Suggested MHLC Preserves for XC Skiing: Guest Post by Robert Frederick

There are many great trails for XC skiing at the MHLC Preserves! This post will guide you on the best trails for your experience level and also warns which trails must be avoided. The other MHLC preserves not found on this list due to steep staircases and bridges that are dangerous to ski or walk on with ski boots.

Please pay close attention to the weather forecast, snowpack, and existing trail conditions to determine if skiing any of our preserves is safe for the level of skier you are or those in your party. We recommend that you do not ski alone. Dress in layers and bring a mask, water, cell phone (loaded with the MHLC Map App), and a snack to offer some comfort to you and others. NOTE: Please notify the MHLC Stewardship Coordinator if you experience any issues related to the preserve you visited – email kent@mohawkhudson.org.

Before you head out, check out these helpful resources:

MHLC Map App – Our App allows you to see where you are at any of our preserves. It also has handy driving directions too!

MHLC Trail Breakers – Email us to be notified when we plan to get together to ski the preserves

Capital Region Snow Report – Weather reports and charts for NYS regions (National Weather Service)

Cross Country Skiing Tips – Basic reminders before you go out (tips from REI Coop website)

Preserves included in this guide: Bozen Kill, Hollyhock Hollow Sanctuary, Holt, Keleher, Strawberry Fields, Swift, Touhey Family, Winn, and Wolf Creek Falls.


BOZEN KILL PRESERVE
Altamont

 

This 214-acre preserve offers approximately 1.5 miles of trails over easy to moderate terrain that parallels the Bozen Kill stream. This preserve is good for beginner to intermediate xc skiers who can ski in the open field, near the stream, or under tree cover. 

WHITE TRAIL: Start from the parking lot and head west into the open field (right of the kiosk) following the WHITE trail markers. The WHITE trail turns right into the woods requiring a mild climb that leads to a fairly level trail with intermittent dips and turns. The WHITE trail has a few stone features that were created by a local volunteer. You’ll come to a sitting area with an overlook on your left which you should be careful not to get too close to the edge. At 0.60 miles you will come to the RED trail. This is a good point to take a break and determine if you wish to turn around or continue. Beginners may want to consider turning around since continuing would bring them to some gullies and narrow ridges requiring more confidence and experience to maneuver through (especially if the trail is packed down and slippery).

RED TRAIL: If you continue from the WHITE trail, the RED trail brings you through forest-covered trails that dip and turn and follow ridges that will bring you to a couple of beautiful sections of the Bozen Kill stream. This is a great spot to rest and have a bite before returning back. Please beware of icy conditions near the stream and we recommend not to walk on the ice since water conditions change throughout the winter months and therefore so does the thickness of the ice. The last thing you want is your feet and legs to be wet in cold temperatures as you ski back.

BLUE TRAIL: The BLUE trail begins on the left side of the kiosk and goes directly to the stream. This trail is level in the beginning but gets a little bumpy along the stream and loop to return. You can also connect with the WHITE trail on the far end of the hedgerow to continue on or to return to the parking lot.

NOTE: Be careful of your speed on downhills or narrow ridges, especially on the way back since you will most likely have a faster track to glide on. Also, pay close attention to snowshoers/skiers coming in the opposite direction.


HOLLYHOCK HOLLOW SANCTUARY
Selkirk

 

This 138-acre sanctuary offers xc skiers a wide variety of terrain that is good for beginners to experienced skiers who enjoy a short loop or a deeper adventure into the woods. Please use the parking area near the kiosk hut and trail entrances.

NOTE: The house with an adjacent parking area is NOT open to the public.

In general, please review and download the trail map to find the trails and loops comfortable for your level of skiing. Pay close attention to the lines of the topo map to see the steepness of the terrain and tightness of turns before deciding on the trails you will follow.

A Good Starting Point for Beginners to Intermediate Skiers
These suggested loops keep you from the most challenging terrain in the northern section of the preserve that is also the farthest from the parking lot. Remember to use your judgment on any trail that feels beyond your comfort zone. The nice thing is that you can always turn around and ski what you’re familiar with.

WHITE (east) LOOP (turning left on YELLOW, right on YELLOW/RED, straight on RED, and then right on White to return to the parking area)

WHITE (west) LOOP (turning right on the GREEN trail and then left on the WHITE trail to return to parking area)

Trails for the More Experienced XC Skier

WHITE TRAIL LOOP: Head west on the white trail since you’ll have steeper climbs on the way up the northern section of the preserve with more manageable downhills on the way back on the east side.

WARNING: the northern section of the white trail has a steep, rocky ridge which may require you to take your skies off to step up to the next level or find a gradual slope nearby to ski up and reconnect with the trail.


