the cloud

Lake Placid

Henry's Woods

Ask anyone in Lake Placid where to get in a short trail run and they'll tell you Henry's. The main crushed stone trail loop is two miles and gains about 300 feet. If you want to extend your run and add in some more challenging terrain, the center single-track trails and rocky knob provide great options. See the trailhead kiosk for info. Dogs are also common here. Always good to have a running buddy, right?

Lussi Trails

An area mostly known for its mountain biking, the Lussi Trails are also great for running. There are three access points but I typically park on River Rd. at the steel deck bridge and access the trails via the Jack Rabbit Trail. You can run anywhere from three to ten miles, or more on the single-track trail. Trails vary from easy to difficult but keep in mind the signage is for mountain bikers. More difficult trails mean more rocks and possibly features. These trails may be easier to traverse on foot but require you to decrease your tempo.

Wilmington

Flume Trails

I feel like a little bit of a broken record but the Flume Trails are yet another mountain biker built system that is perfect for running. This area also tends to dry out first in the spring and can provide beginner to technical trail running. Either park at the designated area on Route 86 or near the Kid's Campus at Whiteface Mountain Ski area to access these trails. Beginners enjoy running along the Ausable River and on pine needle padded trails, while those looking for elevation gain and a taste of technical mountain running head for Marble Mountain or the Flume Knob.

Hardy Road

Another multi-use area, Beaver Brook Tract or Hardy Road provides easy to advance trail running. On the parking lot side of the road you'll find All-In and Ante Up, two beautiful single track trails that will challenge your uphill running ability. Gaining 700' in about two miles you'll be rewarded with fun, runnable, downhill back to the parking area. On the opposite side of the street you'll find a mix of easy to technical single track. This is yet another great area for running in the spring.

Technical forest trail
Technical forest trail

Paul Smiths

The VIC

The VIC has about 13 miles of combined double wide and single-track trail, an interpretive center, and interactive programs for families. In addition, it's a winter cross-country ski area with numerous trails that may not be ideal for summer use, check in with the volunteers inside for a map and current trail conditions. The three-mile Heron Marsh Loop provides incredible views of wetland habitat, soft ground underfoot and if you're lucky you might spot some wildlife. If you're looking for a longer run with a summit view, head for Jenkin's Mountain. Flat to rolling doublewide trail for the first 2.5 miles, single track with 900' elevation gain just before the summit provides a great view of the St. Regis Canoe area. This run comes to 9 miles roundtrip.

More Challenging Trails and Summits

If you're looking to get in a little more vertical gain or a little longer of a run there are plenty of options outside the High Peaks, which typically means fewer people. Try one of these options.

Hurricane Mountain and Nun-da-goa Ridge

This peak boasts a restored fire tower and great views of the High Peaks. After the first mile of rolling single track take a right to cross the stream and start your climb. Return the same way and if you're feeling the need for more, continue on the trail toward the unmarked Nun-da-goa Ridge. Sometimes overgrown and tight, this trail provides stunning ridge running until you loop back to the parking lot. Bonus if you tag the Crow's on your way out!

Pitchoff Ridge

Starting from the western trailhead get there early to get a parking spot and either leave a car at the eastern trailhead, run it back on the road for a loop, or my favorite, turn right around and double back on the trail back to the lot. The popular climb up to Balancing Rocks is steep and worth the short out and back. After taking in the view return to the main trail and continue climbing. You'll soon reach the open ridge for great running and then start your steep rocky descent. Be careful and make sure you watch your footing as you run here!

Mocha taking in the views
Mocha taking in the views

Jay Mountain

With a new trial within the last five years, Jay Mountain is a challenging short climb. The trail ascends via switchbacks to an open, rocky, false summit where I often call it "good enough". If you're feeling ambitious, continue out along the ridge to the true Jay Mountain summit for more ridge running and some impressive cairns.

Jack Rabbit Trail - McKenzie Pass

A legendary cross-country ski trail in the winter, this section is also enjoyable in the summer and fall months. Start either from Lake Placid or Saranac Lake; let it be known this trail can be muddy and have down trees. From Saranac Lake, the trail is rolling with a shorter destination at McKenzie Pond, two miles in. For a challenge, continue up to the pass, gaining 700' in a mile. You have a few options once you level out; look for the small rock cairn on your right for a narrow herd path up Haystack, continuing on to the McKenzie Mountain spur trail, or going straight and continue to Lake Placid. It's a great stretch of trail that I'll do out and back for 11 miles total.

As you go out and try these trails, keep in mind those who maintain and build them. Almost all the mountain bike trails and the Jack Rabbit Trail listed above are maintained by the Barkeater Trails Alliance or BETA. You can become a member or even join a workday to meet some other like-minded folks, here. Thank you BETA!

Now what?

Things to Keep In Mind While Running Trails:

  1. Be a good steward; treat the trails and forests as if you live there. Pick up trash if you see it and always pack out what you bring in.
  2. Dispose of waste properly; you won't always find an outhouse on the trail. Dig down at least six inches and bury human waste.
  3. Go through not around mud pits; avoiding mud pits creates wider trails and disperses traffic leading to erosion.
  4. Be conscious of other trail users; I usually announce my presence as soon as I'm in earshot as not to scare anyone. I also run with my dog Mocha who is a mere 20lbs but has frightened people before. Mocha wears a bell more so I can find her but also so, others hear her. We also don't see much for wildlife. It's rare but I do occasionally run into people not psyched to see me running. I always respond to them with a smile and a "have a great day!"

It's your turn to hit the trails and enjoy now! If you see Mocha and me out, say hi or run with us!

About the Author …
Sarah Keyes
@runadksk
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