Planning a winter vacation to the Adirondacks and looking for something to do? Adirondack winter hikes are where it’s at. See the beauty of the Adirondack Park through a hike. There is truly a hike for everyone, in every season in the ADK. Adirondack winter hikes range from a 1 mile, front country stroll to steep, icy climbs on exposed rock. You can choose your own adventure with the help of this guide!
Here we’re going to cover the 9 best Adirondack winter hikes for beginners right on up to experts. If you’ve never ventured out to experience the crisp air and crunchy snowflakes of a beautiful winter then this is a great place to start! With proper preparation and just a tad bit of excitement, you should be ready to take on Jack Frost.
What is Winter Hiking?
Winter hiking means you’re going on a hike during the winter season. This means you’ll likely encounter frigid temperatures as well as snow and ice on the trail. Conditions for winter hiking vary depending on your region. If you’re interested, here are 9 tips for Winter Hiking.
What do you Need for Adirondack Winter Hiking?
Proper footwear and layers are crucial to your hiking success. Insulated, waterproof hiking boots paired with snowshoes and/or crampons are a must. Base-layers, mid-layers, and hardshell pants and jackets are the key to staying warm. Don’t forget a hat, gloves, and spare clothing in case yours becomes wet.
A lot of outdoor gear stores will rent you the equipment you need if you’re not quite sure you want to invest quite yet; High Peaks Cyclery in Lake Placid rents out winter gear for very reasonable prices. For a basic hike, snowshoes and micro-spikes will get you through the day safely. If you’re looking to gain elevation and climb above tree-line into the alpine zone a pair of crampons and ice axe are necessary for your success and safety.
Which Adirondack Hikes are Best in Winter?
Every hike isn’t created equally, so naturally, some are better for Winter hiking than others. For safety purposes, I try to stay away from hikes that include incredibly steep ascents and steep drop-offs. I also steer clear of hikes that would require you to cross a river or stream without a man-made structure’s help.
Here I’ve compiled 7 different Adirondack winter hikes that will provide amazing winter views. I’ve organized them in order from easiest to most difficult
High Falls Gorge
Very Easy – 1 mi. – Near Wilmington, NY
This paid hiking experience is unlike any other. The 22-acre beautiful nature preserve is privately owned and provides access to an otherwise inaccessible area for explorers of all ages. Sturdy bridges, walkways, and groomed walking trails provide safe access to four cascading Adirondack waterfalls. This is an opportunity to experience the deep crevice carved a billion years ago known as High Falls Gorge with the whole family.
Unfortunately, High Falls Gorge is closed for the 20-21 winter season and will reopen May 1st, 2021 for the summer season! If you’re looking for flat, easy terrain with beautiful views of the high peaks, I would check out the John Brown’s Farm area trails.
Heaven Hill Trails
Easy – 2-4 mi. – Lake Placid, NY
An awesome bit of maintained trail in the Lake Placid region. There are a number of marked trails that create a few different loops for you to hike. The terrain is pretty flat, however, there is an opportunity to gain elevation by hiking Heaven Hill. Heaven Hill is an easy out and back with very steady elevation gain under good footing. There is no view at the summit other than the beautiful snow-covered terrain.
Loops around the fields on either end of the trail system provide views of the High Peaks region. This little gem is just outside of town and absolutely perfect for families with small children, a pre-dinner stroll, or to test out your new winter gear!
Easy to Moderate – 2 mi. – Near Old Forge, NY
A 1-mile ascent to the popular 2350 ft. summit is a must when visiting the Old Forge area. This hike is very popular among families with young children and adventurers alike! The trail has a few steep portions and tops out along some rock outcroppings; although I wouldn’t consider any aspect of this hike overly difficult, I do suggest microspikes and trekking poles in winter conditions. In fresh snow, snowshoes should be worn as well.
The summit is a large open rock face, home to a 35-foot well-maintained fire tower. Both the summit and the Fire Tower provide stunning views of Fourth Lake. The tower remains open in winter and the stairs can be icy – it is frowned upon for people to climb fire towers in microspikes or crampons. Use your best judgment here… and as always, please follow Leave No Trace Principles.
Bald Mountain is actually one of three mountains in the Fulton Chain Trifecta. The Fulton Chain Trifecta is one of several Adirondack hiking challenges. The other two mountains -Black Bear is included in this list- in this challenge would make for wonderful Adirondack winter hikes as well. Make it your winter goal to complete all three!
OK Slip Falls
Easy to Moderate – 6 mi. – Indian Lake, NY
Easily one of the most beautiful waterfalls while also laying claim to being one of the highest waterfalls in the Adirondack Park. This 3-mile stroll through rolling hills will bring you to the top of a gorge overlooking the 250-foot ribbon cascade waterfall.
The trailhead parking lot is actually on the south side of route 28. After crossing the road you’ll embark on a 3-mile journey through the forest on a wide, easy to follow trail. The final approach to OK Slip Falls consists of switchbacks leading to the stunning overlook. There is an additional .75 mile trail with access to the Hudson River as a viewpoint, although I would not suggest it in winter conditions.