HOLT PRESERVE
Town of New Scotland

 

Winifred Matthews Holt Preserve is a 148-acre property on the western face of Copeland Hill offering 2 miles of mixed terrain.

For Intermediate & Experienced XC Skiers

RED TRAIL (main winter entrance/parking lot): The RED trail at the lower parking lot offers more challenging terrain and bridges that you can or must cross due to streams. When you first enter the RED trail (which is a very short walk/ski to the left of the kiosk from the parking area) you will see a long bridge. This bridge can normally be bypassed by crossing the stream bed on the left side where it is fairly level.  After the bridge, follow the red trail to the first intersection and take a left. This will bring you along a ridge that then slopes down to another smaller bridge that must be crossed over. Once over, go right and climb the mild hill following the RED trail through a beautiful forest of assorted trees. The RED trail will bring you to another intersection. 

WARNING: If you take a left and go up the ORANGE trail which is a switchback that takes you to the BLUE overlook trail, you must come back down either the orange or yellow trails to the lower parking area – these are steep trails with sharp turns. Only consider these options if you’re an experienced backcountry skier with appropriate gear and good snowpack conditions. Otherwise, stay to the right on the RED trail which will bring you back to the parking lot. 

BLUE-GREEN LOOP (Access at Upper Copeland Road parking area – IF ACCESSIBLE): Take the BLUE trail that will cross a shallow stream bed.  You will pass the RED trail on the right and will soon see other trails (yellow and green). Stay on the BLUE trail. This trail will bring you to the BLUE overlook trail that provides two western views of farm landscapes with log benches to enjoy a snack. As you continue, you will eventually see a connecting WHITE trail on the right that will bring you to the GREEN trail OR you can continue on the BLUE trail that will circle around to the GREEN trail. Either way, take a right on the GREEN trail to bring you back to the BLUE trail to return to the parking lot. NOTE: If you still have some energy left, I suggest that you take a left on the RED trail (before the shallow stream) and follow it to the pond. Once you circle the pond to the other side which offers an open viewing area, there’s an exit trail back to the parking area.

GREEN/YELLOW LOOP (upper parking lot): The GREEN trail loop is accessed by skiing the RED pond trail to find the start of the green trail that requires a steady climb to the top of the Holt preserve. Once you get to the top you will find a winding trail through a thick forest. You will not have to worry about the very tree-rooted trail since the snow will have covered them making a smooth ride. There are areas you may be able to go off-trail and ski through the trees, but make sure you are careful not to get too close to drop-offs. The GREEN trail gives you access to the YELLOW LOOP trail that provides some skiing along the ridges of Holt’s northern boundary. After the exit of the YELLOW LOOP trail, the GREEN trail will begin a mild descent that will quickly connect you to the BLUE/WHITE trails (shortly after you start your descent) or bring you down to the intersection of the BLUE/GREEN/YELLOW trails at the bottom of the hill. The BLUE trail will bring you back to the parking area.

WARNING: I would NOT recommend going down either the YELLOW or ORANGE trails due to their steepness and sharp turns.


KELEHER PRESERVE
Town of New Scotland

 

This 450-acre preserve offers more experienced back-country skiers, snowshoes, and fat bikers a number of trails that will challenge them depending on conditions and how far they wish to explore. The property is at the top of Gulf Hill Road in the town of New Scotland and along the Helderberg Escarpment. This is the largest and most remote of the preserves, so it’s very important you plan your trip in advance that includes reviewing your equipment, trail conditions, weather report, and the supplies needed for a deep woods experience in the winter months. 

NOTE: Make sure your vehicle has good snow tires due to road inclines, steep turns, and dirt road conditions that can be uncertain after stormy weather. The roads and parking area are plowed by the town. 

For Winter Directions Click Here.

A Good Starting Point for Most Recreational XC Skiers

WHITE (WEST) TRAIL to INTERNATIONAL JUNCTURE POST: (up to 2.5 miles round trip) From the parking lot, you’ll enter the trail system along a straight, slightly descending trail to the first juncture post.  Take time to observe the conditions and how your equipment feels. This would also be a perfect time to adjust your equipment, clothing, and test your Mohawk Hudson Map App to see where you are. At the first juncture post, take a left on the WHITE (west) trail that is the preferred trail by most due to the more level terrain and wider trails. There are areas that can get wet during rainy periods, but it’s usually a nice dry trail. You will find that this trail crosses over a number of old logging roads. Please stay on the marked trails so you don’t mistakenly venture into private property or become lost in this large preserve. 

