Between lake effect snow off the Great Lakes and reliable flurries in the high elevation of the Catskills and Adirondacks, New York State is a winter sports wonderland. Cross-country skiing is a great way to immerse yourself in the breathtaking winter scenery and explore at your own pace. Whether you’re new to the sport or a seasoned pro, these ten destinations have a wonderful mix of groomed and backcountry trails for your next winter getaway.
Nestled in the Adirondack High Peaks region, the former Winter Olympics host offers a wide selection of winter sports, including an extensive network of cross-country ski trails. Visitors can follow the path of Olympians at Mount Van Hoevenberg, where 30 miles of groomed trails meander through pine forest and hills. Despite its prowess, there are trails suited for beginners and advanced skiers alike. Nearby, Cascade X-C Ski Center has a well-maintained trail system totaling 12 miles. A ski pass from either center can be used for admission to the other. More experienced skiers can break away from the crowds on backcountry trails. The 35-mile Jackrabbit Trail is a local favorite, connecting the charming towns of Keene, Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, and Paul Smiths. More remote backcountry trails radiate through the surrounding mountains, including towering Mount Marcy, New York’s highest peak.
Set in the Southern Adirondacks, Lapland Lake houses 30 miles of cross-country trail on its private woodland reserve. Roughly 24 miles are regularly groomed for skate and classic cross-country skiing, including track-set skating lanes for beginners. Lapland’s trail system is largely designed for one-way traffic, so be mindful of signage while navigating the serene forest terrain. Living up to its Finnish roots, the ski center even has a herd of resident reindeer and a sauna. Equipment rentals, as well as private and group lessons with professional instructors can be arranged for skiers of all skill levels. Overnight guests have their pick of Finnish-style cabins and exclusive night skiing access to the illuminated Lake Trail.
Situated between Lake Ontario and the Adirondacks, the Tug Hill region accumulates hundreds of inches of lake effect snow every year. With 100,000 people in an area larger than Delaware, it’s not hard to find solitude here either. To explore the pristine hardwood forests without forgoing the leisure of groomed trails and cozy warming stations, the Osceola Tug Hill XC Ski Center offers the best of both worlds. The family-run operation maintains approximately 25 miles of trails exclusively for cross-country skiing. After a full day traversing the rolling terrain, skiers can recharge at the lodge’s restaurant and around outdoor fire pits. Newbies can rent gear upon arrival, while regulars can get a season pass or family membership at a value.
Totaling 8,000 acres along the Shawangunk Ridge, the Mohonk Preserve encompasses a dramatic landscape of cliffs, forests, and streams outside bohemian New Paltz. The protected area’s higher elevation also means more reliable snow than much of the Hudson Valley. Come winter, 40 miles of hiking, horseback trails, and carriage roads are open for cross-country skiing. Most of the trails are backcountry skiing, as only a portion of the carriage roads are groomed when there’s enough snowfall. The Mohonk Mountain House boasts 30 miles of groomed trails on the north side of the preserve. Visitors can purchase a day pass while guests have free access during their stay. The ascent up to Skytop Tower is worth the exertion for sweeping views over the Hudson Valley.
Whetstone Gulf State Park
Another Tug Hill locale, Whetstone Gulf State Park receives plenty of snowfall for dependable cross-country skiing conditions. The park is defined by a plunging 3-mile-long gorge, which is encircled by the 5-mile, aptly-named Gorge Trail. The trail’s initial ascent from the north entrance is steep, then levels off and rewards skiers for their efforts with sweeping vistas over the 380-foot gorge. The campground loop and fitness trail, located just after the park entrance, offer gentler terrain. Winter ski access is free, and a portion of trails are groomed from December through early March. The only onsite amenities are a heated recreation building with restrooms, but the nearby West Martinsburg Mercantile sells a range of local goodies and provisions.
Old Forge is a year-round recreation hub in the southwestern Adirondacks. Better known for its downhill skiing, McCauley Mountain also maintains 5 miles of groomed Nordic ski trails. Save for the Kashiwa trail’s exhilarating, steep descent, the remainder of the trail system traverses gentler terrain. Come winter, skiers can access miles of trails at the Thendara Golf Course for free. The relatively flat terrain is well suited for beginners, though anyone can appreciate the excellent views of the Moose River. Old Forge is surrounded by dozens of miles of exceptional hiking trails, many of which can be utilized for skiing or snowshoeing in winter. The Moose River Plains Wild Complex has 16 miles of trails designated for skiing only. The Fern Trail has lighted portions for night skiing and over 13 miles of groomed trails to enjoy the remote wilderness setting.
Located just southeast of Buffalo, East Aurora gets ample snowfall thanks to lake-effect snow off Lake Erie. Just outside the historic town center, Knox Farm State Park’s 633 acres feature a network of nature trails used for skiing and snowshoeing in winter. The gentle terrain consists of a mix of pasture, forest, and ponds. Along the way, skiers can explore remnants of the Knox family’s former country state, including stables, outbuildings, and a mansion. To the east of town, Byrncliff Resort has 16 trails to choose from. The flat and groomed Grasshopper trail is ideal for newbies, while more intermediate and difficult trails await in the outlying forest.
Located deep in the Adirondacks, Tupper Lake enjoys a long and reliable ski season. The Tupper Lake Golf Club doubles as the area’s premier cross country ski center. The trails are groomed for classic cross-country skiing by a committed team of volunteers and the Town of Tupper Lake. From the golf course, the trail system winds east and then south to hook up with the (currently unoperated) Big Tupper Ski area. Along the way, skiers can recharge at the Cranberry Pond Loop’s picnic area. There are plenty of backcountry ski trails in and around Tupper Lake too, including Deer and Lead Ponds.
At the very top of New York State, Wellesley Island lies a mere 50 feet from Canada across the St. Lawrence River. It may not have much elevation, but its northerly latitude still brings an average of 99 inches of snowfall annually. The sprawling island is home to three state parks: Waterson Point, Dewolf Point, and Wellesley Island State Park. The island’s namesake park is home to the Minna Anthony Common Nature Center, where skiers can explore 7 miles of trails and admire stunning views over Eel Bay and the surrounding Thousand Islands region.
This Central New York college town has plenty of ski trails at its disposal. Greek Peak Mountain resort has a selection of alpine and cross-country trails. Starting at Hope Lake Lodge, cross country skiers have nearly 10 miles of groomed trails to choose from. Guided tours, lessons, and rentals are available. Color-coded signage indicates trail difficulty, with numerous options for beginners and experienced skiers. Cortland’s Lime Hollow Nature Center is a less-trafficked alternative with 2.5 miles of free public-use ski trails. The glacial valley consists of gentle slopes and a mix of forested and open terrain.