Photo by Mike Lynch
The view from Cascade Mountain
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If you live locally, Cascade and Porter mountains can be easy to overlook as hiking or snowshoeing destinations. The parking lots near the trailhead are often jam-packed and the trails busy with hikers. But if you pick the right day (usually a weekday), you can experience what makes them so popular without having to deal with feeling overcrowded on the trail and summits.

It was about noon when I set out on a Monday last March to snowshoe Cascade and Porter mountains with three others: Patrick Giblin of Saranac Lake, Ed Burke of Saratoga Springs and Embark Editor Morgan Ryan.

Normally, the Cascade trail is loaded with other hikers. Not this day. We only saw about a half-dozen people the entire time we were out.

We chose Cascade and Porter for the same reasons everyone else does: The trailhead on state Route 73 above the Cascade lakes is easy to get to, just outside of Lake Placid, and the distances to their summits are relatively short and offer great views of the surrounding High Peaks.

Cascade\'s summit is more open due to the 1903 fire that ravaged the Keene Valley area, but Porter has good views also and was more interesting on this particular day because of the snow-covered trees covering its summit.

The mountains are considered two of the easiest High Peaks in the Adirondacks to hike or snowshoe, and you can reach them both on the same day without too much trouble if you\'re in decent shape. It\'s only 2.1 miles to a junction that has trails leading to both summits. From there, it\'s another three-tenths of a mile to Cascade\'s peak and another seven-tenths to the top of Porter.

We lucked out on this particular day. The conditions were nearly perfect: temperatures in the 40s and 50s and just a few clouds in the sky. Plus, daylight savings had started the weekend before, so the sun wouldn\'t set until 7:30 p.m.

If the weather\'s right, late winter and early spring can be great times for experiencing dramatic winter scenery in the higher elevations without the bitter cold of those frigid mid-winter days.

If you head up in January or February, you\'ll have to adjust to mid-winter conditions. Leave yourself enough time to complete the hike before dark by starting early in the morning and bring some extra clothing and supplies to deal with the elements. Actually, so far this winter, there hasn\'t been much snow but that could change quickly. As of mid-December, you didn\'t even need snowshoes because there was so little snow.

On our particular hike, this was the perfect opportunity for Giblin to bag a couple of winter peaks before the end of the season on March 21. He finished climbing the 46 High Peaks about a decade ago and now is working on the winter set -- something he expects to do at a slow, steady pace.