Nearly 40 miles of trail are maintained throughout Nancy Lake State Recreation Area including 10 miles of trail only for skiers. With the exception of the ski trail, all trails are multi-use trails, which means that they must be shared by visitors snow machining, dog mushing, skiing and snowshoeing.
The Winter Trailhead, mile 2.2 on the Nancy Lake Parkway, is the focal point for all winter recreational activities in the area. A large parking lot is maintained and a self service fee station is located near the winter trail entrance where visitors will also finds maps and posted current conditions of the park.
The unplowed portion of the Parkway, 4.5 miles from the Winter Trailhead to South Rolly Campground, is heavily traveled by all users. In early winter, dog teams use the road for training; motorized users should exercise caution when meeting or overtaking dog teams.
The Red Shirt Lake Trail is a 15 mile loop from the Winter Trailhead to the second largest lake in the area. The west side of the loop goes from South Rolly Campground to the outlet creek from the lake and parallels the creek to the north end of Red Shirt Lake. The eastern portion of the loop leaves the Parkway at Mile 5.7 and travels through frozen bogs and along ridges to where Lynx Creek enters Red Shirt. There is a crossover trail from the east side of the Red Shirt Trail to the Lynx Lake Loop about two miles south of the Parkway.
The Lynx Lake Loop Trail is a 13 mile trail which generally follows the portages from the Canoe Trailhead at Mile 4.7 on the Parkway.
The Bald Lake Trail is a winter only shortcut from mile 2.5 on the Nancy Lake Parkway to Ardaw Lake. It provides access to the east side of the Lynx Lake Loop without having to travel to the Canoe Trailhead.
The recreation area's gently rolling terrain, forested hills and open swamps make ideal cross country skiing conditions. There are nearly 10 miles of trail maintained strictly for skiing, plus over 30 miles of other multi-use trails in the recreation area. The ski trail, which begins across the Parkway from the Winter Trailhead, is located in the non-motorized area north of the Nancy Lake Parkway. This 9.7 mile trail consists of three interconnected loops.
Parkway Loop Trail is a 3.0 mile (4.7 km) trail through hilly, forested terrain. This trail begins and ends at the Winter Trailhead.
Jano Pond Loop is a 3.6 mile (5.6 km) trail that leaves the Parkway Loop Trail about 1.8 miles out. If skied together, the total distance is 6.6 miles (10.7 km). The terrain on this trail is gentle hills and frozen, open swamps.
Rhein Lake Loop is a 3.1 mile (5.0 km) loop which starts midway around the Jano Pond Loop. The trail travels across several open swamps and over some steep hills. If all three trails are skied, the total distance is 9.7 miles (15.6 km).
Ice fishing is another recreational activity offered at Nancy Lake. Most lakes in the area have limited fisheries but Nancy Lake, Lynx Lake, and Red Shirt Lake offer fair to good fishing for rainbow trout. Red Shirt Lake and Lynx Lake have good fishing for pike. Pike have also populated several lakes on the Lynx Lake Loop Trail from Tanaina Lake to Little Frazer Lake and may offer fair ice fishing. Additionally, Big and Little Noluck lakes are stocked with rainbow trout by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. These two lakes usually offer good ice fishing for trout up to 14 inches.
Winter temperatures at Nancy Lake can fall to 40 below and colder. Come prepared for your visit. Dress in layers so you can take off or add clothing as you warm up or cool down. Bring a map, extra clothing, matches or lighter, a first aid kit, and try to travel with a partner. Snowmachiners should carry tools, extra spark plugs and a spare drive belt. Skiers should bring an extra ski tip and strong tape for emergency repairs.
Plan your visit according to your ability, equipment, the prevailing temperatures and weather conditions. Don't overextend your skills or equipment. Before leaving on a long trip into the backcountry, leave a trip plan with a responsible person or at the Nancy Lake ranger's
A common hazard of winter travel in the recreation area is overflow, the presence of water on top of the frozen surfaces of lakes, ponds and streams. This condition is usually concealed beneath a layer of undisturbed snow which acts as an insulator to keep the water from freezing even when temperatures are well below freezing.
The biggest risk from overflow is not from breaking through the ice but in having a snowmachine become bogged down in cold water and slush. A snowmachiner can become exhausted and have his/her clothing soaked with perspiration trying to free the machine. In deep overflow of 12" or more his/her boots can be flooded with ice water. In very cold weather, a person in this condition is a potential victim of hypothermia and frostbite.
Skiers and dog mushers can also get wet feet in overflow. Iced-up skis or sled runners can slow the team down and make them work much harder. This can lead to exhaustion and/or hypothermia. A person is more likely to avoid overflow by staying on packed trails across lakes and wetlands. Stay near the shoreline because the lake ice will sag towards the middle, causing overflow to generally be the deepest there. Avoid the mouths of streams along the shore to reduce the risk of overflow and thin ice.
If you should encounter overflow while snowmachining, try to maintain momentum and slowly steer towards shore. If the machine does bog down it is usually easier to get out the way you came in. If you are traveling with companions, the machine can usually be freed without any overexertion. Travel with enough space between snowmachines so that only one will get caught in the overflow. If you are alone, don't struggle to the point of exhaustion. Pack a "snow island" and put the machine up on it so it won't freeze into the slush. Then get to shelter (or make one) and wait for the open track in the overflow to freeze. This may take only a couple of hours or overnight depending on the temperature.