In the winter months, Lake Placid is transformed into a snow sports playground. Crisp mornings, deep blue skies, and fluffy snowflakes falling onto the sound-dampened landscape make for a refreshing outdoor experience. Snowshoeing is one of the more popular and easily accessible ways to experience the outdoors this time of year. There are plenty of local trails for a variety of ability levels; here are our picks for the five top snowshoe hikes in the Lake Placid area, all of which are free, open to the public, and less than a 10-minute drive from Main Street.
1. Peninsula Trails
Located just outside of the Village, the Peninsula Trails are just off the beaten path and have a lot to offer. Four trails, totaling 3 miles in all, make up the preserve: The Corridor Trail, the Boundary Trail, the Ridge Trail, and the Lake Shore Trail. The Corridor Trail is the main entrance into the network and cuts a relatively straight path for 0.75 miles through the middle of the preserve. The Boundary Trail, as you might imagine, skirts 0.9 miles around the boundary of the whole network and connects the other trails together. The Ridge Trail, as the name implies, traverses 0.7 miles along a small height of land and offers great views of Moose and McKenzie Mountain through the leafless trees. The Lake Shore Trail, arguably the most beautiful, meanders 0.4 miles along the shoreline of Lake Placid. Be sure take a break at the Outlet Brook dam where you will be rewarded with unencumbered views of the icy lake and surrounding mountains.
Getting there: From Main Street, follow Route 86 out of Lake Placid traveling toward Saranac Lake. 0.7 miles from Main Street turn right onto Peninsula Road and follow it 0.3 miles to the parking area and trailhead on your left.
Always carry a backpack to store food, water, layers, and other winter snowshoeing items.
2. Henry’s Woods
This community preserve, owned and maintained by the Uihlein Foundation, is a 3.9-mile network of trails, some of which offer enough elevation change to give you a good workout. Trails include the Connector Trail, Loop Trail, Plateau Trail, Switchback Trail, and Rocky Knob Trail. The Connector Trail is the main entrance into the network and, after 0.3 miles, connects to the Loop Trail. This second trail travels 2 miles around the perimeter of the preserve and offers gentle, rolling ups and downs. You access the Plateau Trail and Rocky Knob Trail off the Loop Trail. These 0.9-mile loops boast spectacular views of Lake Placid Village and distant Adirondack peaks. Both trails have some steep spots, though none of them as steep as the 0.25-mile Switchback Trail. Thankfully the trails in Henry’s Woods have been built by experts, so the gradient is offset by gentle switchbacks that allow for a slow descent.
Getting there: From Main Street, several roads will bring you south to Old Military Road. From there, turn onto Bear Cub Road and follow it approximately 500 feet to the parking area and trailhead on your right.
Henry's Woods and Heaven Hill Trails have beautiful trail entrance signs.
3. Heaven Hill Trails
Further down Bear Cub Road lies Heaven Hill Trails, a 5.4-mile trail network through a peaceful forest. Also owned and maintained by the Uihlein Foundation, this community preserve contains the Bear Cub Loop, Big Field Loop, Old Orchard Loop, Sugar Maple Trail, and a few short connector trails. The Bear Cub Loop winds its way through mostly flat terrain for 1.5 miles, with several options to shorten the trip. Along the way be sure to check out majestic views of the Adirondack High Peaks to the south, some of the best views in the area for the least amount of work. The Big Field Loop (0.9 miles) and Old Orchard Loop (1.5 miles) both offer additional views of the High Peaks, but make sure you also keep and eye out for black-capped chickadees and their familiar chickadee-dee-dee call as they perch on snow-covered branches. The Sugar Maple trail is accessed off the Big Field Loop and has some gentle climbing through sugar maple trees to a small ridgeline with more panoramic views of the High Peaks.
Getting there: From the intersection of Bear Cub Road and Old Military Road drive south for 1.7 miles (passing Henry’s Woods on your right) until you arrive at a sharp right-hand curve in the road. Bear right here and drive another 0.5 miles down Bear Cub Road to the parking area and trailhead on your right.
The views from Heaven Hill Trails are second to none.
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4. John Brown Farm
This state historic site has a lot to offer and is the perfect way to combine a beautiful snowshoe trip with the rich cultural history of the Adirondacks. The last home and burial site of the famous abolitionist is open to the public year-round. Beyond the historic buildings, this site has 4 miles of trails, including the Potato Field Loop Trail, Maple Grove Trail, and Ski Jump Trail. The Potato Field Trail is the longest in the network at 1.8 miles and offers a healthy climb for those looking for a good workout. For a shorter loop, check out the 0.3-mile Maple Grove Trail, a short loop off the longer Potato Field Trail that still offers some steady climbing despite its shorter distance. The 0.8-mile Ski Jump Trail travels along more mellow terrain and intersects with several short nameless trails. It’s easy to check out some of the historic buildings while snowshoeing on this trail and, for an added challenge, try the geocache challenge posted on the John Brown Farm page of the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation website.
Getting there: From Main Street, turn right onto Route 73 and drive toward the ski jumps. At the intersection of Route 73 and Old Military Road, bear right toward John Brown Farm Road. Follow this road 0.5 miles to the parking area and kiosk on your left.
Most preserves have a map of the trail system at the parking area, but it's still wise to carry your own map.
5. Cobble Hill
If you enjoy the destination as much as the journey, Cobble Hill is an excellent snowshoe trip. There are two trails to the summit: a 0.8-mile climb and a 1.6-mile climb. The shorter ascent has a steep section that can be intimidating to novices but adds some adventure for thrill-seekers or those looking to improve their snowshoeing technique. The longer trail is more gradual and has the added benefit of traversing along Echo Pond, a picturesque body of water that looks lovely covered in snow. Once on the summit you will be greeted with spectacular views of the High Peaks and Olympic Village. For the full Cobble Hill experience, turn the snowshoe trip into a loop by going up the short trail (it’s easier to ascend the steep rocky section than to descend), and down the longer trail. Bring a headlamp and Cobble Hill is also the perfect place to catch a breath-taking Adirondack sunset or sunrise, or simply view the distant twinkling lights of Lake Placid at night.
Getting there: There are a few access points for Cobble Hill. From Main Street, follow Mirror Lake Drive either direction around Mirror Lake. On the opposite side of the lake from Main Street turn onto Mt Whitney Rd and follow it to the trailhead on your right. Alternatively, follow Route 86 out of Lake Placid and toward Whiteface Mountain. Approximately two miles from the intersection of Route 73 and 86 is a small parking area on your right; the trailhead is on the other side of the road.
Even on overcast days views from the Cobble Hill trail are charming.
Stay Safe and Maximize Fun
Before attempting any of these snowshoe trips, make sure you adequately prepare for the adventure and stay safe driving to the trailhead. Bring plenty of food and water and pack a non-cotton layer of clothing to ensure you stay warm. It’s important that you always bring a headlamp in case your trip takes longer than expected. To ensure you don’t get lost, bring a map with you: Green Goat Maps makes an excellent option for Lake Placid winter trails, complete with zoomed-in detail of most local trail networks. If you don’t own snowshoes, several outdoor stores in Lake Placid offer snowshoe rentals at a reasonable rate. Before you begin snowshoeing, be sure to sign into the trail register for your safety. Lastly, when you’re on the trail make sure you demonstrate proper snowshoe etiquette: stay on the snowshoe track and off the cross-country ski track so that every winter sport participant can have as much fun as you!
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