Snow has fallen here in the Adirondacks and it’s time to get our winter legs back in shape! While it may be tempting to return to old favorites, have you considered trying out some possibly overlooked snowshoe trails around the Whiteface region? Below are three different hikes that will take you to secluded backcountry ponds and scenic vistas. Intrigued? Read on to learn more about these awesome snowshoe hikes!
This trail may not be as secluded as some, but it can often be overlooked as it sits in the shadow of Whiteface Mountain. However, you don’t want to skip over this gem! From the trailhead, you gently climb just over a mile to a magnificent lookout area with 180-degree views of Wilmington and the Ausable River valley. The word “climb” is used loosely here because, for the most part, this hike feels flat. It is a perfect option for families. Since the leaves have fallen and the forest is mostly made up of hardwoods, visibility is high throughout the trip; you’ll have a few sneak peeks before arriving at the lookout!
What is most unique about this hike is the history you walk through along the way. Not too far from the trailhead, you’ll see a massive rockface. This is actually an old quarry and stones used to build the Whiteface Veterans’ Memorial Highway were taken from here. Today, this site is a fan-favorite among ice climbers. If you visit on a day when climbers are active, take a minute to watch as they scale the impressive ice tower that forms.
On the map, Owen Pond is not too far off the beaten path. Less than a mile trek from the parking lot brings you back to a pond that does indeed have a wilderness feel. With minimal elevation gain, the trail to Owen Pond will be a hit with the entire family! Along the way, an interesting glacial erratic, complete with a yellow birch on top, makes for a good photo opportunity. The path soon leaves a trail-side stream behind and rises above the water. It’s no High Falls Gorge, but it’s still cool to walk above the stream and hear the water rushing down below. Soon after, you’ll find yourself at picturesque Owen Pond.
But the adventure doesn’t need to stop here! If you’re looking to add to your hike, the trail continues to two other nearby ponds. However, returning to your vehicle after resting at Owen Pond is still a good way to stretch your legs during the snowy months. Copperas Pond is just about a mile from Owen Pond. There is some uphill climbing, but the resident beavers have created an ever-changing landscape that is so interesting you won’t even notice the climb. Soon you’ll arrive at a designated campsite that maybe you’ll bookmark for warmer months. From here, an impressive view of Whiteface is seen across the water. Now you can either head back toward Owen Pond, continue around Copperas Pond to a lean-to (which can also be reached from a separate trailhead), or visit a third body of water: Winch Pond. Either way, there isn’t a bad choice.
Looking for something away from the crowds? Then the path to Clements Pond should fit the bill! It’s more likely you’ll be accompanied by chickadees and blue jays than people on this hike. Winding through a delightful hardwood forest, you’ll pass by many fascinating rock formations and cliffs begin to rise on both sides of the trail. Be sure to stop and turn around on your hike in. With the leaves no longer shielding views, the High Peaks can be seen beyond the trees. Of the hikes listed here, Clements Pond has the most uphill climbing, but don’t let that scare you: the trail soon mellows and begins a short descent to the water. The trail ends at the north end of the pond at a sunny landing spot where you’ll want to stay for a moment to take in the views and bask in the warm winter sun. Who says you can’t enjoy a beach day in the winter?
For the botanists or gardeners in your hiking group, this hike will provide some puzzling surprises. As you near the pond, you’ll begin to see rhododendrons among the coniferous trees. Much more common in the Appalachian Mountains, most rhododendrons typically prefer less drastic temperature swings than we experience in the Adirondacks and the ones here were almost certainly intentionally planted. The species found at Clements Pond has different cousins found in the Adirondacks, but it’s presence is a reminder that there is human history even in the deep woods.
Ready to hit the trail? Just a few more things! It’s important to note that if the weather has been cold, it may be enticing to venture out onto the frozen ponds. Ice thickness can often be variable and caution should be taken while on the ice. Ice thickness of 4-5 inches can support activities such as snowshoeing and Nordic skiing, but be sure to check thickness at various locations while on the “hard water."
Snowshoeing and other winter activities are incredibly fun and rewarding but it’s crucial to be prepared out of doors in colder weather. Be sure to pack extra non-cotton layers and lots of food and water! Your body will be using more energy to keep you warm in the winter months so stay hydrated and fueled. But hey, that’s just an excuse to eat more chocolate, right?
If you had a great time in the woods, stop by Santa’s Workshop, which is located just down the road from Cobble Lookout, to see if you’ll be getting a new pair of snowshoes this holiday season! After your snowshoe hike, you can refuel at one of the region’s many restaurants or recharge overnight at a cozy lodge.
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