Sunday, January 28, 2024

Cross Country Skiing in Long Lake

Long Lake is a small village in the central Adirondacks that sits on its namesake lake. Several Wild Forests and Wilderness Areas surround Long Lake. Although not as mountainous as more traveled parts of the Adirondacks; low mountains, forests, and numerous bodies of water surround the area. The village also serves as a key resupply point and layover on the Northville Placid Trail. 

Although the most popular winter recreation around Long Lake seems to be focused on snowmobiling and ice fishing, I wanted to explore the cross country skiing in the area. After a week of snow and cold temperatures, I decided to check out a couple skiing opportunities before more rain fell later in the week. I hit the trail on Monday January 22nd.

Fresh tracks 

Three-Brook Ski Loop via the NPT

My first skiing destination was the Three-Brook Ski Loop. The loop is a designated back country ski trail on the east side of Long Lake. I began skiing from the Northville Placid Trail (NPT) trailhead on Route 28N about 1.5 east of town. Although the parking lot was plowed, I was surprised that nobody signed the register in 2 1/2 weeks.


The trip began skiing on the NPT for the first 1.9 miles. The conditions started out pretty rough for the first 1/4 mile or so. Several people postholed in the snow, leaving the trail pocked with ruts. The trail was also quite narrow. Fortunately, the people that left the postholes turned around fairly quickly. Beyond the human postholes, the trail was pretty pocked by deer tracks, which didn't help the skiing on the narrow trail. Apart from the deer traffic, only a faint set of old ski tracks were periodically visible on the trail beyond the first 1/4 mile. The old ski tracks were quite old and long filled in, and at times not visible at all. Within the first half-mile, the trail passed over several bog bridges. The snow wasn't quite deep enough to fully cover the bog bridges and crossing them was a little tricky since they were partially hidden.

Deer scratch

Even though NPT markers show the way, a few ski trail discs mark the way as well on the NPT. In the first mile, a couple of ski bypasses diverted from the NPT to avoid rough hills that would be difficult to negotiate on skis. While the ski bypasses avoided steeps, a lot of vegetation poked through on these bypasses. I'm assuming the ski bypasses see minimal maintenance and are prone to overgrowth. The snow wasn't quite deep enough to hide all the obstacles. 

Ski bypass sign

The trail widens as it turns onto an old skidder trail and eventually a wider old logging road. The skiing became a little easier on the wider trail. Progress was fairly slow as I broke over a foot of untouched snow. I was pleasantly surprised that the morning turned out sunny despite a forecast for clouds. I'm glad I brought my sunglasses.

Old ski tracks are visible here

Skiing an old logging road

Just under two miles from the trailhead, I reached the junction for the Three-Brook Ski Loop. The Three-Brook Ski Loop is a backcountry loop formed with the NPT and marked as a ski trail. As the name implies, the trail crosses over three brooks along the loop. The loop can be skied in either direction, but I chose to ski it counterclockwise, leaving the NPT at the first junction for the loop. 

First junction for the Three-Brook Loop

Large burl in a tree 

My fresh tracks

The first of the three brooks

My tracks crossing the bridge
over the first brook

Generally the ski loop trail runs wider than a typical hiking trail, but not as wide as a logging road. The loop travels through a mix of deciduous and coniferous forests. The loop has a few short hills, but generally covers pretty easy terrain. Given the deep, untracked snow, I never gained too much speed. A couple of blowdowns blocked the trail, but generally it was in pretty good shape. I found the trail to be enjoyable in the untouched snow. The loop rejoins the NPT at its south end.

Untracked snow ahead

Heading into a narrow section of the loop

Back on the NPT, the skiing went a little faster. The NPT generally heads downhill as it makes its way back to the start of the loop. I was still breaking snow, but the slight downhill sped up my progress. After a mile or so I was back at the start of the loop. 

The upper junction of the NPT and the loop

Untouched snow along the NPT

Deer tracks on the NPT

The last 1.9 miles retraced my tracks on the NPT back to the trailhead. The skiing went more quickly and efficiently following my earlier tracks and no longer breaking snow. The last half-mile or so was trickier as I negotiated the narrow ski bypasses and rougher sections with postholes.

