With a snow filled winter on the horizon, our thoughts in the Adirondacks are beginning to drift from fall to winter. Our mountains are beginning to become snow capped, Whiteface Mountain will soon open, and winter activities will abound. Dedicated hikers will strap on their snowshoes and continue to take in the breaktaking views of the Adirondack Mountains. While winter hiking can be just as fun and rewarding as summer hiking, there are extra challenges and necessities that come with the adventure. While that may sound intimidating, fear not, for there is a winter hike for every adventurer. From easy to strenuous, the Whiteface Region has a snowshoe hike for you to enjoy.
Below is a guide to help you get close to nature this winter, no matter your level of experience.
Easy: Whiteface Landing
New to winter hiking? Whiteface Landing is the perfect hike for you. Located at the northeast end of Lake Placid lake, this out and back hike maintains a relatively low grade with only 200 ft. gain to the lake. From the parking lot you will hike down a road before signing into the trailhead booth. From there the trail brings you past scenic views of Connery Pond and eventually comes to a T. Go left for Whiteface Landing or right for a difficult hike to the summit of Whiteface Mountain. As you head left and continue your hike to Whiteface Landing, the trail will land you along the shore of Lake Placid with views of Whiteface Mountain. A large dock awaits you, perfect for a rest and trail snack before heading back to the trailhead. A popular destination for cross-country skiers, snowshoes will be necessary to hike this trail so the ski trail does not become damaged with foot prints.
Elevation Gain/Loss to Destination: 200 foot gain to the lake.
Distance Round Trip: 7.2 miles
Primary Trailhead: From the intersection of Route 86 and Route 73 in Lake Placid follow Route 86 toward Wilmington. Continue for 3.1 miles to the winter parking area for Connery Pond and Whiteface Mountain on the left. This is just prior to Riverside Drive which comes in on the right.
Moderate: Bear Den
A hidden gem of sorts, Bear Den Mountain sees little traffic but should be on everyone's hiking list. Standing at 2,650 feet tall, Bear Den is located above the Ausable River and is essentially part of the Whiteface Mountain ski area. Don’t worry, no skiers cross paths with this trail. Starting out at the trailhead, this 2.25 mile one way hike, starts off relatively flat before it steepens, eventually coming to a ridge at 1.6 miles. From there the hike gets a little more technical as it brings you to a steep rocky section, but eventually opens up to views that make it all worth it. For the steep sections, make sure to have micro spikes and snowshoes readily available in case of icy conditions.
Elevation: 2,650 feet
Distance round trip: 4.5 miles
Primary Trailhead: From the intersection of Route 73 and Route 86 in Lake Placid, follow Route 86 toward Wilmington. Continue for 9.2 miles to the Whiteface Mountain Ski Center. Turn into the center and follow the road around to the right and to the Bear Den lot.
Strenuous: Catamount Mountain
Catamount Mountain in one of the more popular gems of the Whiteface Region and should not go unvisited by anyone. The mountain has two open summits affording spectacular views of the entire region.
This is a 1.8 mile one way hike that will bring you over moderate to steep terrain. From the trailhead parking area and trail register you will start hiking on the flat through semi-open terrain. At 0.6 miles the trail bears right and begins to climb, dips to cross a brook at 0.8 miles and then continues a mostly steep climb to the base of a steep chimney at 1.4 miles. This chimney requires some scrambling and may be difficult for small children and dogs or anyone not comfortable in high places. This area may become especially ice-covered in the winter, so make sure you have microspikes and snowshoes ready for this section. After this short challenging stretch, the open rock summit at the top of the chimney offers good views and is a worthy destination. Past this first summit, the trail briefly dips before resuming a zig-zagging climb across a series of open ledges. With snow covered peaks, cairns may become buried and this section will require some care to follow before reaching the summit at 1.8 miles. Hard but worth it, this hike offers stunning views of the Adirondacks, but should only be attempted by experienced winter hikers.
Distance Roundtrip: 3.6 miles
Primary Trailhead: From the four-corner intersection in the village of Wilmington head west up Route 431. At the intersection for the Whiteface Memorial Highway, just before the toll house, bear right toward Franklin Falls (CR 72 - Gillespie Drive on some maps). Continue for 3.3 miles to Roseman Road (may not be a sign), take a right. Follow Roseman Road for 0.8 miles to Plank Road. Turn right onto Plank Road for 2.2 miles to the new parking area on the left.
Leave no trace
Before hiking, be sure to brush up on the seven Leave No Trace principles.
Travel and camp on durable surfaces
Dispose of waste properly
Leave what you find
Minimize campfire impacts
Be considerate of other visitors
These hikes will require microspikes and also snowshoes in the winter. Need to rent? There are plenty of places to buy or rent hiking gear in nearby Lake Placid. Still unsure if you're ready to tackle a winter hike? Hire a guide to teach you winter hiking tequniques and ensure a safe and fun outing. Ready to plan for your winter hike? Find unique lodging options here as well as inspiration for your post hiking meal!
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