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Hit the Trails and Go Snowmobiling in Upstate New York

posted by Teresa Farrell at 2024-02-10 12:44:00

Winter in Upstate New York is a popular season for many outdoor enthusiasts. Skiing, snowboarding, and skating have plenty of fans, but one winter sport that Upstate New York is uniquely famous for is its excellent snowmobiling.

Despite the fact that so far there has been a relatively low snow total in the Eastern U.S this year, the Winter is not over and more snow is still expected. There are Several spots in Upstate that draw snowmobilers from near and far. Arguably one of the best known is the Adirondacks—specifically, the Old Forge area.

Informally known as the “snowmobile capital of the Northeast,” Old Forge and the surrounding areas are known to get up to 14 feet of snow or more each winter, and a dedicated crew of groomers keep the hundreds of miles of trails surrounding the area in top shape, as long as conditions allow. These factors, plus the natural beauty and charm of the mountains, lakes and forests of the area, and the plentiful places to eat, drink, shop and stay in Old Forge, Inlet, and other surrounding Central Adirondack towns, make this spot a favorite destination for snowmobilers from throughout the Northeast and beyond.

Just to the west of Old Forge and the Adirondacks, north of Central New York and south of the Thousand Islands region, lies the Tug Hill Plateau, another well-known and beloved area for snowmobiling. The terrain is different—more farmlands and stands of woods, versus the mountains you’ll find to the east—but the spirit  is the same.

Tug Hill is susceptible to as much if not more snowfall as Old Forge, given its proximity to the eastern shores of Lake Ontario—winter weather systems regularly dump intense bands of lake effect snow over the entire region, and it’s not uncommon to find several feet of snow on the ground here when other places around the state are still relatively bare. Many of the trails are maintained by dedicated groomers here as well; and though the population centers and amenities aren’t packed together as densely as in some other areas, there are still plenty of places to stop for a meal or stay for the night throughout the area.

But here’s the best-kept secret of Upstate New York snowmobiling—even those the Adirondacks and Tug Hill are arguably the best-known places to take the sled out for a spin, there are more trails to explore throughout the other regions as well. In fact, New York State is home to an official snowmobile system that spans more than 10,000 miles of trails across the state, and while many of those crisscross the Adirondacks and the Tug Hill, you can also find trails that loop through the Thousand Islands, Central New York, Western New York, the Finger Lakes, the Chautauqua-Allegany region, and even parts of the Catskills, the Hudson Valley, and the Capital Region. Trail conditions may vary—they are maintained differently in different areas, sometimes by municipalities, sometimes by clubs, and sometimes even by private landowners—but the general routes are laid out in maps of the official snowmobile system available through the New York State Snowmobile Association,  which also offers a host of resources, safety tips, and other helpful and important information.

The bottom line? Whether you’re ready to head up north for the season or looking to hit the trails closer to home, odds are you’re never terribly far from a snowmobile trail in Upstate New York.

Of course, wherever and whenever you go, keep some basics in mind: verify conditions are safe before you head out, especially on trails that cross lake ice, which may not be suitable to sled over during some parts of the season; pay attention to posted signs and information along your route and respect landowners; and make safety your first priority. With that in mind, you can make this winter a memorable one from the seat of a snowmobile.


Snowmobile approaching photo credit New York State Snowmobile Association
snowmobile in the air photo credit Old Forge Visitors Information Center
Line of snowmobiles photo credit New York State Snowmobile Association
Snowmobile map photo credit New York State Snowmobile Association
Snowy path photo credit Old Forge Visitors Information Center

posted at: 2024-02-10 12:44:00, last updated: 2024-02-10 19:02:16

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