I still remember the time I cross country skiied with my parents in Newport at the golf course; even though we didn’t go a lot, I remember it being fun and great exercise. I remember stopping, finding it funny that I could be sweating outdoors in the cold, and marveling at the snow covered trees and picturesque scene before me.
Years later I wanted to recapture that moment of exercise and beauty, so I borrowed my parents snow shoes and sent out behind the house into the woods. My snow shoe kept falling off, probably because they were too big, but it was so fun. I stopped on hill, gazed around me at the tree boughs laden with fluffy white snow, and considered taking off my jacket since I was hot. My heart raced and I smiled. This was enjoying nature all year round. This was enjoying the beauty the Upper Valley has to offer. This was peace.
Here are places to have your own experience exploring our winter wonderland. Locations that are near each other geographically are also near each other on the list.
If you would like a list of cross country trails to get started, check out this link from the wonderful organization, UVTrails. The link is search results for cross country skiing, but you can refine the search by location, activity, and difficulty level as well.
Claremont – Moody Park. I like this park to hike and walk, regardless of the time of year. It makes for beautiful experience cross country skiing and snow shoeing.
Newport – Newport Town Forest trails. I’ve written about these trails when I walked them in the summer, which you can read here. It also includes directions. You can read about the forest from a mountain biker’s perspective here to learn about the terrain and an additional entrance to the forest. From my experience walking the trails, I would say this is moderate difficulty as there is a mix of inclines and flat areas.
Sunapee – Webb Forest at Harding Hill Farm. There are a network of trails open to the public on Harding Hill Farm and are part of a larger area of protected land of Webb Forest, which spans multiple towns. You can find the trails map here, but there is no indication as to the level of difficulty, so any information from readers would be appreciated.
Directions: Webb Forest is located off Harding Hill Rd in Sunapee, NH. Harding Hill Rd is off rt 103 between rt 11 and rt 103b about a mile west of the circle for Mt Sunapee Ski area and State Park.
Warren- Warren Town Forest. This is 3.7 miles of easy to moderate skiing and snow shoeing terrain. There’s a map of the trails here. You can snow shoe or ski on any of the trails. This looks like a fun place to explore any time of the year.
New London – Springledge Trail. Park at the Old Kearsage Middle School. There’s about 2 miles of trails that are groomed by snowmobile. There’s a map here.
Cornish– Cornish Town Forest. This forest is for year round recreation. (I hear it’s a great mountain biking destination.) You can also ski and snow shoe on it. Root Hill Road is unmaintained and can be used for horses and motorized vehicles. There’s a forest description here. Trails range from .3 mile to 2.75 miles. A recent map is included here and tells you its location and where to park.
Plainfield – French’s Ledges and Farnum Trails. I love to walk these trails in the summer. These are a great place to cross country ski because these particular trails are pretty flat and relatively short (about 1.5 miles). However, there are some trails that are steep and should only be used by advanced skiers, which you can read in more detail about here. Snow shoers are asked to walk parallel to the tracks. These are groomed trails and are maintained by the Plainfield Trailblazers. You can learn more about directions, the history, and trails here.
Ascutney – Sports of the Ascutney Trails Basin. This is an organization that works with landowners, Windsor Town Forest, and what was the Ascutney Mountain Ski Resort, to create a public network of trails for people to use yearround. There are forty eight total trails of varying difficulty.
Springfield – Springfield Natural Spaces/Parks. The Toonerville Trail is a three mile paved trail you can cross country ski or snow shoe on and is seen from the main road in Springfield. The Springweather Nature Area overlooks a lake and offers trails to snow shoe, snowmobile, or cross country ski. You can learn more here.
Hartland – Hartland Winter Trails I think this might be the place I start with when I get back into cross country skiing. The trails in Hartland are groomed, which is a special treat. You can have up to date news on the trail conditions and grooming on their website and now their Facebook page. How lucky are we? Regardless of your skill level and experience, you can find multiple trails for you to explore. Here’s a map. The easiest trails are by the Three Corners by the fire station.
Directions to get there: “at the intersection of routes 12 and 5 in Hartland Three Corners, drive approximately 1 mile west on Route 12. After leaving the village area, you will pass Bischoff Lane on the right. Continue about 0.2 miles and look for the parking lot on the right – across the road from the Town highway garage and fire station. Note the “P” marker on the following map.” (Quoted from HartlandWinterTrails.org)
Windsor – Paradise Park. I posted about this park on a summer walk, and it includes directions on how to get there too. It was beautiful and peaceful then; I can’t imagine how much more it would be covered in snow. And the lake? Oh my! Here’s a map of the trail system.
Hanover – Hanover Conservancy Trails. The Hanover Conservancy has a wonderful network of trails. They can be used to snow shoe or cross country ski in the winter. I’ve walked two this summer, Balch Hill and Mink Brook, and had fun so I can’t wait to try them in the winter too! I bet the view from Balch Hill is just as gorgeous in the winter (and probably best for snow shoeing as it’s a short but steep incline)!