After approximately 1 mile of a mild and gradual climb through forested sections, you will come to a switchback that is not as challenging as other trails due to the long run between the two turns at each end. Note trail conditions before ascending any trail section because coming down is usually more complicated. For some, this may be a good turn around point due to the fact that the international juncture post is not that much farther after ascending this section. Either way, once you arrive at the International juncture post (WHITE/ORANGE/GREEN intersection), have a snack and return back to the tracks you made or followed in.

For More Experienced XC Skiers & Adventurers

WHITE (WEST) TRAIL to AMERICA JUNCTURE POST: (Approximately 3.5 miles) Similar to the trail description above, except that when you get to the International juncture post, continue on the WHITE (west) trail for an additional 0.5 miles offering some ridge views of the surrounding region. Remember, an additional mile (up and back) can be a significant addition to your winter excursion and should not be taken lightly, especially if you did not originally prepare for it.  You will arrive at the America juncture (RED, WHITE, BLUE intersection) and this would be a great point to have a snack before returning on the tracks you made getting to this point.

WARNING: The RED and upper WHITE (east) trails have narrow trails and sections that are steep and run along cliff edges. We do NOT suggest these sections of the trail system in the winter months.  We also do not recommend returning to the parking area on the BLUE to WHITE (east) trails due to steeper terrain on the way down the WHITE (east) trail.

WHITE (WEST) – GREEN – BLUE – WHITE (WEST) LOOP: (Approximately 4 miles)  Start as you would above, except that when you get to the International Juncture post, continue on the GREEN trail for about 0.4 miles through open wooded areas with a slight uphill climb. The GREEN trail will bring you to the BLUE/GREEN/WHITE (east) juncture post. Take a left on the BLUE trail that will continue with a nice level ski through open wooded areas for about 0.56 miles.  The BLUE trail will take a right turn onto a nice wide downhill path that leads to the America Juncture post.  Take the WHITE (west) trail to return to the parking area. Each section between juncture posts takes about a half-hour with breaks. If you ski straight through, it will take between 1.5 – 2 hours.

WHITE (EAST) – GREEN – WHITE (WEST) LOOP: (Approximately 2.5 miles) This loop is for those physically fit, who own quality equipment, and are capable of ascending and descending steeper sections of trails in the winter. The WHITE (east) trail has a number of bridges and up and down terrain climbing 200 feet bringing you through some narrow trails before connecting you to the blue/green/white juncture post. Take the GREEN trail that starts out as an open trail through low ground cover and then reenters the forest with a quick downhill run. Follow the GREEN trail through densely wooded terrain for approximately 0.5 miles until you arrive at the International juncture post (green, orange, white trails).  Take the WHITE (west) trail to return to the parking area. CAUTION: you will come to a switchback that has a right-hand turn that descends along a mild, straight ridge run before taking a left-hand turn at the bottom. Take it easy going down, especially if snow is hard-packed.  After this section, you will have a mild and gradual descent for approximately 1 mile back to the juncture post near the parking lot.

WHITE (EAST) – BLUE – WHITE (WEST) LOOP: (Approximately 3 miles) This loop is for backcountry skiers who are in excellent physical health and have good backcountry ski equipment. The WHITE (east) trail has a number of bridges and up and down terrain bringing you through some narrower trails before connecting you to the BLUE/GREEN/WHITE juncture post. Take the BLUE trail that continues a mild climb for 0.5 miles to the America juncture post.  This juncture connects you to the RED trail, the upper end of the WHITE (east) trail and the WHITE (west) trail that brings you back to the parking area. 

WARNING: The RED and WHITE (upper east) trails have narrow trails and sections that are steep and run along cliff edges.  We do NOT suggest these sections of the trail system in the winter months. Proceed on the WHITE (west) trail for 0.5 miles offering some ridge views of the surrounding region and bringing you to the International Juncture post (WHITE, GREEN, ORANGE intersection). Take a right, staying on the WHITE (west) trail. Note: you will come to a switchback that has a right-hand turn that descends along a mild, straight ridge run before taking a left-hand turn at the bottom. After this section, you will have a mild and gradual descent for approximately 1 mile back to the juncture post near the parking lot.


STRAWBERRY FIELDS NATURE PRESERVE
Amsterdam

 

This 118-acre preserve offers approximately 2.5 miles of trails over moderate terrain. The road leading to the parking lot is steep and has many turns, so make sure your car has proper snow tires and be wary of icy road conditions. From the parking area, I recommend two ways to ski this preserve.

Beginner to Intermediate Skier

RED TRAIL: Head north (left of the parking lot) on the same side of the road for the RED trail. This gives skiers two fairly level loop trails that bring you to the edges of a deep ravine and a large field that is home to a variety of birds throughout the year. The RED trail will come to the first YELLOW trail (on the right) that will loop you back to the RED trail bringing you back to the parking area. If you continue, you’ll come to a second RED/YELLOW intersection. I’d suggest staying on the RED trail (left) close to the tree line since the wind can blow hard on the open field and it offers a bench to take a break. You will come to another RED/YELLOW intersection where you can turn back on the RED trail you came in on or take the YELLOW trail (right) that will reconnect you to the RED trail to return.

NOTE: You can continue on the RED LOOP trail, but this is the most difficult section of the RED LOOP and has a steep downhill slope as you get closer to the parking area.

For More Experienced Skiers Who May Like a Little Challenge

I’d recommend crossing the road from the parking area and ski the RED trail loop. NOTE: If conditions are icy or very packed down, I would not recommend skiing this section without skins. The RED LOOP trail starts with an uphill slope winding through a beautiful wooded area. The first 0.25 mile section of the loop trail will be the most challenging.  After working up a sweat, you will then find the rest of the RED trail fairly level due to the fact that it surrounds a field that was once farmed. The RED LOOP trail offers some benches with views of open spaces and wooded areas.

NOTE: You can ski the RED LOOP in the opposite direction, but the hilly terrain at the end can be dangerous for less experienced skiers or if conditions are poor.


SWIFT PRESERVE
Delmar

 

This preserve consists of a 21.6-acre wetland with approximately 1 mile of trails over easy terrain.

YELLOW TRAIL: From the parking lot at the end of Evelyn Drive, you can ski right to and beyond the kiosk to the YELLOW trail. You can go either right or left after the kiosk to connect with the BLUE and RED trails. Many of the trails have bog boards in the middle of the trail, so be careful during lower snow levels and ski on the sides of the trail to avoid bumping into a bog board. 

NOTE: Skiing the RED trail will require you to step up and over a small stairway to begin your ski on the red loop trail which also has a few bridges you will need to cross over.


TOUHEY FAMILY PRESERVE
Delmar

 

The 49-acre preserve features a diverse habitat consisting of woodlands, wetlands, open fields, and a pond. 

RED LOOP TRAIL: This trail offers a 0.86-mile trail loop that is fairly level offering a serene experience so close to home. The one thing skiers will need to pay attention to is the formative bog boards built in the middle of the trail to provide a great experience in the springtime.  Skiers will need to stay to the edges of the trail when snow levels are low. 

NOTE: There is a private residence on the property. Please be respectful of our neighbors and stay on the marked trails; the open spaces around the pond and the long driveway are NOT a part of the MHLC trail system.


WINN PRESERVE
Town of Knox

 

This preserve is 208 acres along the Helderberg Escarpment and is geologically significant. It offers 2 miles of mixed terrain for skiers of all experience levels. 

WHITE TRAIL: Take this trail all the way to the end which is a little over one mile one way.  This will give you options on the way back to check out some of the other smaller trails that offer some unique features (BLUE, GREEN, RED). 

NOTES:  

  1. The WHITE trail connects to the YELLOW trail that is an “approved” SNOWMOBILE trail maintained by a local snowmachine group.  Please step aside if you hear a motorized vehicle coming in your direction.  
  2. The PURPLE trail at the very end of the WHITE trail is a ridgeline trail that can be dangerous on XC skies – we do NOT recommend this trail for skiers.  
  3. The WHITE trail comes to a downhill section that continues as the YELLOW snowmobile trail or goes to the right to continue on the WHITE trail.  We do NOT recommend continuing on the YELLOW trail as it is steep and the snow is usually packed down by snow machines causing an icy, bumpy trail – very dangerous.  Stay on the WHITE trail or turn around at this point.  (4) Please stay on the marked MHLC trails since there are some (unmarked private) trails that come in contact near the preserve’s boundaries.

WOLF CREEK FALLS PRESERVE
Town of Knox

 

This135-acres preserve contains streams and waterfalls, a wetland, and numerous old stone walls.

WHITE LOOP TRAIL: This trail is just beyond the kiosk and gives access to short side trails. 

If you still have some energy, cross the road from the parking lot and find the RED TRAIL that will connect you to another WHITE loop trail that has additional side trails to discover unique features of the preserve. We suggest you walk across the road since traffic can get busy at times.

WARNING: The YELLOW trail also connects the trail system on either side of the main road. Please be careful when crossing and we suggest removing your skis when crossing. The YELLOW trail also has a large bridge to cross, so be careful especially as it can become icy under certain conditions.

 

 

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