Mike Lynch
The top of Pitchoff Mountain
 
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Mount Marcy

ACTIVITY: Skiing or snowshoeing

DIFFICULTY: Most difficult

DISTANCE: 14.4 miles

QUOTE: “If you are looking for the best trail skiing in North America, look no further than Mount Marcy,” writes David Goodman in “Best Backcountry Skiing in the Northeast.” “The highest peak in New York State, the dome-capped 5,344-foot Mount Marcy has lured backcountry skiers for a century ... From the summit of Mount Marcy, the views seem limitless. Mounts Haystack and Skylight appear as huge white domes that beckon climbers and skiers. The Green Mountains are silhouetted in the distance, and you peer out on miles of roadless forest and summits.”

COMMENTS: Before even considering this trip, one must be in very good physical condition and have experience in winter activities. This is a long trip that requires endurance, and the elements at Marcy’s higher elevations can be brutal. One needs to have a full complement of winter backcountry gear, including the 10 essentials and extra clothing. That said, if you’re properly prepared and in shape, this is a classic trip that requires advanced skiing skills. The trail can be steep and narrow, at times, requiring skiers to stay under control by checking their speeds. On a clear day, the view from the top can be amazing. On a day with turbulent weather, the visibility on top may be less than 5 feet, requiring a compass or GPS to navigate. On these days, it’s better to not summit and simply enjoy the trail skiing.

DIRECTIONS: From Lake Placid, drive east on NY73 about 3 miles. Turn on Adirondak Loj Road and proceed 5 miles to the end of the road. Park at the Adirondack Mountain Club High Peaks Information Center.

(Information from “Best Backcountry Skiing in the Northeast” by David Goodman was used for this write-up.)

Moose Pond

ACTIVITY: Skiing or snowshoeing

DIFFICULTY: Beginner for either activity

DISTANCE: 3 miles roundtrip

QUOTE: “With its rocky shore and views, Moose Pond is a scenic gem is hiding just a short distance from busy NY 3 north of Saranac Lake. This trip follows a wide, graded road that once provided access to several houses on the shore of the pond, so this short trip is an ideal choice for a very first ski or snowshoe outing,” writes Tony Goodwin in “Ski and Snowshoe Trails in the Adirondacks.”

COMMENTS: The Moose Pond trail is great option for those looking to do a quick trip. The only problematic part is the lack of parking. Vehicles are forced to line up on the edge of state Route 3, and it can be tricky getting far enough off the road, at times. Once you’re parked, the rest is easy and the definitely worthwhile.

DIRECTIONS: The Moose Pond trailhead is located 4 miles north of Saranac Lake on state Route 3. The trailhead is on the right side and across the street from a green house. After a quick downhill, skiers must cross a bridge across the Saranac River. On the other side is a trail register.

(Information from “Ski and Snowshoe Trails in the Adirondacks” by Tony Goodwin was used for this write-up.)

Pitchoff Mountain

ACTIVITY: Snowshoeing

DIFFICULTY: Moderate

DISTANCE: 4.4 miles, point to point

QUOTE: “Pitchoff Mountain lies at the edge of the Sentinel Range Wilderness. It’s a lovely hike that takes you through a patchwork of trees and shrubs, over ledges, and past a gravity-defying rock,” writes Lisa Densmore, author of “Hiking the Adirondacks.” “The hike up Pitchoff is much less crowded than Cascade Mountain across the ravine. While it doesn’t have a cache of a 4,000-footer, you can see many of the major mountains in the High Peaks region from its multiple rock perches.”

COMMENTS: Pitchoff is a great mountain because it’s easily accessible and offers great views. There are some steep sections, so crampons on the bottom of snowshoes will come in handy.

DIRECTIONS: From the junction of state Route 73 and Old Military Road in Lake Placid, go 8 miles on state Route 73 east. Leave a car in the small parking lot across the road from the Pitchoff East trailhead, which is on the left (north) side of the road. Now drive 2.7 miles back toward Lake Placid. Park in one of the three small lots by the Cascade Mountain trailhead above Cascade Lake. Begin the hike at the trailhead for the Sentinel Roand Wilderness, on the opposite (north) side of the road.

(Information from “Hiking the Adirondacks” by Lisa Densmore was used in this write-up.)

Owls Head

ACTIVITY: Snowshoeing

DIFFICULTY: Moderate

DISTANCE: 1.2 roundtrip

QUOTE: “This little rocky peak has long been a popular climb and has probably been the first climb for many, many junior hikers. The start is now on a town road, but hikers must be aware that the surrounding land is private and subject to development, which could change the parking situation in the future,” writes Tony Goodwin in the Adirondack Mountain Club’s High Peaks Region hiking guidebook.

COMMENTS: The 2,120-foot high Owls Head is a short hike, but it offers great views of the High Peaks on top. Winter hikers should not take this trip too lightly. There are some steep sections that could be tricky in the winter. With that being said, it’s a good introduction hike for those looking to go on to bigger and more adventurous winter explorations.

DIRECTIONS: The start is on state Route 73, 3.2 miles above Keene and 3.6 miles from the Cascade Mountain trailhead. Turn off Rt. 73 at a sign for Owls Head Acres and follow the gravel road for .2 miles up to a turnout on the left, where the road takes a sharp right. There is a small green sign marking the start of the trail. There are not other markers on this trail.

(Information from the Adirondack Mountain Club’s High Peaks Region hiking guidebook by Tony Goodwin was used for this write-up.)

Tirrell Pond from the South via Northville-Placid Trail

ACTIVITY: Skiing or snowshoeing

DIFFICULTY: For skiers, it’s beginner to intermediate; for snowshoers, it’s beginner.

DISTANCE: 7 miles round-trip

QUOTE: “Long a favorite of winter campers because of its two lean-twos and wonderful scenery, Tirrell Pond has more recently become a favored destination for skiers as well,” says Tony Goodwin in “Ski and Snowshoes Trails in the Adirondacks.”

COMMENTS: One of the benefits of skiing or snowshoeing to Tirrell Pond is that one can find shelter at a lean-to once they arrive at the waterbody. Lean-tos are great places to rest during a cold winter trip. The trail itself offers some gentle downhill skiing and one of the magnificient parts of the trip is crossing the pond surrounded by the nearby hills.

DIRECTIONS: The trailhead is on state Route 28/30 where the trail crosses the road about three miles east of Blue Mountain Lake.

(Information from “Ski and Snowshoe Trails in the Adirondacks” by Tony Goodwin was used for this write-up.)