True, the arrival of winter forces many of our warm-blooded animal friends into hibernation, but that doesn’t mean we humans have to hibernate too. Get outdoors this winter, soak in that vitamin D, and invigorate your body!
OVERCLIFF/UNDERCLIFF, MOHONK PRESERVE
This might just be the perfect cross-country ski loop in the Hudson Valley. It offers a little bit of everything: groomed trails, gorgeous views, long stretches of gliding, super fun downhills, mixed hardwoods, and stands of pitch pines. The carriage road is also wide enough for skate skiing if that is your passion.
From the parking area, walk up the steps and turn left toward the large beckoning rock at the junction of Overcliff and Undercliff, which is a great place to put on your skis. You can head out in either direction, but most seem to prefer to begin by bearing left onto Overcliff. The trail starts off very gently and gives you plenty of time to get into your groove. After 20 minutes or so, you will probably need to stop and take off some layers; though the ascent is very gradual, cross-country skiing is a full- body workout, and you will heat up quickly.
Keep your eyes out for views of the Clove Valley to the west and the site of a controlled burn on the right side of the trail. The trail continues gradually uphill for 2.4 miles, and after a couple of windy turns, you’ll reach the crest. Enjoy this nice stretch of downhill—you earned it—and make your way to Rhododendron Bridge, a perfect place for a snack and rest. The trail continues uphill on Undercliff, where you’ll ski under some of the best rock climbing cliffs found in the Northeast. Views of New Paltz and the Walkill River Valley abound to the east. After 2.3 miles on the Undercliff trail, you’ll find yourself back at the rock where you began.
DIFFICULTY: Moderate LENGTH: 4.7-mile loop DIRECTIONS: From New Paltz, follow 299 west to the end. Turn right on Route 44-55. The Preserve Visitor Center will be 1/2 mile on your right. Go 1.3 miles past the Visitor Center, and turn right into the West Trapps parking area. At the gate, you can either become a member of the Preserve or pay the $12 day-use fee.
MORE CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING
Visit one of the many RAIL TRAILS throughout the Hudson Valley. Choose from the Hudson Valley, Wallkill Valley, Marbletown O & W, Dutchess County, Harlem Valley, or Orange Heritage rail trails.
Clermont State Park, Germantown. On this property sits the historic home of the Livingston family and five miles of marked trails for the cross-country skiing enthusiast. Gorgeous Hudson River views. stateparks.com/clermont.html
Fahnestock Winter Park, Carmel. Fahnestock Memorial State Park’s 10,000 acres of natural wonders offer 7.2 total miles of machine-groomed, tracked, and mapped trails. nysparks.state.ny.us/parks/147/details.aspx
Frost Valley YMCA, Claryville. Frost Valley offers great skiing for all ages and abilities on 25 kilometers of ski trails deep in the Catskill Mountains. Call their ski hotline at 845-985-2291, ex. 396 for the most up-to-date information about the trail conditions. frostvalley.org/group-and-family-retreats/cross-country-skiing
Minnewaska State Park, Kerhonkson. Check out the classic ski trails, such as Awosting and Castle Point Trail Loop, a 9.2-mile total loop with an elevation of 1,650 feet. nysparks.state.ny.us/parks/127/details.aspx
Mohonk Mountain House, New Paltz. 30 miles of trails groomed for skiing with sweeping views of the Catskills. Rentals and lessons are available. mohonk.com
Mohonk Preserve, Gardiner. The West Trapps, Spring Farm, and the somewhat newly acquired Walkill Flats/Mohonk Foothills offer a wide variety of skiing. mohonkpreserve.org
HIGH PEAK, CATSKILLS
For brilliant views, an excellent workout, and winter solitude, there are few better places to snowshoe than in the Platte Clove. The most accessible summit from the Clove is High Peak, and its rocky promontories provide spectacular views to the east of the Hudson Valley, as well as the lofty ridges and summits of Indian Head, Twin, Sugarloaf, and Plateau Mountains. The trail is out of the back corner of the parking area and is well-marked. Follow the Long Path past the Huckleberry Point Path (a fine objective albeit shorter) to a well-marked path on the north side of High Peak. This is approximately three miles. It is quite gradual with the last short section climbing steeply to High Peaks summit. The hemlock forest you will pass along the way is especially gorgeous in the snowy winter. As always, be prepared when visiting the backcountry, particularly during the winter. Map, compass, appropriate clothing, food, and water are critical items when venturing out into the forest during the often brutally cold winter months. It is critical to not underestimate what you may need.