Black Bear Mountain
Moderate – 4.7 mi. – Inlet, NY
A slightly longer mountain hike that isn’t too challenging but still provides a gorgeous payoff. The summit is vast and provides views to the east and to the south. It’s an absolutely stunning summit for sunrise, although you have to continue on past the true summit about 100 yards for a sunrise view! Along with Bald Mountain mentioned above, this mountain is one of three in a fun little local hiking challenge.
This mountain shares a parking lot with the much shorter, and equally as beautiful, Rocky Mountain. The 4.7 mile Black Bear route contains both blue and yellow trail markers. If you choose to hike the blue trail only, out and back, you will enjoy a shorter hike by about .7 miles. It is important to note that the blue trail is much steeper than the yellow trail. The Yellow trail is equally as beautiful with a less steep grade.
Moderate – 3.8 mi. – Wilmington, New York
After parking in the Bear Den lot at Whiteface, you’ll embark on a journey through the woods to the summit of Bear Den. The climb is gradual as it meanders through the trees with seemingly no rhyme or reason. About a quarter-mile from the summit you will start to realize your elevation gain and poke out onto a cliff’s edge with a rock cairn. Although these views are stunning, you’re not quite there yet!
Continue along, following the cairns and footpath until the summit. Here you’ll experience stunning views of Whiteface and the surrounding mountains. You’ll be able to see the chair lifts in motion and you might even catch a view of a few skiers/snowboarders if the weather is just right. It is quite windy up here, exposed and open, so plan to add a layer back on to your body as your temperature drops after all of your hard work on the uphill!
If you’re feeling great and want to stay out on the trail, you’ll notice the sign for Flume Knobb about a half mile from the trail head. You can continue on this trail for a similarly difficult hike with what I’ve heard are equally gorgeous views! If you’ve had enough, continue on back to the car and head out.
St. Regis Fire Tower
Moderate – Difficult – 6.6 mi. – Paul Smiths, New York
After parking in a lot just off Keese Mills Road, you’ll walk a short distance down a dirt road before meeting the trail. The first 2 miles of the trail makes for a perfect snowshoe, at the 2-mile point, you will cross a bridge where you will begin your climb. About .5 miles from the summit the climb will steepen. Traction is highly recommended as it can be icy in the winter months.
When you arrive at the summit you’ll emerge from the treeline onto open rock. There are gorgeous views to the South; with the St. Regis canoe area below and the High Peaks in the distance, it doesn’t get much prettier. Climb the 35-foot tall fire tower for 360-degree views of the Northern Adirondacks.
St. Regis is one of six mountains in the Saranac Lake 6er challenge. The Saranac Lake 6er challenge offers a number of beautiful mountain views in all seasons. This hiking challenge even has a specific patch for winter completion. If you’re interested in hiking the rest of these mountains, be sure to check out my Saranac Lake 6er Hiking Challenge Guide.
Difficult – 6.8 mi. – Keene, New York
You can choose from 3 different trailheads for this hike. I am only familiar with one of these trailheads, from the Crow’s Clearing Trailhead at the end of O’Toole Road. You must park about a quarter-mile from the trail register in winter due to seasonal roads. There is also a trail from 9N and the end of Hurricane Mountain Lane.
The Trail from Crow’s Clearing is the longest of the three climbing 1600 feet in 3.4 miles. The steepest portion of this trail will require additional traction devices, so be sure to bring your snowshoes with crampons and microspikes. The wonderful, open peak offers absolutely gorgeous views. Additional views are available from the Fire Tower.
Hurricane Mountain is one of the Lake Placid 9ers. The Lake Placid 9er is a hiking challenge based on mountains in the Lake Placid area. Hurricane is easily one of the longest, most beautiful hikes of the LP9, however, nearly all 9 would be absolutely gorgeous Adirondack winter hikes.
Cascade and Porter
Very Difficult – 5.9 – Lake Placid, New York
Cascade and Porter are often a new-to-the-46 hikers first High Peak experience. This shouldn’t change for the winter either! I would only suggest hiking Cascade and/or Porter in winter to experienced three-season hikers who wish to extend their hobby into the winter months. The trail isn’t overly long, however, the final approach is steep and you will be exposed and above treeline. You will need snowshoes and appropriate traction devices to successfully complete this hike.
The main trailhead for Cascade and Porter is on the scenic route 73 between Keene and Lake Placid. The trail is considered easy by most serious hikers, although tacking on the snow and ice can increase it’s the difficulty. Cascade is 4,098 feet tall and one of the 46 4,000 foot mountains in the Adirondacks; this means that it is part of the ADK 46er Hiking Challenge. This challenge is not intended for the beginner hiker. Please make sure you are carrying all of the essentials, including a map of the high peaks!
Have you Found a Hike that Interests you?
If this list has convinced you to take on winter and take a hike, you should check out my 9 tips for Winter Hiking Post. Adirondack winter hiking or snowshoeing is an amazing way to continue your passion for the outdoors throughout all four seasons. As long as you are properly prepared and adventuring under the right conditions, the winter season could easily become your favorite time to experience the outdoors.
If you’re still not sold on winter hiking, that’s okay! There are so many great places to eat and super fun things to do in the Adirondacks in winter. Some of the most popular pastimes include downhill or XC skiing (or snowboarding), ice fishing, snowmobiling, and visiting museums. No matter what you choose to do, your time in the Adirondacks this winter will be memorable.