Groomed trail
Yes
Elevation Gain
366.00 ft (111.56 m)
Distance
4.00 mi (6.44 km)
Warming hut
No
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Harriet Hollister Spencer Park is a 1,550-acre recreation area that is part of the New York state park system. Perched at around 2,100 feet, this park has a bit of a magical quality. Somehow, when gray and wet snow or rain dampen spirits and threaten snow cover throughout the region, Harriet Hollister comes through with the goods. That is, you can usually count on enough snowpack for cross-country skiing!

The cross-country trail system is groomed. Parts of it are open to snowmobiles, but not all. However, take heed: this is not an excursion for beginners. The trails wrap around, up, and down a hill. The primary access road (turned cross-country trail in the winter called Overlook Road) begins with a long cruising downhill. You can get some speed, which is always fun. You will also catch a stunning panorama overlooking Canadice Lake. There are a couple of trails to your right early on that you can take, which lead to the core network of trails. However, if you do this, you'll miss the view.

For an enjoyable, 4-mile loop, follow the Overlook Road. After the lake view, look for Whiteface Trail on your right. You may not see the sign, just turn right on the first trail after passing the lake panorama. Unless you love steep downhill on Nordic skis, tackle Whiteface going up. This trail will warm you up after the chilly downhill cruise. Veer to your left when you get to the top. The trail wraps around a dense stand of eastern pines. Follow Whiteface until you get to Blue Spruce Run. This is a large-ish blue loop with forgiving paths, but it is still interesting and fun. A little down, a little up, a little curvy, but nothing overly difficult. You can veer off and take Racoon Run, which will put you down near the main facilities with lean-tos and a pavilion.

If you're up for an extra challenge, follow the Sidewinder Loop. It has tight turns and is an up-down, lengthy affair. Or, for a black that's a little tamer but still challenging, stay on Racoon Run until you see the signs for Fox Run. Fox Run will take you downhill, across a short traverse, and then uphill, where it joins back up with Racoon Run. Take a right, and you'll soon be back on the Overlook Road. 

On your way out, take a right on Bear Cub Run. Stay on this mild green, and it will put you within 100 feet of the parking lot and restrooms. Or, if you're looking for some more mileage, veer right off Bear Cub Run onto Big Oak. This trail is shared with snowmobilers but is pleasant and will loop you back to the parking lot.

Some notes:

  • Because it is one of the more reliable snowy areas, Harriet Hollister attracts lots of Nordic ski clubs. High school teams like to practice here, and you may find weekends filled with sanctioned competitions.
  • This is not the best-marked trail network. Trail signs are on wood, posted about 8 to 10 feet up on the trees, and are easy to miss. That said, the network isn't too complicated, and if you take a wrong turn you'll eventually find yourself back where you started.
  • The road to the park is dirt, but the parking lot is paved. 
  • Listen for birds. Chickadees and woodpeckers are common, even in the winter.

Find a downloadable trail map at CNYHiking.com.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Winter

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

None

Pros

Easy Access. Well-groomed trails. Pretty views. Interesting topography.

Cons

Not for beginners. Some foot traffic on ski tracks.

Pets allowed

Allowed with Restrictions

Trailhead Elevation

1,942.00 ft (591.92 m)

Highest point

2,076.00 ft (632.76 m)

Net Elevation Gain

134.00 ft (40.84 m)

Features

Geologically significant
Vault toilet
Near lake or river

Trail type

Loop

Typically multi-day

No

Snowmobiles allowed

Yes

Location

Field Guide

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