DIRECTIONS: Park at the Huckleberry Point/High Peak trailhead off of Platte Clove Road/Route 16. The extremely steep eastern portion of this road is closed during the winter, so the area must be accessed from Tannersville. Follow Route 16 past the Catskill Bruderhoff Community, just over 3 miles out of town. Look for a bit of roadside parking on the right beside a small red artist’s cabin, and a hundred yards further you’ll find the entrance on the left for the trailhead parking. If you come to the dead end, no need to worry. You’ve only just passed the parking, so turn round, and keep a close eye out just after the small stone bridge.
Catskill Forest Preserve, Big Indian. Rochester Hollow Trail is one of the easier snowshoe trails near Slide Mountain, the tallest peak in the Catskills. www.dec.ny.gov/lands/9151.html
Frost Valley YMCA, Claryville. Frost Valley offers snowshoeing on their 5,000 plus acres of Catskill mountain land. Wide terrain for all ages and abilities. frostvalley.org/about-us/outdoor-sporting-memberships/trails/
Mohonk Mountain House, New Paltz. Get to the places you can’t get to on skis. Their snowshop rents snowshoes, and attendants can advise about trail conditions. mohonk.com/activities/overnight/winter
Mohonk Preserve, Gardiner. The Preserve offers numerous trails for snowshoe enthusiasts. There are no rentals on site, so rent snowshoes in town at Rock and Snow. mohonkpreserve.org
UPPER POWDER PUFF TRAIL AT PLATTEKILL MOUNTAIN
The Catskills have a long and rich history of downhill skiing and riding. Snow resorts have dotted the landscape for generations, and Plattekill offers both gentle slopes for beginners and double-black diamond trails for advanced skiers. Known for its laid back family atmosphere, this small mountain resort is perfect for beginners. The Powder Puff trail offers two miles of gentle gliding. Always groomed, it’s wide enough for big turns and steep enough for a thrill—but not so steep that you can’t comfortably come to a stop. When you get to the bottom, be sure to turn around and look at the very steep North Face. Keep coming back to Plattekill, and you’ll be cruising down this expert slope before you know it!
DIRECTIONS: Take I-87 to exit 19 (Kingston). Follow Route 28 West approximately 40 minutes to Arkville. Turn right in Arkville onto County Route 38. Follow to the end. Turn right onto Route 30 North. Go approximately 7 miles and turn left onto Cold Spring Road. Follow signs to Plattekill Road, Roxbury. plattekill.com/winter
ANAPURNA TRAIL AT HUNTER
Hunter Mountain has developed some of the finest snow-making technology in the industry and provides its guests with amenities from a big mountain area that is close to home. Since 1960, Hunter has provided some of New York State’s most accessible terrain, but there are also definitely trails for advanced skiers. Perhaps the best example of a more challenging run is 3,800 foot-long Annapurna. With a drop of 1,295 feet, Annapurna is consistently steep and challenging. Serviced by the modern high speed “Zee” lift, Annapurna is on the less traveled western aspect of Hunter. On a wintery weekday, the west side has a quieter, more remote feel than much of the otherwise busy area. Annapurna is “expert” terrain, narrow and tightly lined with moguls when the snow has been good. Arguably the hardest trail on the mountain, Annapurna demands good technique. The sweeping views of Rusk and West Kill Mountains, and the wilderness in between, are fantastic.
