Carl Heilman knows snowshoes. He made and sold them for 15 years, always out of hand-split ash, and he’s used them for much longer. Although he got out of the business a few years ago to devote his energies to photography, he still goes out on snowshoes two or three times a week when conditions permit.
He says snowshoeing is the only way to travel in the winter woods if you’re a nature photographer. Not that you have to carry a camera to enjoy this increasingly popular sport. What’s the allure?
“In a word—freedom,” Heilman answers. “Going where you want to go. After a fresh snowfall, you feel like you’re the first person to ever be there.”
We asked him to recommend five snowshoe trips in the Adirondacks. Although he especially likes going above tree-line in the High Peaks, we urged him to concentrate on more moderate hikes.
Bald Mountain between Old Forge and Inlet is a popular destination in warmer months, but Heilman prefers to do the 1-mile climb in winter, when he’s likely to have the mountain to himself. “It’s a short hike, a good view and not too steep a climb,” he says. “It’s a pleasant afternoon walk.” The fire tower on the 2,350-foot summit affords a panorama that includes the Fulton Chain of Lakes surrounded by the wooded hills of the southwestern Adirondacks.
On a clear day, Heilman notes, you can see the High Peaks far to the northeast. An added bonus: The lake-effect precipitation in this part of the Park usually means that Bald will have plenty of snow all winter long.
From the tourist information center in Old Forge, drive east on NY 28 for 4.5 miles to Rondaxe Road. Turn left and drive 0.2 mile to a parking lot on the left. Coming from the east, Rondaxe Road is 4.6 miles west of Big Moose Road in the hamlet of Eagle
MOOSE MOUNTAIN POND
For those seeking flatter terrain, Heilman recommends this seldom-visited pond in the Hammond Pond Wild Forest. The 3.5-mile trail passes through a handsome forest with some old trees, following a stream for part of the way. About halfway to the pond there is a pretty view across Berrymill Flow. The trail ends at a lean-to that looks across the ice toward Moose Mountain. More adventurous snowshoers can bushwhack up the mountain for views of the High Peaks to the northwest.
From Northway Exit 29, drive 0.4 mile east to US 9. Turn left and go 2.6 miles and turn right at a sign for Port Henry. Take another right after 0.3 mile and then go 3 miles to a parking lot on the right.
This 3,759-foot peak is the first large mountain to block the snow-laden winds coming off the Great Lakes. “Blue is a classic snowshoe hike,” Heilman says. “A lot of snow gets dumped on it. The trees are full of snow and there’s always a lot of rime ice.” You’ll need to climb the fire tower to get the full view from the summit. The vista includes the High Peaks to the north, the Blue Ridge Wilderness to the south and Blue Mountain Lake and Raquette Lake to the west. Although the 2-mile trail is steep in sections, the snow tends to smooth out the rougher pitches. “I’ve taken a lot of beginners up Blue who had no trouble at all,” Heilman says.
From the junction of NY 28 and NY 30 in the hamlet of Blue Mountain Lake, drive north on NY 30 for 1.6 miles to a parking lot on the right, just past the Adirondack Museum.
This 2,675-foot peak is one of Heilman’s favorites in the southern Adirondacks. “It’s a good, moderate snowshoe hike,” he says. “There’s nothing extremely steep, and it’s not climbed a lot in the winter.” The 1.8-mile trail leads to an open ridge and summit with a view of Great Sacandaga Lake and wooded hills rolling into the distance. On a clear day, it’s possible to see all the way to the High Peaks. The summit’s fire tower has been recently restored, but you’ll enjoy good views even without climbing it.
From the village of Lake Luzerne, take Bridge Road over the Hudson River and continue west along the Sacandaga River and north shore of Great Sacandaga Lake for 20 miles to Hadley Hill Road in Day Center. Turn right and go 5.6 miles to Tower Road on the left. Turn here and go 1.4 miles to a parking lot on the left.
Heilman couldn’t resist including one High Peak. In summer, there’s usually a crowd atop Algonquin, the state’s second-highest mountain. It’s still a popular destination in winter, but you do stand a chance of enjoying the summit all to yourself. The views from Algonquin of the other High Peaks, including the dramatic cliffs of Mount Colden, rank among the best in the Adirondacks. The 5,114-foot peak is only 4 miles from Adirondack Loj, but be aware that the trail is steep. “If you get up there and still have lots of energy, you can head on over to Iroquois [a mile away],” Heilman advises.
From Lake Placid, drive 4 miles southeast on NY 73 to Adirondak Loj Road. Turn right and go 4.8 miles to parking lot operated by Adirondack Mountain Club. From the south, Adirondak Loj Road is about 3 miles past the Mount Van Hoevenberg Olympic Sports Complex.