A Complete XC-Skiing Experience Near NYC

Head up the Hudson Valley for 13 miles of dedicated cross-country ski trails at Clarence Fahnestock Winter Park.

Enjoy the splendors of winter with a trip up the Hudson Valley. On the snow-blanketed landscape of New York’s Clarence Fahnestock Winter Park, you can kick and glide to exhaustion. The winter park—located within the larger, 16,000-acre Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park—provides a complete cross-country skiing experience within a day’s drive of Long Island (about 90 minutes from Huntington). Fahnestock’s 13 miles of machine-groomed, cross-country ski trails are maintained for both classic and skate-style skiing. There are also snowshoe trails plus a sledding hill, with rentals available for every activity.  

And the terrain favors every skill level as well: Gentle trails traverse fields and cross frozen lakes fit for novice skiers while advanced loops climb through mountain laurel and descend through unnervingly named chutes. Most of the trails are marked for one-direction travel, allowing you to focus more on your technique and experience soaking in the Appalachian views—and less on worrying about oncoming skier traffic.

Short loops that encompass the parking area mean you can head out for the whole day, or take occasional breaks at the warming lodge on the edge of Canopus Lake. Grab a hot beverage from the cafe there and thaw out in front of the fire. Once you feel warm-blooded again, head out for another cruise around the forest.

Recommended Route

With the ability to tailor your route length, start short and see how it goes. Begin with the 2-mile Field Loop, then tack on the 1.5-mile Ridge Line Trail, and continue further with the 1-mile Upper Lake and 0.5-mile CCC Loop.

Clip in and head west to begin the Field Loop just outside the lodge. It’s an ideal warmup to get your ski legs going: a gentle trail with a green circle rating for beginners that passes along open fields and bare winter forest. The scenery may prove satisfying to first-timers. But if you’re up for a more challenging trail, take the intersection just over halfway around the loop, east onto the Ridge Line Trail. The first half of this 1.5-mile, one-way loop is moderately difficult (blue square rating), though the second is better suited to experts (black diamond) with some steep descents.

As Ridge Line begins, you’ll pass above the park’s family-friendly sledding hill with a view downhill of the lodge and Canopus Lake. Kick your way up a gradual ascent of 100 feet in elevation for the next 0.5 miles. At an intersection adjacent to the park entrance road, you can descend the elevation you just climbed on the trail’s difficult-rated section, or ski a roadside trail a quarter-mile back to the lodge.

Continuing on Ridge Line, the trail makes a hard turn that yields another 100 feet of elevation gain. But as the trail crests, the fun begins. Enjoy some serious glide descending through features like the Otter Slide and Raven’s Dart. The trail then mellows out over its last quarter-mile before you find yourself back on the upper end of the Field Loop. Follow the second mile of the Field Loop counter-clockwise and you’ll return to the lodge.

Ready for more? If ice conditions allow, go for a ski across Canopus Lake. It’s about a half-mile across the lake’s upper half, where you’ll find another beginner loop around the relics of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) work responsible for building most of the park on the ancestral lands of the Munsee Lenape, Schaghticoke, and Wappinger peoples. After finishing the 0.5-mile loop around the CCC camp, skate your way another half-mile back across the lake to enjoy some hot food and drink and a roaring fire at the lodge.

More Info

The winter park is open daily from 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. A daily trail pass for skiing or snowshoeing is $12 for adults and $10 for youth and seniors. The sledding hill is $3 for the day. Ski, snowshoe and sledding tube rentals are available on site on a first-come, first-served basis. Snow conditions are updated on the park website once the season is underway: parks.ny.gov

Getting There

Take the Taconic State Parkway north to Exit 31B. At the end of the ramp, make a right on state Route 301 west. In 0.25 miles, turn right on the Clarence Fahnestock State Park entrance road. In just under a half-mile, you’ll reach the lodge and parking area for the Fahnestock Winter Park.

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.