DIRECTIONS: Hunter is a convenient half-hour ride from exit 20 off of I-87. Take Route 32 north to Route 32A north to Route 23A west. Use this address in GPS: 64 Klein Ave, Hunter, NY 12442. GPS coordinates are N42 12.289 W74 12.598. huntermtn.com
Belleayre Mountain, Highmount. Check out their family-friendly programming, snowboard terrain park, progression parks, and new high-speed quad. belleayre.com
Windham Mountain, Windham. Windham Mountain Resort provides 1,600 vertical feet of skiing and riding on 284 skiable acres, with six terrain parks and 12 lifts. windhammountain.com
Over the last ten years, the deep ravines and steep brown cliffs of the Catskills have become one of the most popular ice climbing venues in the country, and an ice climbing guide from Alpine Endeavors can help you access these places. Perhaps the most sought after gem in the area’s collection is the multi-tiered cascade of Buttermilk Ravine. Dropping steeply into Kaaterskill Ravine from the north slope of High Peak, Buttermilk offers an all-day adventure for most climbers with seven distinct frozen waterfalls and an approach hike/snowshoe of forty five minutes to an hour. From the banks of Kaaterskill Creek, Buttermilk gains over 1,200 feet in one short mile. With a grade of water ice 4 and a relatively isolated location, this is an adventure for advanced to expert climbers. For less experienced climbers, enjoying the ravine’s frozen waterfalls might be best done in the company of a professional.
LENGTH: 600 feet
DIRECTIONS: To get to Buttermilk Ravine, follow 23a west out of Palenville. After crossing a bridge with a very steep cliff on the left rising directly from the edge of Kaaterskill Creek (“Moore’s Bridge”), travel just over a mile to an obvious parking area along the south (left) side of the road. From the parking area, walk downhill a short distance to where a guardrail begins, drop steeply down the embankment, and cross the creek. Head east (left) for approximately two hundred yards until the terrain drops down into the side drainage of Buttermilk. Follow the hillside south, climbing steeply uphill parallel to the ravine until reaching the first waterfall. In snowy conditions, it is typically easy to follow a boot-packed trail directly to the falls. When there is little snow, route finding is a bit more challenging.
MORE ICE CLIMBING:
Alpine Endeavors offers guided ice and rock climbing for all ability levels, as well as kids’ camps. alpineendeavors.com. Check out our video of Alpine Endeavors ice climbing lessons at visitvortex.com/Ice_Climbing_the_Catskills. Other local guide services with ice instructors trained for the terrain include Mountain Skills, Eastern Mountain Sports, Alpine Logic, and Extreme Alpine.
MOHONK MOUNTAIN HOUSE ICE PAVILLION
Enjoy the wonders of Mohonk Mountain House from their 9,375 square foot ice skating rink. Built in 2001 after too many skateless mild winters on the unfrozen Mohonk Lake, Mohonk brought this quintessential wintertime activity back to life, and they have done so with sophisticated style in typical Mohonk fashion. Its 39-foot high stone fireplace offers the weary a place to warm cold hands and feet or just simply relax. The views of the lake and mountain house itself as you circle around the rink will give your day a lift. If you choose a nighttime skating session, you’ll be sure to enjoy the holiday lights that brighten the house and grounds. If it’s been awhile since you last donned skates, no worries—you can grab hold of a metal chair to support you while you get your mojo back. Mohonk Mountain House—a true winter wonderland—doesn’t disappoint.
As long as their overnight guest capacity allows, Mohonk opens its ice skating rink to day guests on a regular basis throughout the winter from November to April, weather permitting. Often times, more than one skating session is offered each day. Call the ice pavilion ahead of time to verify the times and price at 845-256-2775. Ice-skate rentals are included in the price. Check out their website for meal and winter activity combinations. mohonk.com/activities/dayguests/winter
DIRECTIONS: Take exit 18 off of I-87 (New Paltz). Turn left at the traffic light onto Route 299/Main Street. After crossing the bridge over the Wallkill River, turn right (follow signs for Mohonk Mountain House). After 1/4 mile, bear left at the fork and follow Mountain Rest Road and Mohonk signs to the Gatehouse.
