Distance: 2 miles (one way)
Type: Out and back
Hiking to Phelps Lake in the winter provides a couple of extra challenges (and rewards) than in the summer. For starters, with the entire landscape covered in snow, the only way to get there is by cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. (Note: Do not be one of those people that try to do the trail without either. Even if you do make it there, you’ll tear up the existing trails in the process.) In addition, with a portion of the Moose-Wilson Road closed between the Granite Canyon Trailhead and the turnoff for the Death Canyon Trailhead, there’s a little bit of extra ground to cover. While the distance is nearly equal from either end, for this particular write-up, I originated at the northern end of the Moose-Wilson Road’s closure. Parking is available at the closure itself, or just before it in a small parking area.
Phelps Lake Snowshoe Hike Description
From the closure, continue heading south on Moose-Wilson Road. The dense forest will surround the road, allowing for potential wildlife sightings of owls, pine martens, porcupines, and more. The trail winds through the woods, ultimately reaching the turnoff for the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve (LSR). From here you can enjoy a beautiful clearing in the woods, stretching out to the LSR and beyond. Continue straight where you’ll begin to ascend up part of the glacial moraine holding Phelps Lake.
The twists and turns snake through the forest, gaining a small amount of elevation along the way, though it might feel like more due to the snow. As you descend down a short distance and wrap around another bend, you’ll see a street sign indicating a trail crossing. At the sign, look for the trail to head right off of the Moose-Wilson Road, and onto the Woodland Trail.
From this junction, the trail continues a mostly gradual ascent through the woods, roughly traveling over the Woodland Trail. Passing through a dense and serene forest, you’ll likely experience some pretty wonderful solitude along the way.
As the trail makes its final push over part of the moraine, you’ll at last drop down to Phelps Lake. From here, you can either explore the shore a little more, or simply enjoy that viewpoint. If you’re interested in adding another 1.5 miles or so, you can continue along the Phelps Lake Loop westward to loop back farther down on the Moose-Wilson Road. Otherwise, feel free to explore your surroundings and head out the same way you came!
From the Moose Junction, turn left onto the Moose-Wilson Road, just past the Visitor Center. Follow the road until it dead-ends 3 miles later.