Skiing through hemlocks

My route covered about 5.2 miles. Although the distance isn't too long, my pace was relatively slow as I broke over a foot of untouched snow for more than half the trip. I stopped for a quite a few pictures as well and it took about 2 1/2 hours to ski the route. Given a fairly snowy past week, I was surprised nobody skied it recently. I think the loop was a solid intermediate route. The trails never get too steep, but the earlier stretch of the NPT is fairly tight and could cause issues for a beginner not used to narrow trails. I found the loop and enjoyable ski. I always appreciate the forest, especially hardwoods, under a cover of untouched snow

Big Brook Loop

I wrapped up the Three-Brook Ski Loop just after noon. I wanted to ski a little more and decided to check out a route called the Big Brook Loop. The Big Brook Loop begins just a few miles north of Long Lake at the Lake Eaton Campground. The 4.2 mile loop travels in the forest on the north side of Lake Eaton. Despite its name, the trail doesn't actually get that close to Big Brook, which lies just to the north of the loop.

Unlike the Three-Brook Loop, the Big Brook Loop utilizes snowmobile trails for its entirety. Snowmobile trails can be hit or miss for skiing. Snowmobiles can chew up trails, and if too busy, the noise can take away from the experience. Since it was an early afternoon on a Monday, I was hoping the snowmobile traffic would be at a minimum.

I parked at the end campground access road right at Route 30. The trail begins on the opposite side of the road. The first .8 my followed a connector snowmobile trail that wasn't too wide. The connector trail didn't look to traveled. It moved over fairly easy, rolling terrain in a nice mix of forest.

Start of the Big Brook Loop

Following snowmobile tracks 

The first stretch was narrow for a
snowmobile trail

Small trees in the hardwood forest

Trail through the hardwood forest

I reached a junction at .8 miles for a more heavily trafficked trail, State Snowmobile Route C7B. (Snowmobile maps use these letter/number names for the trails) The snow was a little chewed up from heavy weekend use. This trail was wider than the connector, more like a dirt road. This trail eventually parallels Route 30 for a short distance. Dense trees hide the road for the most part and I only heard a couple large trucks over the sound of my skis gliding through the snow. The stretch that runs adjacent to the road was actually pretty with large, stately white pines lining the trail. After a mile C7B, I crossed Route 30 onto trail S86.

On the main snowmobile trail (C7B)

A pretty corridor through large pines

The S86 trail was much less chewed up and skied quite nicely through a predominately hardwoods forest. I soon reached a junction with a trail register.  The main S86 route continued to right. I turned left on a trail that appeared to have only one snowmobile track and a set of snowshoe tracks. This trail heads to the north end of Lake Eaton and the campground.

On the lesser traveled snowmobile trail (S86)

The trail leading to the campground had a pretty thin base of snow. I was surprised to see several sections of open water spanning the trail. All of the sections of open water were easy to bypass or step over. I soon reached the northern end of Lake Eaton.

I was surprised to find open water on the trail
after a cold week

The trail doesn't lead directly to the shore of Lake Eaton, though it's visible a short distance through the trees. I traveled a 100 feet or so to the edge of the lake to get a better look. There's a good view over the lake of the nearby mountains. Owl's Head dominates the view.

Looking east over Lake Eaton

Owl’s Head over Lake Eaton

After checking out the lake, I rejoined the trail and quickly reached the campground. The last 1/4 mile or so travels through the campground. After passing the first stretch of campsites, I reached the beach and boat ramp area of the campground. There is an excellent view of Owl's Head from the beach. From the beach, I finished up my loop skiing on the snow covered driveway into the campground.

Zoomed in view of Owl’s Head from
beach at the campground

The Big Brook Loop runs just over 4 miles. Even though it utilizes snowmobile trails for its entirety, I didn't cross paths with a single snowmobile on a Monday afternoon. The only other people I saw were a couple of ice fisherman on Lake Eaton. Since the trail was packed down by snowmobile traffic, the 4 miles went by quickly. I didn't even take an hour to ski the loop. 

I thought the Big Brook Loop was a nice little trip. I definitely wouldn't recommend skiing it on the weekend when a lot of snowmobiles are in the area, but midweek, it was a pleasant ski through the forest. Although snowmobiles can make the trails a little rough, I think the loop would be a safe bet for a novice skier.


While Long Lake isn’t usually brought up in conversations about Adirondack cross country skiing, there are certainly some good options. While these two trips are quite different from each other, I had fun on both loops. My two outings covered a total of 9-10 miles of enjoyable skiing. While I have skied more impressive trails in other parts of the Adirondacks, I certainly won’t complain about having these two outings to myself on a nice January day. 

Fresh tracks in a mixed forest

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