Paths aplenty greet snowshoers hiking through wintry wood, open fields

Snowshoers trek along at Beaver Lake Nature Center (Michael Davis/Syracuse New Times)

Local venues offer several options for people who wish to get in some outdoor exercise, without having to travel far or leave the whole family behind.

With snowshoe trails, simply strap the paddle-like shoes onto your normal winter boots, and trudge on top of the snowbanks. Rarely is there a need for things like membership fees or resort admission. Although it seems like an easy task, people who underestimate snowshoeing can quickly find themselves in a less than ideal situation.

New York state’s Department of Environmental Conservation has five tips for anyone wishing to do some wintertime hiking:

1. Check the weather conditions

While it’s smart to check the weather forecast before heading outside for wintertime hiking, you should always prepare for the worst. Keep in mind that it’ll be windier, colder and snowier at higher elevations, so also check out any available trail maps ahead of time to gauge what you may be up against. If the weather appears to get worse, it’s safer to quit early and head back to shelter than to try and tough it out.

2. Dress in layers

Layers are your friend in winter! The easy-to-take-off clothes make it easier to regulate body temperature when out and about. When choosing fabrics, try to stay away from cotton. Cotton won’t hold in as much body heat, and is more likely to retain water and take longer to dry when wet than wool or fleece.

3. Bring a backpack

As the Scouts say: “Be prepared.” A pack of essentials is vital before heading out in harsher conditions. The range of items you may need will depend largely on where you choose to snowshoe, but things like snacks, water and some basic first-aid items can never go wrong.

4. Know your ability level

While most trails in Central New York are made for beginners to intermediate snowshoers, it’s still important to know your limits. An experienced hiker could find themselves in a rough spot if their overconfidence leads them to underestimate the extra energy it takes to hike through snow. Make sure to take breaks and stay energized.

5. Never travel alone

Bring a buddy before you hit the trails, in case of an emergency. If no one else has any interest, then at least let someone know where you plan to hike and an estimated return time. If you’re not back by the designated time, then a search party can be alerted immediately.

(Michael Davis/Syracuse New Times)


Places to Snowshoe

Baltimore Woods Nature Center
4007 Bishop Hill Road, Marcellus
(315) 673-1350.

This private nature park sits on more than 180 acres of land with six miles of trails. The paths are open to snowshoers in winter and hikers in the summertime. They also have guided snowshoe hikes throughout the year.

Free admission. Trails are open daily, dawn to dusk. Bring your own equipment.

Bear Swamp State Forest
Bear Swamp Road, Sempronius
(607) 753-3095

This state-run park has a 14.3-mile, multi-use trail system aimed at beginners and intermediate-level users. Each trailway is marked by a color level. It’s open for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, and has separate trails for snowmobilers.

Free admission. Bring your own equipment.

Beaver Lake Nature Center
8477 E. Mud Lake Road, Baldwinsville
(315) 638-2519

Beaver Lake boasts three separate trails, ranging from a half-mile to 2.2 miles, that wind through open fields and wooded areas throughout the campus. They also have weekend guided walks and an hour-long beginners snowshoe clinic for people who want an introduction to the sport.

Snowshoe rentals are $5 per hour and are available from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Green Lakes State Park Golf Course
7900 Green Lakes Road, Fayetteville
(315) 637-6111

While no carts will be driving along the green for a while, the golf course at Green Lakes won’t go completely ignored until spring. The state park opens it up for snowshoeing, giving wintertime hikers a place to walk away from the traditional cross-country ski trails.

Free admission. Park is open daily, dawn to dusk. Bring your own equipment.

Highland Forest
1254 Highland Park Road, Fabius
(315) 683-5550

Six trails snake around Highland Forest, with the shortest at a half-mile and the longest at nearly nine miles. All trails begin at the Skyline Lodge for easy navigation.

Snowshoe rentals are $10 per day, or $5 per day for children ages 15 and under, and are available from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Onondaga Lake Park
106 Lake Drive, Liverpool
(315) 453-6712

Enjoy the familiar Shoreline Walking Trail, the West Shore Trail or the Long Branch Park loop, but on picturesque, snowy grounds.

Free admission. Bring your own equipment.

Rogers Center
2721 State Route 80, Sherburne
(607) 674-4733

Rogers Center’s four trail sections — the main property, Adams Farm, the farm tower and Cush Hill — are full of scenic forests, frozen ponds, marshlands and more. More than six miles of trails snake through the 600-acre property.

Free admission. Trails are open from dawn to dusk. Bring your own equipment.

Selkirk Shores State Park
7101 State Route 3, Pulaski
(315) 298-5737

Nestled on the bluffs of Lake Ontario, Selkirk’s snowshoeing trail takes you on a magical walk along the waterfront. Make sure to dress warmly and check for hazardous lake effect snows before heading out!

Park is open from 7 a.m. to sunset. Free admission. Bring your own equipment.

Winona Forest
Route 13, Lacona

Head to Tug Hill to enjoy more than 50 miles of groomed, forest trails, built for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, mushing and more. On Sunday, Jan. 20, the venue will also host the 2019 Stone Wall 5K Walk/Run and Empire State Snowshoe Championship Race.

Free admission. Bring your own equipment.

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