On the Trails - Winter

Winter is a quiet time at Ganondagan. Even though the bark longhouse is closed for the season, the site's trails are still open for public use from dawn until dusk each day.

Winter hiking, as well as snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, are a great ways to stay active over the winter season. The equipment needed is simple and once purchased, winter hiking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing become The trails are open all year long low cost alternatives to expensive gym memberships with monthly payments. Besides saving money, you will experience first-hand the quiet beauty and serenity of the winter season.

While on the trails this winter be sure to try one or more of these favorite trail pastimes: Finding animal tracks, spotting animals, winter botany, photography, and bird watching.

Outdoor winter activities do require that one takes the needed precautions and recommendations of winter safety. Please see the resources at the bottom of this page for more information on winter safety.


Any of the trails may be hiked in the winter but caution should always be exercised since icy conditions and snow can make for difficult footing at any point along the trails. Since many people 'hibernate' indoors during the winter season, chances are good that you will have the trail to yourself on any given day.

Check below for information on finding animal tracks, spotting animals, winter botany and photography.

Caution: walking in snow can be strenuous especially if you are not accustomed to much physical activity. It is best to start off slow if you are new to winter hiking.

If you are not a fan of insects, arachnids, amphibians, or reptiles, this is your season. You will see none of them during your hike. Only furred and feathered fauna are active during winter and without the trees leafy coverings, you get a chance to see them quite well.

Snowshoeing & Cross-Country Skiing

Ga-Weh-Ga-A, or snowshoes, have been used by the Native peoples of North America for millennia. When Ganondagan was inhabited by the Seneca people, snowshoes would have been a common sight in the winter season and they can be again.

All trails are appropriate for snowshoeing though some trail areas may prove to be more difficult for snowshoes. Always exercise caution and safety. Stay to flat trail areas like the Trail of Peace, the hilltop near the bark longhouse, if you are a novice snowshoer. Refer to the hiking section above for fun things you may wish to do while snowshoeing.

Cross-country ski Tracks on FortHillSome of the trail areas may be suitable for cross-country skiing. It is advisable to hike the trail and become familiar with what areas might be suitable for cross-coutry skiing before attempting to ski a trail. The Trail of Peace, the hilltop near the bark longhouse, is one such area would where cross-country skiing would be possible.

Sights of the Season - Animal Tracks

Winter is a wonderful time to find animal tracks. While one may find tracks in other seasons, winter snow offers a wonderful surface for creating impressions. The tracks are clear and easy to see - even for the youngest members of your group. It is great fun for all ages to find and identify animal tracks.

Raptor or Crow landing in the snow To assist you in identifying the tracks you find, you may wish to pick up one or more field guides. There are some suggested field guide included in the resources section below.

Because winter does not have the leafy cover of trees, shrubs, and other vegetation, various animal friends are much easier to spot during their daily foraging for food. Some of those foragings may put the animals farther Deer Tracks a-field from their normal areas to find enough food. This combined with the quiet nature of the site in winter, will them in closer proximity to the trails and other easily visible areas. Look for glimpses of birds, deer, fox, and other animals that neither hibernate or migrate from Western NY winters. Field guides are a terrific way to identify our furred or feathered winter friends. See the resources section below for a selection of those guides. Opossum Tracks

In looking for animal sightings, be sure to look up. Birds will certainly be watching your progress along the trails. As the end of winter approaches, birds will begin their return migrations and so sightings of warm weather birds will herald the approaching spring. The bird song you hear in late winter takes on a different tone as well - exuberance for the coming spring! Check the resources section below for some bird and bird song identification guides.

Winter Botany - Trees & Other Flora

And while some may not think it to be possible, winter is also a wonderful time to view the flora as well as the fauna.

The central structures, the trunks and limbs, of mighty trees to the smallest small shrubs are visible. The bark and twigs, whose views are often obscured by leaves as well, are now easy to see. Those twigs all bear buds that are growing larger and are pregnant with the promise new spring leaves. With a field guide that shows winter identification of trees and shrubs through Last year's goldenrod with distinctive gall looking at their buds and leaf scars, one can identify the trees on a hike even without their very identifiable leaves. See the resources section below for a selection of those guides.

Last growing season's seed pods and the dried brown reminders of green plants are also identifiable. Common ones like mullein and queen anne's lace are very recognizable. But with a "winter weed" guide you can easily find these and other reminders of last year's greenery. Be sure to come back in the summer and see those plants in their green finery! Check the resources section for some field guide suggestions.