Sunday, February 5, 2023

Recreation Highlight: Winter on the Adirondack Rail Trail

Portion of the Adirondack Rail Trail

This past fall, ground was broken on the future Adirondack Rail Trail, a 34-mile multi-use recreation trail that will stretch from Tupper Lake to Lake Placid, connecting communities of the North Country and providing a world-class outdoor destination to locals and visitors alike. In December, construction on the Lake Placid to Saranac Lake segment of trail paused for the season, allowing for interim winter recreation until construction resumes in the spring. This provides an exceptional winter recreation opportunity for snowmobilers, cross-country skiers, snowshoers, birders and other winter users, and a glimpse at what the rail trail will offer year-round once it is fully completed in 2025.

Until the trail is fully constructed, interim use of the corridor requires additional caution. Always heed posted signage and be aware that trail conditions and surfaces may vary. Many “Stop” and “Stop Ahead” signs have been installed where the trail intersects with roads, but not all crosswalks and intersections along the trail itself have been marked. Slow down, look both ways, and use caution at intersections. In areas where construction is not complete, small metal fragments—the remnants of rail ties from the former track—may be present. Be sure there is adequate snow cover to safely and responsibly recreate. As always, fat tire bikers should bring the necessary equipment needed to address a flat tire or other mechanical problem in the backcountry.

Follow these tips for safe, respectful winter recreation as you enjoy the trail this winter and the communities it takes you to:

  • Practice winter trail safety and etiquette. Snowmobiles should travel along the right side of the trail in a single file, using the left side to pass. Look both ways before changing your position on the trail and yield to those passing from behind. Slow down when passing pedestrian users. Yield to groomers. Keep speed and noise down in populated areas, including staging areas and road intersections.
  • When stopping, pull off as far as possible on the trail edge.
  • Follow Leave No Trace™ principles and Love Our NY Lands. Carry out what you carry in, dispose of trash properly, and be respectful of local wildlife and other users.
  • Come prepared. While the trail connects vibrant communities, it passes through long stretches of forest preserve. Dress for the weather, bring food and water, and be prepared to handle emergencies until first responders can arrive.
  • The rail trail travels through varied habitat, from boreal and alpine woodland to bogs and other wetlands. Respect posted signage and barriers and stick to the trail to minimize impacts on surrounding landscapes.
  • Snowmobilers are reminded to always ride responsibly. Never drink and ride.

Before you take to the trail, check the Adirondack Rail Trail webpage on DEC’s website for the latest trail conditions, construction updates, and guidance for interim recreation.


Check out a related story by Adirondack Explorer reporter, Gwendolyn Craig, at the link here. 



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Information attributed to NYSDEC is taken from press releases and news announcements from New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation.

11 Responses

  1. Leo Mondale says:

    Can snowmobiles and cross country skiers really share a trail or is this wishful thinking?

  2. Tom Paine says:

    Its is done on other trails in NYS as well as other snowbelt states with multi-use trails. One in NYS is the NYS Canal trail, several sections are used by both user groups. In Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine with multi-use trails.

  3. nathan says:

    see how long this lasts, cross country skiers always hate snowmobilers. sure there will be lawsuits.

    • Brian says:

      What are the merits of that lawsuit? That’s like saying hikers don’t like trail runners so they’ll sue. We can disagree but respect each other’s choices.

  4. It requires everyone to be alert and on their best behavior. Skiers need to be single-file and on the right. Snowmobilers need to be alert (higher-speed users approaching slower-speed users) and slow down to perform a safe, courteous pass—and then slowly accelerate so that the skier isn’t pelted with snow and rock. I’ve skied on the trail several times and I haven’t had a bad encounter yet. I would certainly encourage skiers to wear bright clothing at all times but also to include reflective options when skiing at dawn/dusk. Do not ski wearing in-ear headphones! While the trail is open 24/7, I do not recommend skiing on it at night. I think the risk is simply too great. There are safer, lit options like Scott’s Cobble where you don’t have to worry about snowmobiles if you want to ski in the dark.

    • Boreas says:

      I see a definite advantage of a horn on a sled. While most sleds are far from silent, an early toot could give a sledder/pedestrian/skier/snowshoer a little earlier notice of an overtaking sled and thus more time to move to the side to allow a safer pass. The same is true in summer with bikes. My bike has an early-warning bell that I use regularly when overtaking other trail users.

      • Brian says:

        My personal opinion is that if the approaching vehicle is driven/ridden responsibly and the user being passed is on the right, then a horn is unnecessary [and it disturbs the surrounding environment and the experience of users]. In the summer, users should follow the same rules: (1) stick to the right, (2) respect others and their experience, and (3) yield and pass when appropriate.

        We have visuals on ARTA’s FB page to help:

        ski/hike/bike safety:

      • william c hill says:

        I often snowshoe on snowmobile trails, and I can always hear the sleds minutes before they get to me. Getting beeped at by every sled I see would be a miserable experience. I always get well off the trail and the sleds slow considerably as they pass. I’ve never had an issue or a close call.

      • Boreas says:

        I agree, the horn shouldn’t be necessary, but I have been surprised by rapidly approaching sleds that almost made me dive for the bank. But, I suppose those riders probably wouldn’t have beeped either. A lot depends on visibility, terrain, conditions, and closing speeds.

        Many trail users are older and do not have great hearing. This includes snowmobilers with helmets and a louder engine who may not be aware of an overtaking sled. On the other hand, I can’t see an occasional quick beep being appreciably more deleterious to the naturescape than the background sound of sleds in general. Just my $0.02.

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