Snowshoeing has evolved from a mode for winter travel 6,000 years ago to a recreational sport with more than 4 million American participants. Whether you’re a newbie or an experienced snowshoer looking to break in a new pair, it’s easy to take advantage of this workout and enjoy the crisp midwinter beauty on one of these seven (mostly) flat trails in the Northeast. Even if your local trails do not have any snow yet, we’re all only a Nor’easter away from a delightful snowshoe hike.
1. CATHEDRAL PINES PATHWAYS | Eustis, Maine
The trails along this forest are lined with trees that remain tall and dense even in winter, looming over hikers like the arched nave of a Gothic cathedral. Its wide, snow-covered paths maintained by the Town of Eustis for much of the winter, Cathedral Pines is the perfect place to test out snowshoes in a spectacular setting. Parking is available at the trailhead, located on the left at the intersection of Maine Route 27 and Eustis Ridge Road. From the trailhead, follow the blue blazes down the logging road, pausing to catch glimpses of 4,142-foot Mount Bigelow. Eventually, you’ll reach a fork into two trails, marked by either red or yellow blazes. Follow the red-marked trail, which briefly exits onto an ATV path and heads south before leading back into the forest. You will rejoin the main trail just before it extends onto a boardwalk. Pause at a scenic overlook at the end and return the way you came.
Distance: 2 miles, out and back
Info: Maine Trail Finder
2. MILAN HILL STATE PARK | Milan, N.H.
The Nansen Trails in Milan Hill State Park, maintained by the Nansen Ski Club—the oldest ski club in the United States—offers high-quality trails free of cost. Hikers share with cross-country skiers 9 miles of trails, groomed throughout the season by Nansen Ski Club volunteers. Begin the hike at the junction next to the parking area off Milan Hill Road. A sign directs you down the Cabin Connector Trail, which you will follow for 0.4 mile, passing two junctions and turning right at the third onto Bear Waddle Trail. After 0.45 mile, either continue onto other moderate paths or return to the parking lot the way you came. Be sure to thaw out in the warming hut before your drive home as well.
3. LITTLE ROCK POND | Wallingford, Vt.
The Little Rock Pond Loop is a great trail for those who enjoy the solitude and calmness of winter. From the parking lot, cross Forest Road 10 and follow the white-blazed Appalachian Trail/Long Trail north toward Little Rock Pond. The first 0.2 mile rises moderately and curves west before it leaves the river and settles into a gentler pitch toward the pond. Continue along the trail toward the eastern shore of the pond. At 2 miles, the trail intersects with the pond loop. Go right, pass a campsite that, according to Vermont archeologists and the U.S. Forest Service, has been active for more than 11,000 years. The trail will loop around the pond, crossing a bridge and bringing you back to the trail you hiked in on, Appalachian/Long Trail, to the parking area.
4. HUYCK PRESERVE | Rensselaerville, N.Y.
Less than an hour southwest of Albany, the Edmund Niles Huyck Preserve features 12 miles of recreational trails. The flattest trail in the reserve, Lincoln Pond Trail, loops around a scenic pond, making it perfect for beginners. Park near the Eldridge Research Center and enter a mixed deciduous forest close by. The trail hops over a gentle stream and snakes through another forest of 200-year-old hemlocks. Cross two bridges before turning back into the hemlock forest. Continue down a hill, past the Horse Cabin, down Bullfrog Camp Lane, and back to the Eldridge Research Center. Call ahead if you’d prefer a guided hike, where, for a small fee, a staff member will lead the hike and talk about habitats of the preserve. Are you snowshoe-less or bringing friends who are? Snowshoes in both adult and kid’s sizes are available for rent for $5 a day at the visitor’s center.
Distance: 0.6-mile loop
Info: Edmund Niles Huyck Preserve
5. KEYSTONE ARCH BRIDGES TRAIL | Middlefield and Chester, Mass.
If you’re looking for history and scenery on your snowshoe hike, the Keystone Arch Bridges Trail checks off both. The trail passes by four stone arch railway bridges that date to the Western Railroad’s construction in 1840, including the remains of an arch bridge destroyed by a strong flood down the valley when the Ballou and Silk Dams in Becket failed in 1927. Park off Middlefield Road next to the trailhead and walk northwest down Herbert Cross Road, passing by a waterfall and the first stone arch. Then, follow the blue blazes, keeping an eye out for four information signs along the way, to a quarry site. Turn around and follow the same trail back to the trailhead.
6. EMILIE RUECKER WILDLIFE REFUGE | Tiverton, R.I.
Look out for red fox and short-tailed weasel on this brief hike through a red cedar forest. From the parking lot, where there is a small kiosk, follow the yellow blazes into the woods for about 0.4 mile. Continuing on the yellow trail, bear left and complete a 0.4-mile loop around a clearing, pausing to enjoy sweeping vistas of the Sakonnet River. If you’re lucky, you might see a harbor seal off shore. Look for the red trail on your left and follow red blazes for approximately 0.5 miles back to the parking area.
Distance: 1.3-mile loop
Info: Audubon Society of Rhode Island
7. BURNHAM BROOK PRESERVE | East Haddam, Conn.
This large, 1,122-acre forest preserve is an oasis for tree species of all kinds. The 2-mile loop begins at a trail register next to the parking area off Dolbia Hill Road. Oak, hickory, and maple trees surround the entryway, while red cedars border the lane. Walk gradually downhill, passing a stonewall gap with dark mica and pink feldspar crystals peeking through the cracks. As you continue near Burnham Brook, evergreen Christmas ferns line the path. At 1.6 miles, look for the truck-sized glacial boulder to the left of the trail, along with a brass plaque displaying a poem by preserve donor Richard H. Goodwin. To complete the loop, you’ll walk through a small boulder field and through an opening between two rock walls. The trail bends left and climbs gradually. When you return to Dolbia Hill Road, turn left and walk 200 feet back to your vehicle.