Winter Hiking and Cross-Country Ski Trails

Winter hiking

With winter still in high gear and spring fever taking hold, you may be yearning to exercise outdoors. Instead of heading to the gym, why not pull out your snowshoes or cross-country skis and check out some of the area’s trails and historic sites?

Although New York may get a bad rap for its cold weather, our state is blessed with hundreds of miles of multi-use trails that weave through some of the most beautiful and historic areas. One great source of information is Parks & Trails New York, a leading statewide advocate for parks and trails. Since it was founded in 1985, the organization has worked to improve the health, economy, and quality of life for New Yorkers through the use and enjoyment of green space.

Parks & Trails New York’s easy-to-use online guide, TrailFinder, offers a one-stop interactive gateway to 110 greenways, rail trails, canal trails, bikeways, and riverwalks located in every region of the state. You can find a trail by name or search by length, allowable uses, surface, and distance from any location you choose. If you need to find a nearby bike shop or other amenity, TrailFinder can help you locate that, too. You can even get directions to trailhead parking.

Another informative resource is the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a national organization that transforms unused rail corridors into vibrant, multi-use, public places, inspiring movement and fitness and spurring community development and revitalization. You can use their online trail guide, TrailLink, to find trails all across the nation. Their guide is categorized by type of activity and by state, and includes maps, photos, and reviews from those who have used the trails.

Find a Local Trail

So bundle up, grab a friend or family member, and go enjoy the great outdoors. Here’s a sampling of some New York trails that are within a day’s drive:

Capital Region Trails

Mohawk-Hudson Trail – A great destination for hiking and cross-country skiing, this 40-mile trail follows along the southern shore of the Mohawk River and Erie Canal from Albany’s Corning Preserve to Pattersonville in the town of Rotterdam. In between, the trail can easily be accessed via the many communities it traverses such as Niskayuna, Colonie, and Schenectady. The trail is part of the much larger Erie Canalway Trail, which stretches 360 miles between Albany and Buffalo.

Zim Smith TrailThis 10-mile trail occupies a former rail bed and provides cross-country skiers and hikers in central Saratoga County with a great opportunity to enjoy the winter weather. The northern end of this trail is located less than a quarter mile from Ballston Spa. The Zim Smith Trail also connects to the Luther Forest trail system, passing through parks in Malta and Round Lake, the latter of which is a well-preserved former summer retreat from the Victorian era.

D&H Rail Trail – The D&H Rail Trail offers access to 10 miles of trail in the village and town of Granville in Washington County, as well as 10 additional miles of trail within Vermont. The trail begins at Depot Street in Granville and continues through the “colored slate capital of the world” before crossing the Vermont border, where it runs between West Pawlett and West Rupert.

Southern Adirondacks Trails

Fonda, Johnstown, and Gloversville Rail Trail – The FJ&G Rail Trail covers eight miles of converted rail bed from Fonda to Mayfield, passing through Johnstown and Gloversville. The FJ&G line once served as a means of transportation for the workers of glove manufacturing companies in Gloversville. Located just south of the Adirondacks, the trail is a reminder of New York’s industrial past.

Adirondack MountainsHikers of all experience levels can enjoy the 2,000-plus miles of trails that wind throughout the Adirondack Mountains. Beginners or those looking for a more leisurely hike might want to start out in the Lake George region. Experienced hikers can set their sights on conquering the 46 High Peaks. Whatever your hiking style, this Adirondack trail guide will help you find some spectacular hikes.

Hudson Valley Trails

Wallkill Valley Rail Trail  – The Wallkill Valley Rail Trail spans 23.7 miles from the southern border of Gardiner to the northern border of New Paltz, a popular college town with many pleasant shops and restaurants. Formerly the corridor for the Wallkill Valley Railroad, the trail runs along the Wallkill River at the base of the Shawangunk Mountain Range. The Wallkill Bridge near Springtown Road offers impressive views up and down the river, as does the recently completed Rosendale Trestle, which is the anchor of the recently opened 11.5-mile northern section of trail.

Hyde Park Trail – The Hyde Park Trail, which is the first section of the Hudson River Valley Greenway Trail, traverses 10 miles and connects several historic sites, nature preserves, and parks. Among the historic sites along the way are the Vanderbilt Mansion (home of Franklin D. Roosevelt) and Val-Kill cottage, Eleanor Roosevelt’s cherished retreat.

Central New York Trails

Boonville Black River Canal Trail – A premier destination for cross-country skiers, the Boonville Black River Canal Trail is located north of Rome and close to the Adirondacks. The 6.25-mile trail runs along the Black River Canal, which once connected the Erie Canal to the Black River, opening up the North Country to eastern and mid-western commerce. During the winter months, the warming hut located at the northern trailhead rents cross-country skis for a small donation. The Black River Environmental Improvement Association (BREIA) maintains this trail, as well as the nearby Egypt Road and Jackson Hill trail systems, which when combined, are more than 30 miles.

Chenango Canal TowpathThe Chenango Canal Towpath is a 6.4-mile scenic trail along the historic Chenango Canal that connects the village of Hamilton with Bouckville, the geographic center of the state. The northern trailhead is the home of the Chenango Canal Museum, which gives visitors the opportunity to learn more about the canal’s historic role as an important transportation route.

For additional ideas on how to stay active in the winter, check out these tips for winterizing your fitness regimen.


Photo by Alex Indigo /