Our editor delights in the serenity and scenery found on unofficial ski trails near the Bog River.
By Phil Brown
Last summer I canoed across Round Lake and took a walk along the path that parallels the outlet. After a while, I saw a homemade sign that read “Round Lake Ski Trail.” Since I’m a backcountry skier, I made a vow to return.
Fast-forward to late January. At the time, we had at least eighteen inches of snow in the woods. Not a lot for midwinter, but enough to entice me to try the Round Lake Ski Trail.
The trail is described as a hiking route in Bill Ingersoll’s Discover the Northwestern Adirondacks. Following his directions, I started at the northwest corner of a clearing on Route 30. In a few hundred yards, I came to a junction with the Crossover Ski Trail, which leads to the Bog River Ski Trail. I later discovered that I could have started on Route 421, which is much less busy than Route 30, and taken the Crossover to this point.
Beyond the junction, the trail climbs gradually but steadily through a hardwood forest to a high point at 0.4 miles. From there I enjoyed a series of descents, varying in length and steepness, leading to the confluence of the Bog River and Round Lake Stream at 1.1 miles. These are the most exciting downhill runs in the network and require advanced novice or intermediate skills. Just before the confluence, the trail splits at the start of the last of these descents. The left fork is easier to ski (the right fork bottoms out at a narrow log bridge).
I knew I had reached the confluence because a wooden sign told me so. What a peaceful place. Standing on a tree-covered knoll, I gazed down the frozen Bog, a channel of white snow crisscrossed by wildlife tracks. Round Lake Stream enters the Bog on the left, and in midwinter, it too is a frozen still-water.
Leaving the confluence, I passed through a gantlet of snowy balsams and soon pulled alongside Round Lake Stream, its dark waters bubbling along in small rapids. The trail kept close to the stream before traversing an alder thicket and reaching an abandoned logging road at 1.6 miles. Skiers heading to Round Lake need to take the road to the left, but not before taking a quick detour to the bridge on the right. It affords a fine view of the outlet.
After taking photos from the bridge, I turned around and followed the wide road for a half-mile—the dullest stretch of the day. I was more than happy to turn off onto a woodsy trail, marked by a “Children at Play” highway sign (how or why it’s there is anybody’s guess). Within a half-mile, I was skiing along the stream again.
At 2.75 miles, I paused at an opening that afforded an especially good view of cascades near a large boulder. Over the next mile, the trail gets rough, with lots of annoying dips and entangling brush.
It’s also hard to follow if there are no tracks. The saving grace is that the trail there stays close to the murmuring stream all the way to Round Lake.
If you’re inexperienced in the backcountry, consider turning back at the clearing. Or you might want to push on a tenth of a mile farther to look for a red post from a 1903 survey that marked the boundary between St. Lawrence and Hamilton counties (it’s on the left but may be buried in snow).
Those determined to make it to Round Lake will pass an old dam on the right at 3.75 miles. From here it’s easy skiing to campsites on the eastern shore of Round Lake. When I got there, I skied a short distance onto the lake. Because it was snowing, I had no view. On a clear day, however, you can enjoy nice views of the surrounding peaks from the lake. Just be sure the ice is solid.
River to River Ski Trail (1.9 miles)
This is the easiest trail in the network. I discovered it a few days after my trip to Round Lake. Curious about the abandoned logging road I had seen, I returned to the Round Lake Ski Trail and followed it 1.6 miles to the bridge. This time I crossed the bridge and started up a gentle incline.
In a minute, I came to a fork and spotted a tin lid on the right that said “River to River Ski Trail.”
The wide road climbs gradually through a forest of skimpy hardwoods to a height of land about 0.6 miles from the bridge. After a few gentle downhills, I came to a large clearing. While stopped for a sip of water, I noticed a homemade sign nailed to a small tree: “Bog River Hilton.”
A little after the clearing, the trail bends to the left and then begins another downhill, longer than others but almost as gradual. This part of the route is lined with evergreens, and the forest is more attractive.
At 1.8 miles from Round Lake Stream, I came to a logging bridge over the Bog River. The road continues beyond the bridge, but after crossing it, I turned right and followed a path that parallels the river. In a tenth of a mile, I came to a narrow promontory overlooking Winding Falls, where the river drops through a miniature gorge. Blue icicles hung from the rock wall opposite the promontory. Just beyond the gorge, the Bog spreads out into a marshy still-water. This is one of the most scenic spots in the ski network.
Bog River Ski Trail (1.7 miles)
I found this route on the same day I skied the Round Lake trail, but I didn’t have time to explore it then, so I returned the following day. Starting on Route 421, I followed an old logging road a few hundred yards to the Goodman Bridge on the Bog River. The Crossover Ski Trail is on the left, but I turned right to cross the bridge. On the other side, I turned left and soon passed the first ski-trail disk.
Once again on an old road, I climbed gradually and then descended to a thicket of alders in the river’s floodplain. Then came a longer, still gradual ascent away from the river. About a mile in, I began an easy downhill that ended at an overlook along the Bog at 1.3 miles.
Beyond here, the trail is rougher and harder to follow. Luckily, I was skiing in the tracks of two snowshoers. If there are no tracks (or disks), stay parallel to the river but remain on the high ground for a tenth of a mile. The trail then drops to the shoreline amid a stand of hemlocks. The dip is short but tricky, so novice skiers may want to sidestep.
The snowshoers didn’t go farther than the hemlocks, so now I was on my own. Staying close to the river, I followed the trail to a place identified, by a homemade sign, as Flatwater. A little farther, at 1.7 miles, I arrived at a placid bend in the river known as Otter Point (according to another homemade sign)—another scenic spot.
From here, the trail turns into the woods, but it soon peters out, so Otter Point is a good place to turn around.
Again, a little work would go a long way. Although most of the route is easily skiable by novices, the short section that dips to the river needs improvement. If DEC adopts the network, it should consider extending this route to Winding Falls to create a loop with the River to River Ski Trail.
Crossover Ski Trail (0.35 miles)
The Crossover Ski Trail connects the Round Lake Ski Trail to the Bog River Ski Trail. If you prefer parking on Route 421 rather than on the busy Route 30, you could use the Crossover trail to access the Round Lake trail. This would add two-thirds of a mile to your round trip.
To reach the Crossover from Route 421, follow the Bog River Ski Trail to the Bog River Bridge. Instead of crossing the bridge, bear left at the trail disks. The trail goes over two small hills, with a few fun dips, and then reaches Round Lake Trail after 0.35 miles (about a half-mile from your starting point). Turn right to head toward Round Lake.