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Backcountry Information for the Western Adirondacks

Updated: July 2, 2020

Map of showing the Western Region of the Adirondacks

Welcome to the Adirondacks

The Welcome to the Adirondacks webpage is the place to go if you are interested in learning more about the Adirondacks. It provides information about the Forest Preserve and conservation easement lands, outdoor recreation opportunities, and Leave No Trace. Be sure to check out the links to additional information and tips for recreating safely and minimizing your impacts on natural resources, recreational infrastructure, and other backcountry users in the Adirondacks.

Recreate Local - Safely and Responsibly

DEC encourages responsible recreation during the COVID-19 public health crisis. Following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New York State Department of Health for reducing the spread of infectious diseases, DEC and State Parks encourages New Yorkers to recreate locally, practice physical distancing, and use common sense to protect themselves and others. Use DECinfo Locator to find DEC-managed lands near you and use #RecreateLocal to share your outdoor experiences in open spaces and parks close to home.

What's Local? New York is focused on getting people back to work and easing social isolation without triggering the further spread of COVID-19. Responsible, respectful, local recreation is a crucial part of continuing to help New Yorkers stay active, spend time with immediate household and family members, and reduce stress and anxiety. Consistent with the NYForward phased reopening plan, DEC and State Parks are encouraging New Yorkers to recreate locally in their region (PDF) (leaves DEC's website). Each of the state's 10 REDC regions have a wide variety of recreational opportunities available within them for the public to explore and enjoy. New Yorkers getting outdoors should use common sense in planning outdoor activities because public facilities like restrooms or other amenities may not be available.

Social Distancing Guidelines

Follow DEC's guidelines for social distancing (PDF) while recreating outdoors:

  • Stay Local: Stay close to home. Keep visits short. Avoid high-traffic destinations.
  • Be Safe: Avoid crowds and groups. Recreate only with members of your immediate household. Keep a distance of 6 feet or more from others. Alert others as you're about to pass or step aside to let people pass. Wear a mask when you cannot maintain social distancing.
  • Be Ready: Move quickly through parking lots, trailheads, and scenic areas. If crowded, choose a different park, trail, or time to visit.
  • Stay Home: If you're not feeling well, stay home. Anyone 70 and older or with a compromised immune system should postpone their visit.

Pack A Mask

New Yorkers are required to wear masks in public when appropriate social distancing cannot be maintained, including on trails and in the backcountry. No matter how or where you plan to recreate, pack a mask and wear it in parking lots, on crowded summits, and anywhere else you meet people along the trail or in the outdoors.

Trailhead Registers

Trailhead registers provide vital information, so please continue to sign in and out. During the COVID-19 public health crisis, special precautions should be taken while using trailhead registers to minimize spread of the virus through commonly touched surfaces, such as pencils and the registers themselves. Follow guidelines to prevent the spread of coronavirus when using trailhead registers.

Limit Parking

Please avoid visiting crowded areas. For visitor safety and the safety of others, do not park on roadsides and only park in designated parking areas. If parking lots are full, please choose a different area to visit, or return another time or day when parking is available.

Hike within the Limits of Your Physical Abilities and Experience

Adirondack lands and forests are monitored by Forest Rangers and Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) and other staff. These officers and staff respond to, and assist, local agencies with search and rescue missions, wildfire suppression, and more. Following this guidance (PDF) will prevent unnecessary burdens on, and dangers to, state resources and frontline emergency first responders during the ongoing COVID-19 response.

General Notice

WARNING: Backcountry conditions can change suddenly. All users should plan accordingly, including bringing flashlight, first aid equipment, extra food and clothing. Weather conditions may alter your plans; you should always be prepared to spend an unplanned night in the woods before entering the back country. Back country hiking trails can be rugged and rough-they are not maintained as park walkways-wear proper footwear!

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Practice Leave No Trace: Please abide by the Seven Principles of Leave No Trace (leaves DEC's website) when recreating in the Adirondacks.

Weather forecasts and conditions can and do change quickly.

  • Check the National Weather Service (NWS) Forecast (leaves DEC website) for updated notices and current conditions and forecasts. Be prepared for the forecasted conditions or to change your plans.
  • NY Mesonow (leaves DEC website) has two dozen stations in and just outside of Adirondacks that provide real time weather data and forecasts.

Travel: Check 511NY (leaves DEC website) for road closures and conditions.

Adirondack Backcountry Information: Be sure to check Adirondack Backcountry Information main webpage for important general notices and information which applies across the Adirondacks.

Report back country emergencies, such as lost or injured hikers, and wildland fires to the DEC Ray Brook Dispatch at 518-891-0235.

Specific Notices

Aldrich Pond Wild Forest

  • The Aldrich Pond Wild Forest webpage provides information about the unit and its recreational opportunities, and a map of the unit.
  • Powell Road leading to South Creek Lake often experiences flooded conditions due to beaver activity. Users should exercise caution and be aware of changing road conditions throughout the seasons. (2020)

Bog River Complex (Lows Lake, Horseshoe Lake Wild Forest, and Big Tupper & Piercefield Conservation Easement Tracts)

  • The Bog River Complex webpage provides information about the unit and its recreational opportunities, and a map of the unit.
  • The Otter Brook Road has two areas near Horseshoe Lake have soft road shoulders marked with pink flagging. Vehicles should stay towards the center of the road and drive slowly until repairs are made. (5/15)
  • A major dam rehabilitation project is being planned for the Lows Lower Dam (aka Bog River Dam) - the paddlers access site for Hitchens Pond and Lows Lake. The project is not expected to be active this year. Updates on the work schedule will be posted here when they become available. Possible impacts to public access include: (2020)
    • Temporary road and access closures;
    • Traffic controls including flag persons, construction fence, etc.
    • Shared road/parking areas with construction vehicles;
    • Different parking, drop-off, and launching schemes;
    • Increased informational signage.

Cranberry Lake Wild Forest (Massawepie and Conifer Emporium Conservation Easement Tracts)

  • The Cranberry Lake Wild Forest webpage provides information about the unit and its recreational opportunities, and a map of the unit.
  • The Massawepie Conservation Easement Tract is closed to public access from June 15 through August 31 pursuant to the easement agreement with the Boy Scout of America whether scouts are present at the camp or not. (6/26)

Five Ponds Wilderness

  • The Five Ponds Wilderness webpage provides information about the unit and its recreational opportunities, and a map of the unit.
  • Frequent flooding from beaver activity occurs along the High Falls Trail between Wanakena and the Sand Lake Trail. The trail is an important part of both the High Falls Loop (approximately 14 miles), and the larger Cranberry Lake 50 mile trail. (2016)

Pepperbox Wilderness

  • The Pepperbox Wilderness webpage provides information about the unit and its recreational opportunities, and a map of the unit.
  • Nothing to report.

Watson's East Triangle Wild Forest (Croghan & Oswegatchie Conservation Easement Tracts)

William C. Whitney Wilderness & Round Lake Wilderness

  • The William C. Whitney Wilderness & Round Lake Wilderness webpage provides information about the unit, and its recreational opportunities and a map of the unit.
  • A beaver dam has caused flooding of the Lilypad Pond Trail about 1.5 miles from trailhead, just past campsite #5. (2017)
  • Beaver activity has caused the flooding of the Stony Pond Road approximately one mile from the trailhead. Please use caution if you choose to cross this area. (2010)