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Backcountry Information for the Northern Adirondacks

Updated: February 15, 2018

Map of showing the Northern Region of the Adirondacks

General Notices

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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Be sure to check Adirondack Backcountry Information for important general notices and information which apply across the Adirondacks.

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 current National Weather Service Forecast (leaves DEC website) and 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, forecasts, and snow depths.

Holiday Weekend: Due to the three day Presidents' Day holiday weekend expect to encounter more vehicles at trailheads and more people and snowmobiles on the trails.

Winter Conditions: Below freezing temperatures, snow, and ice are present throughout the Adirondacks.

  • Snow depths range from 12 to 20 inches
  • See the NERFC Snow Page (leaves DEC website) for current snow information.
  • Learn how to have a safe and enjoyable outdoor winter experience. (leaves DEC's website)
  • Be prepared for cold weather and avoid hypothermia, wear:
    • Water proof upper and lower outer shell
    • Waterproof footwear
    • Layers of synthetic or wool winter clothing (not cotton!)
    • Hat and gloves or mittens

Trail Conditions: Trails are covered in 12 to 20 inches of snow. Trails may have ice on the surface of the snow due to recent and forecasted warm weather and rain. Thick ice is present on bedrock summits, steep rocky slopes, and other exposed areas.

  • Snow shoes or skis are should be worn on all trails.
  • Trail crampons and other traction devices should be carried during outings on low elevation and less steep trails and used when warranted.
  • Carry mountaineering or climbing crampons during outings on steep slopes in the high elevations and use when warranted.

Mountain Summits: Conditions will be more extreme than those found at the trailhead.

  • Temperatures will be colder
  • Winds will be stronger
  • Wind chill temperatures will be much lower
  • Snow will be deeper
  • Ice will be thicker

Check the National Weather Service Mountain Point Forecasts (leave DEC website) for selected summits.

Ice on Water Surfaces: Ice has formed and thickened on most waterbodies. Ice on rivers and streams is less thick. Be safe on ice.

  • Always check the thickness of ice before traveling across it.
  • Avoid ice:
    • Over running water
    • Near inlets & outlet
    • Near boathouses & docks - especially those with "bubblers" or other ice prevention devices.

Short Days: Carry a headlamp or flashlight on all hikes.

  • Be sure to have fresh batteries and carry extras.
  • Do not depend on your cell phone as a flashlight; the batteries will drain quickly and you will be unable to call for help.

Snowmobile Trails: Snowmobile trails systems throughout the Adirondacks are open. Check local conditions before going out. Be safe when snowmobiling. (leaves DEC's website)

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

Specific Notices

Adirondack Canoe Route/Northern Forest Canoe Trail

  • The Adirondack Canoe Route is part of the 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail (NFCT) (leaves DEC website) which links the waterways of New York, Vermont, Québec, New Hampshire and Maine.

Debar Mountain Wild Forest

  • The Debar Mountain Wild Forest web page provides information about the unit and its recreational opportunities.
  • Vanderwalker Road gate for access to East Branch St. Regis Canoe Launch is closed and the road is closed to public motor vehicle use until the after the spring mud season. (2018)
  • Vegetation along Vanderwalker Road, between State Route 458 and the East Branch St. Regis River, has been "brushed back" (trimmed), the road is now passable without scratching vehicles. (2017)
  • A crew from the Student Conservation Association Adirondack Program painted the Azure Mountain Fire Tower. (2017)
  • The foot bridge on the access trail to Debar Pond has been removed. Debar Pond may now be accessed near the lodge building using the road beyond the gate at the parking area. A new gate will be installed that will allow easier passage of people with boats in the very near future. Trespassing in the lodge or any other building is prohibited. (2017)

Kushaqua Tract Easement

  • The Kushaqua Tract Conservation Easement Lands web page provides information about the unit and its recreational opportunities.
  • The gate on the North Branch Road near the entrance is closed and all of the roads are closed to public motor vehicle access until the end of the spring mud season. (2018)

Paul Smith College Easement

Santa Clara Tract Easement (includes Madawaska Pond/Quebec Brook Primitive Area & Deer River Primitive Area)

  • The Santa Clara Tract Conservation Easement Lands web page provides information about the unit and its recreational opportunities.
  • The Pinnacle Road gate is closed and the road is closed to public motor vehicle access until the end of the spring mud season. (2018)
  • Vegetation along Pinnacle Road has been "brushed back" (trimmed), the road is now passable without scratching vehicles. (2017)
  • A crew from the Student Conservation Association Adirondack Program painted the Azure Mountain Fire Tower. (2017)

Saranac Lakes Wild Forest

  • Whiteface Landing Trail has been rerouted to avoid private camps on Connery Pond. The new trail route starts at the small parking area just before the private gate. Please respect the private property and stay on the trail. (2016)

St. Regis Canoe Area

  • The St. Regis Canoe Area web page provides information including a map about the unit, its recreational opportunities and how to access the lands and waters.
  • The Little Green Pond seasonal access road is open for public motor vehicle use. The road provides access to the campsites on Little Green Pond and the hand launch on Little Clear Pond. (2017)
  • Fishing is prohibited on Little Green Pond, Little Clear Pond and their tributaries to protect valuable hatchery brood stock and endangered round whitefish. (2017)
  • DEC, Student Conservation Association Adirondack Program members and volunteers from the Friends of St. Regis Mountain Fire Tower have completed the restoration and rehabilitation of the St. Regis Mountain Fire Tower. (2016)
  • A section of the canoe carry about half way between Long Pond and Nellie Pond has been flooded by beavers. This will required a short paddle across the beaver pond. (2011)

More about Backcountry Information for the Northern Adirondacks: