Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cross Country Skiing: Cat and Thomas Mountains

When the next big snowfall comes, I know where I’m headed with my cross-country skis: Cat and Thomas mountains in the Eastern Adirondacks.

Located just west of Bolton Landing on Lake George, the two small peaks are part of a 1,900-acre preserve purchased in 2003 by the Lake George Land Conservancy. Neither of the two mountains require more than a 750-foot ascent to the top, making them two of the easiest ways to catch a killer view of Lake George or the Adirondack foothills.

I’ve done this hike in warm weather and cold, and I like it best on skis. The trails are never desperately steep (at least to the intermediate skier). Fresh snow and wide skis are definitely preferred, however.

To reach the preserve, head east off Northway Exit 24 toward Bolton Landing, and make a right after two miles onto Valley Woods Road to find the preserve on the right. The trail to Cat, 3.5 miles, follows a rocky logging road. Occasional colored discs show the way. After about 15 minutes, you pass a right turn (signed) to Thomas Mountain, which is only 1.5 miles from the cars. You can also reach Cat Mountain from a different parking lot down the road from the main lot.

Which peak is better? Hard to say. When I was there last winter, Thomas still had a small cabin on top, which made a great place to take a break (there was talk of removing the cabin at the time). But the view faces west, missing the lake. Cat has nothing on top, and it’s got a sweeping view of the southern half of Lake George.

Thomas is the easier ski, but Cat is still quite doable. Climb them both — which shouldn’t take more than half a day — and you’ve got the makings of a great winter outing.

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