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High Peaks Wilderness

High Peaks Wilderness Locator Map

Note: The High Peaks receive extremely heavy use during weekends in the months of July and August and on holiday weekends, such as Victoria Day (Canada), Memorial Day, 4th of July/Canada Day, Labor Day and Columbus Day weekends, often resulting in all trailhead parking lots, lean-to's and designated campsites being fully occupied by early Friday evening. Please plan accordingly.

The High Peaks Wilderness Complex (HPWC) lies within the counties of Essex, Franklin and Hamilton in the Adirondacks. Including the recently classified Forest Preserve parcels the unit is made up of approximately 275,460 acres.

In the 2018 land classification package, approximately 9,118 acres of the southern portion of the Boreas Ponds Tract were classified as Wild Forest and added to the Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest while the remaining 11,411 acres of the northern lands, along with the Casey Brook Tract's 1,490 acres, were added to the High Peaks Wilderness Area. The Wilderness and Wild Forest boundary is generally 500 feet north of Gulf Brook and Boreas Roads. A 75-foot wide corridor that follows the northern spur of Boreas Road to within 0.1 mile of the Boreas Ponds Dam was classified as Wild Forest. Located in the towns of North Hudson, Newcomb and Elizbethtown in Essex County, this newly classified portion of the HPWC is bounded largely on the south by the Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest and Elk Lake Conservation Easement, to the east by the Adirondack Mountain Reserve Conservation Easement and the former Dix Mountain Wilderness Area (now part of the High Peaks Wilderness Complex) and to the north by the existing High Peaks Wilderness.

The MacIntyre East tract was also classified in a manner similar to the Boreas Ponds Tract, with approximately 1,604 acres of the southern part of the parcel classified as Wild Forest and added to the Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest, while the remaining 4,418 acres to the north was classified as Wilderness and added to the High Peaks Wilderness Complex. The entire Wilderness section is bounded on the east by the existing High Peaks Wilderness Area, to the south by Upper Hudson Woodlands Conservation Easement. To the west it is bounded by private lands and to the north the High Peaks Wilderness.

The MacIntyre West Tract is bounded on the east by the Tahawus Conservation Easement, and to the north, west and south by High Peaks Wilderenss lands. Both the MacIntryre East and West tracts have a primitive corridor to preserve deeded
private access.

Portions or all of eight other acquisitions and one reclassification were also added to the High Peaks Wilderness Area in the 2018 land classification package. Only minimal recreational facilities are proposed for these tracts at this time.

The High Peaks Complex Draft UMP Amendment proposes management actions for recreational opportunities on the recently classified lands in the southern and eastern portion of the High Peaks. Additionally, this Draft UMP Amendment proposes changes to the recreational infrastructure along State Route 73 to address safety and overuse issues currently experienced in these areas. The proposed management actions include:

Recently Classified Lands
  • Establishing hiking and skiing opportunities within the newer tracts, as well as providing connections to portions of the existing High Peaks Wilderness lands;
  • Establishing rules and outreach efforts to effectively educate and inform the public about the High Peaks Wilderness and the new lands added, including the former Dix Mountain Wilderness Area lands, so that both the natural resources and wilderness experience of users can be protected;
  • Providing access for persons with disabilities to hand-carry launches and designated primitive campsites at several locations;
  • Enhancing paddling opportunities, including providing a hand-carry launch at Henderson Lake and Chapel Pond; and
  • Designating primitive camping opportunities throughout the tract, including roadside, backcountry, and water access.
Overuse and Safety
  • Constructing new parking lots and expanding current parking lots off State Route 73;
  • Permanently moving the Cascade Mountain Trailhead to the Olympic Sports Complex;
  • Constructing a new trail connecting the trailhead in the Olympic Sports Complex to the Cascade Mountain Trail; and
  • Constructing a new trailhead parking lot for Ampersand Mountain off State Route 3.

Do not attempt any trips in the High Peaks without current USGS topographic maps and/or a good guidebook for the area. Maps and guidebooks may be purchased at bookstores or suppliers of outdoor recreational equipment. Additional resources include:

  • Guide to Adirondack Trails series from the Adirondack Mountain Club (814 Goggins Road, Lake George, NY 12845) and
  • The Discover the Adirondacks series from Back Country Publications (Box 175, Woodstock, VT 05091).
  • US Geological Survey Map Dealers

Also, you may wish to contact the Adirondack Park Visitor Interpretive Centers located at Paul Smiths: (518) 327-3000 and Newcomb: (518) 582-2000 for more information and suggestions.