Cross-country skiing in the Hudson Valley offers an inexpensive and versatile full-body work-out all while traversing beautiful scenery and getting a healthy dose of Vitamin D. The Hudson Valley’s abundance of rail trails, old carriage roads, and extensive state park preserves throughout the Shawangunks, Catskills, Hudson Highlands, and Taconics make this area exceptional for a choose-your-own-adventure cross-country skiing experience at any level.
Learning the sport is simple enough that ‘never-evers’ can start exploring right away. Beginners usually start with classic cross-country skiing and some transition to skate skiing later. The low-impact nature makes it suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels and it can be a solitary or social activity. Many people enjoy skiing with friends or family, and the trails provide a great opportunity to chat and catch up while enjoying the fresh air and beautiful surroundings. Though if you’re really getting after it, chances are you won’t be interested in a long conversation.
Whether you’re headed for a quieter excursion on a golf course or an ungroomed backcountry trail make sure to check weather and trail reports for each area before you venture out. The Shawangunk Nordic Ski Association has you covered for all things in and around the Gunks, and other information can be found on specific area websites.
Minnewaska State Park | Kerhonkson
‘Minne’ as some locals say, is perhaps one of the more popular cross-country skiing destinations in the Hudson Valley and the microclimate might just be the reason. Located in Ulster County, the 24,000-acre park’s higher elevation means that it usually holds a good snow base for longer, making skiing here more likely when other areas might only be open to hikers. Groomed for both classic cross-country and skate skiing, the park offers a variety of terrain and challenges. When fully open for skiing, Minnewaska boasts over 20 miles of trails and old carriage roads wind through the beautiful landscape of the Shawangunk Ridge, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding Rondout and Wallkill Valleys. One of the most scenic and rewarding trails is the Smiley Road Carriage Trail behind Lake Awosting with hills and few turns. It will take a longer day to do the full trail and although groomed, you won’t find as many people here. Adults $10, Seniors $9, Juniors $7. Rental equipment is available at Rock and Snow in New Paltz. Call the park for up-to-date conditions (845-255-0752). 5281 Route 44-55, Kerhonkson NY 12446
Dinsmore Golf Course | Staatsburg
Although many golf courses don’t allow cross-country skiing during the winter months, this state-run golf course located in the Ogden Mills & Ruth Livingston Mills Memorial State Park, welcomes those seeking to enjoy the panoramic views of the Hudson River and Catskills during the winter months. As one of the country’s oldest golf courses, visitors will enjoy the peaceful solitude that winter brings here. When the snow decides to stick around, the openness and subtle hilly nature of golf courses provides a nice opportunity for beginners to try out the sport. The choose-your-own adventure vibes offer fun for the whole family. After you’ve had enough skiing, head over to the Staatsburg State Historic Site to explore a Gilded-Age Mansion once owned by the Mills. No rentals on-site. Free of charge. 5371 Albany Post Road, Staatsburg, NY 12580
Mohonk Preserve | Gardiner
Best known for its world-class rock climbing, the nonprofit-run Mohonk Preserve offers recreation opportunities all year round. When carriage roads are blanketed with snow and conditions are good, both classic and skate skiers enjoy the preserve just as much as hikers in the summer. Some trails are machine-groomed via snowmobile and those seeking a backcountry experience can find ungroomed trails. Park at the West Trapps trailhead for 4.7 miles of moderately groomed trail on the The Overcliff and Undercliff loop. If you’re still learning, start on the Overcliff road for the best experience. Go for the full loop or turn around at your own pace and prepare yourself for small inclines and declines throughout the course of your journey. Conditions may be inconsistent and you might have to remove your skis in bare spots. Beginners can enjoy an easier outing by parking at the Spring Farm Trailhead to try out a 1.7-mile round-trip ski on Farm Head Road and Cedar Drive. Stop by the visitors center or a ranger shack at either parking areas to learn more and pay the daily fee or get a season pass . Bonus: Some of the trails here connect to the extensive trail system within the Mohonk Mountain House property. Take care in knowing where you are and read the signs. Pets are not allowed on groomed trails. Day pass is $15 per person. 3197 Route 44/55, Gardiner, NY 12525