MORE ICE SKATING:
Bear Mountain State Park, Tomkins Cove. Bear Mountain boasts a beautiful outdoor rink with rentals at the base of the mountain. nysparks.com/parks/13/details.aspx
Ice Time Sports Complex, Newburgh. This Newburgh venue hosts a figure skating club, public skating, and hockey games. icetimesports.com
Kiwanis Ice Arena, Saugerties. Kiwanis offers public skating, figure skating, hockey, skate sharpening, and clinics all year long. kiwanisicearena.com/public_skating
McCann Ice Arena, Poughkeepsie. McCann can be rented for private use and offers figure skating, hockey, and public sessions all year. midhudsonciviccenter.org
STAATSBURG STATE HISTORIC SITE
This 192-acre property is home to Mills Mansion, but we love this place for its sledding! Plastic sleds and inflatable snow tubes are available to use on the lawn of this gorgeous estate, once lived in by Ogden Mills and Ruth Livingston Mills. During the 2014-15 sledding season, an alternative hill near the maintenance barn was also used as a sledding paradise during a construction project on the usual hill, so check their website for updates and follow the signs for where to begin your descent. If sledding in December, you may want to also arrange a tour of the Gilded Age historic house while it’s all decked out for the holidays—which will give you a chance to warm up a bit. Sledding is free, but please be respectful of the property. Pack out everything you bring with you, and leave your metal runner sled at home to preserve the lawn for future users.
DIRECTIONS: Take exit 19 off of 1-87. Follow Route 209 north, which becomes Route 199 East after crossing the Kingston-Rhinecliff bridge. Turn right onto Route 9 South and follow for 6.8 miles; turn right onto Old Post Rd.
Burger Hill, Rhinebeck. Though crowded after a good snowfall, this fun sledding hill offers spectacular views of the Hudson Valley. Sled in the evening, and you’ll likely witness a beautiful sunset too.
Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park, Carmel. Fahnestock Winter Park includes an area for sledding. There’s a lodge available with restrooms, food, and beverages. nysparks.state.ny.us/parks/147/details.aspx.
SAWKILL FAMILY SKI CENTER
Looking for an afternoon tubing adventure? Look no further than Sawkill Family Ski Center. It’s super accessible from the thruway or Routes 28 and 209 in Kingston and will give you all that you need for a downhill thrill, but without the long drive and fuss. It’s big enough to offer all the necessities, such as rentals, food, and snowmaking, but small enough to not have to worry about losing the kids. Their snow tube run is super fun and safe, allowing you to relax and whoop it up. Kids and adults love the magic carpet ride up to the top of the hill, keeping you tubing again and again and again. The workers assisting at the top of the run will give you a big or little push down the hill—whichever you desire—and linking tubes with those in your group can be a fun way to descend too. If bringing little ones, make sure they reach the 42-inch height requirement.
DIRECTIONS: From 1-87, take exit 19. Take the first exit off the traffic circle. Go 1/2 mile and take 209 North 2 miles to the Sawkill exit. Turn left at bottom of exit ramp on Sawkill Road (following green ski signs) and go for 2 1/2 miles.Turn left on Jockey Hill Road for about 1 mile. Turn left onto Hill Road and drive about 1/3 miles before turning right into the parking lot. 167 Hill Road, Kingston. 845-336-6977. sawkillski.com
Hunter Mountain. Hunter’s snow tubing park has nine chutes, each nearly 1,000 feet long, with two tube tows available to haul you back to the top. huntermtn.com
Plattekill Mountain, Roxbury. Plattekill’s lift up the hill allows you to focus on the fun of tubing down. Saturday night tubing available. plattekill.com
Rocking Horse Ranch Resort, Highland. Have a blast on their 500-foot long Timber Chute. rockinghorseranch.com