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Elevation Gain
170.00 ft (51.82 m)
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
2.50 mi (4.02 km)
Warming hut
No
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Averaging 180 inches of snow per year and known for recording a record-breaking -52 degrees in 1979, the Adirondack Mountain’s Pigeon Lake Wilderness may seem like an odd place for a winter destination. However, every year, as relentless lake effect storms dump more and more snow on the region, the landscape makes an enchanting transformation that motivates snowshoers, skiers and snowmobilers to bundle up and get outside. For snowshoers, one popular hike is a relatively flat 2.5-mile there-and-back trek that highlights Windfall Pond.

Just 15 miles northwest of Old Forge, the Windfall Pond Trailhead is located in the foothills of the Adirondacks and, thanks to its adjacency to a well-plowed parking lot, is easily accessible in the winter. The Windfall-Queer Lake Trail, which the hike follows for its entirety, winds between two varying ecosystems: One is dominated by red spruce trees that form a cave-like canopy that provides protection from heavy snowfall, and another is made up of a mixture of beech, yellow birch and black cherry trees, the annual abscission of which results in sparse cover and slow travel through deep snow. Although Adirondack forests are characterized by their vibrant colors and sounds throughout summer and autumn, between December and March the woodlands are covered in an impeccable sea of piercing white snow and eerie tranquility. The only blemishes in this silent, colorless world are a few blotches of brown tree bark and the hollow echoing of a distant ice-covered stream.

After 1.25 miles of hiking you will reach Windfall Pond, from which point you can either turn back or continue another 2.25 miles to the larger Queer Lake. However, note that hiking in 3 feet of snow, snowshoes or not, is a time-consuming endeavor; although 2.5 miles may seem like a breeze in the summer, you may be surprised how slowly you move in winter conditions. During winter in the Adirondacks, both the sun and the temperature drop fast, and you don’t want to be stuck in the woods overnight.

Along with being a great winter destination, the Pigeon Lake Wilderness can be equally as enjoyable in the summer, and it hosts a well marked network of trails and a surplus of backcountry campsites near the water.  

 

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Winter

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

None

Pros

Well marked. Solitude. Flat.

Cons

Snow isn't packed.

Pets allowed

Allowed

Trailhead Elevation

1,866.00 ft (568.76 m)

Highest point

1,866.00 ft (568.76 m)

Features

Near lake or river
Backcountry camping
Wildlife
Family friendly

Typically multi-day

No

Groomed trail

No

Snowmobiles allowed

No

Location

Field Guide

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