Mohonk Mountain House | New Paltz
If you’re looking to get up in the Shawangunk Range but want more of an exclusive, all-day affair with the family, head over to this historic family-owned Hudson Valley resort built in 1869, which sits adjacent to the Mohonk Preserve. Here you’ll find a bit of history, great views, stunning architecture, and options for everyone when you purchase the one-day Winter Sports Pass for $125 starting January 13. This day pass gives you access to the extensive trail system boasting 30 miles of groomed options, the Mountain House, ice skating, gift shop and more. The pass also includes free equipment rental for ice skating, snowshowing, cross-country skiing, and microspikes. When you get tired from all your adventuring, head over to the lodge for a hot cocoa or a bite to eat, if you’re willing to pay the price. Winter amenities are included for those staying at the resort. 1000 Mountain Rest Road, New Paltz, NY 12561
Fahnestock Winter Park | Carmel
Situated at 1,100 feet of elevation, the Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park in the Taconic region of Dutchess County is known for its ability to hold snow, offering a distinctive experience for all ages and abilities. The park has a lodge and rental equipment for those seeking to classic or skate ski and boasts over 15 miles of trails that wind through the picturesque forests and meadows. The trails are groomed and well-marked, making them easy to follow even for beginners while still offering adventure for the more advanced in your group. Tired of skiing? Fahnestock also has rental equipment for snowshoeing and sledding and concession stands for some hot cocoa. Hiking, walking, trail running, bikes, and dogs are not allowed on the groomed trails. Adults $12, Kids $10 1498 Route 301, Carmel NY 10512
Poet’s Walk Park | Red Hook
If you’ve hiked this 120-acre park any other season, you’ll know why it’s worth checking it out this winter on a pair of skinny skis. With gently rolling hills, this designed landscape offers an easier and more leisurely option for those starting out or who are looking to catch up with friends or family on the 2.2-mile trail. Enjoy the peaceful wooded areas and perfectly framed Hudson River views on this generally flat trail system. Many people enjoy this trail year-round so expect people and furry friends but chances are it will be less crowded than other parks or preserves in winter. On a nice day, plan to bring a picnic lunch and a canteen of hot tea to eat the gazebo. Relish in the fact that you're treading parkland that was frequented by some of the greatest American writers of the 19th century like Washington Irving. Note that this trail is ungroomed. You’ll need to bring your own gear or rent beforehand. Parking is free. 776 River Road, Red Hook, NY 12571
Black Creek Preserve | Esopus
If you’re seeking more solitude, a good view overlooking the Hudson River, and a bit of adventure you might be in luck in this off-the-beaten path area when the snow falls. A 2.1-mile loop offers skiers a chance to get away from the crowds and endure a good challenge. For the best experience make sure that the trail is fully covered by snow and watch out for unforeseen obstacles that may seem obvious when the trail is dry. Expect hills on part of the journey and be prepared to walk during sections with ice or mud. This trail isn’t recommended for a family ski day or beginners. You’ll need your own gear or visit Rock and Snow in New Paltz to get a full package. Park at the preserve parking lot. Winding Brook Road, Esopus, NY 12429
River-to-Ridge Trail | New Paltz
Enjoy this 6.2-mile out-and-back trail from the Wallkill River up to the Shawangunk Ridge managed by the Open Space Institute. With a couple of moderate hills, this trail is considered a fairly easy outing and great for learning when fully covered with snow. The trail connects to some carriage roads within the Mohonk Preserve and also the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail. Be prepared to take off your skis for parts of the trail with no snow coverage. Dogs are welcome but must be on a leash. Make sure to visit the Shawangunk Nordic Ski Association’s Facebook page (SNSA) to find current conditions. Parking is Free. 41 Springtown Road, New Paltz, New York 12561.