Norwich – Norwich nature area trails. You can snow shoe or cross country ski on easy to moderate trails in the center or Norwich. It’s a network of about 1.5 miles of trails. Directions and trail descriptions can be found here.
Thetford – Thetford Academy Trail. This trail is known for cross country skiing (and running in the summer), though you can snow shoe on it too. It hosts the New England Cross Country Skiing Race each year. Here’s a trail map and background information on the park. For directions to the trail check out the UVTrails description.
Fairlee – Cross Rivendell Trail. This is a 36 mile trail that has many trailhead entrances, which you can see here. It is managed by the Rivendell Trail Association, which hosts events to support the maintance of the trail. They have their own Facebook page as well so you can see pictures, news, and events.
Hartford – The Erwin Clifford Loop. This trail offers a nice loop for cross country skiing. I posted about the Hurricane Forest Wildlife Refuge here so you can get an idea of what it’s like, even if it’s summer.
For a Fee
What’s great about Nordic Centers is that the trails are groomed and maintained, well marked, and staffed to provide you assistance or rentals. If you’re new to snow shoeing or cross country skiing, a nordic center might be a good place to start enjoying the sport and getting acclimated before going out on your own.
Hanover – Dartmouth Cross Country trails. $20 pass with rentals, $8-14 for day pass. Hours vary based on location. You can find more information about rentals, conditions, and events here. There’s a trail map here.
Woodstock – Marsh Billings Rockefeller National Historic Park. You can ski and snow shoe on these groomed trails of easy to moderate difficulty maintained by the Woodstock Inn and Nordic Center. There’s about ten miles of trails to explore and costs $20 for a day pass.
Fairlee – Lake Morey. It costs $30 to rent cross country skis but I don’t know if you have to pay to ski on the lake. It’s unclear. Anyone know? Looks like a fun though and caters to novice skiiers. You can ice skate too!
Ludlow – Okemo’s Nordic Center. $20 per person for a day pass and $40 with equipment rental. Okemo has 5 trails devoted just to snow shoers, only 1 is considered easy and 2 intermediate. There are 13 trails for cross country skiiers and the trails cater to new skiiers and experts, with most of the trails falling into either of these categories and only four are intermediate. You can find a trail map here. To learn more and see trail conditions, check out their website here.
Grantham – Eastman Rec Center. $12 for the day and $10 at 12:30. Renting skis costs $18 and snow shoe rentals are under $10 for four hours or less. You can learn more here. Eastman has eleven trails and a pretty even mixture of easy, intermediate, and expert. Some of the easy trails are really short, .3 mile, so this is a good spot to learn and try skiing or snow shoeing. You can also take lessons and participate in the special events held at Eastman. Learn more here.
Strafford – Strafford Nordic Center. $20 a day and open seven days. The Strafford Nordic Center even has a ski lodge! Need lessons? No problem! Keep in mind though, the trails cater to more experienced skiiers; only three of their nineteen trails are easy. Keep up to date on their Facebook page.
New London –Pine Hill Ski Club Trails. $15 and open seven days a week. Ski rentals are available at the local ski shop and daily ski lessons are $35 an hour. The trails are groomed and a mix of easy and intermediate. You can find a map here. To learn more visit their website.
Sunapee – Dexter Inn Trails by Norsk. $12 a day, open 7 days a week. These trails are meant to give you a quiet, old-time feel, with the trails meandering through forests and fields. There are trails of varying difficulty and are groomed. You can learn more about the trails, experience, and services available here.
Hartford – Quechee gorge trail via Nordic Ski School by Quechee Inn. (You may have to pay for this since it’s through the ski school).
If you’re really into cross country skiing, you can get a Quechee Season Pass and it allows you to ski free at thirty nordic ski areas in Vermont! Learn more here.
Beyond the Upper Valley
There are lot of cross country skiing locations in Vermont, both nordic centers like this list or nature areas that offer their land to be used to ski in the winter, which you can look into here. There are lot of nordic centers in southern Vermont, by Brattleboro. I was the most inspired and motivated by the Grafton Inn with its video montage of all the fun winter activties you can do and under ten dollars to use the trails. Sounds like a place to visit some time, maybe a day trip. The Viking Nordic Center in Londonderry caters to the needs of skiiers: trails that lead to vistas, a picnic bench along the way, and short trails out of the wind too. I especially liked how they catered to families, even offering a snowflake scavenger hunt along the trail and the potential of a cookie as a reward. They even have night skiing, which I’ve never heard of for cross country skiing. Another day trip or getaway perhaps? Hm…
In New Hampshire there’s a lot of cross country skiing to choose from as well. There’s the Keene Area that has Granite Gorge, where you can ski all day for under ten dollars (for snow shoeing that same price includes rentals!). Then there’s the White Mountains of course, the place to go in New England to ski, but that’s my biased opinion. They have ten nordic resorts in the area to try, which you can see here.