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Trail Information for the High Peaks

Image depicting the location of High Peaks region within the Adirondack Park

Updated: December 11, 2014

General Notices

WARNING: Wilderness 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!

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

Mountain Forecast: Weather is an important factor in preparing for hiking or camping in the Adirondack backcountry. Often there is considerable difference in weather conditions at the trailhead and those experienced in the higher elevations. The National Weather Service in Burlington has a product that provides a weather forecast for elevations above 3,000 feet and spot forecasts for the summits of a handful of the highest peaks in Clinton, Essex and Franklin County. Use the link near the bottom of the right column to access the forecast.

Be Prepared in Autumn

  • Know
    • Your own physical capabilities, knowledge of backcountry recreation and skill level
    • The distance you plan to travel and the terrain and conditions you will encounter
  • Check (before entering the backcountry)
    • With the local Forest Ranger for current information
    • Current weather conditions and short-term forecast
  • Wear
    • Waterproof hiking boots and gaiters
    • Layers of wool, fleece or other non-cotton clothing
    • Hat and gloves or mittens
    • Sunglasses (if sunny)
  • Carry
    • Map and compass - know how to use them and use them!
    • Flashlight or headlamp & extra batteries
    • Traction devices to prevent slips and falls on snow and ice
    • Pocket knife or other multi-tool device
    • Plenty of food and water
  • Pack
    • Extra clothes and socks
    • Waterproof jacket and pants
    • Sunscreen
    • Bivy sack or space blankets in case you need to spend the night in woods
    • Fire starter supplies - waterproof matches, butane lighter, candles, starter material, etc.
  • Always inform someone of your itinerary and when you expect to return

Northville-Placid Trail Website: The Adirondack Mountain Club has created of a new web site devoted to the 133-mile Northville-Placid Trail. The new website provides information about planning a hike on the trail - whether a through-hike, section-hike or weekend-hike. It also provides information on the latest trail conditions. Use the link near the bottom of the right column. (2010)

Organized Events on State Lands: DEC regulation (190.8(cc)) prohibits any person from sponsoring, conducting or participating in any organized event of more than twenty people unless authorized by DEC under a temporary revocable permit (TRP). DEC seeks to ensure that large groups recreate on forest preserve lands 1) at locations, 2) during certain periods and 3) following practices that minimize their impacts on trails, vegetation, wildlife and other users.

Motorized Equipment in Wilderness, Primitive and Canoe Areas: DEC has adopted a regulation (Section 196.8)prohibiting the use of motorized equipment in lands classified as wilderness, primitive or canoe. Public use of small personal electronic or mechanical devices such as cameras, radios or GPS receivers are not affected this new regulation. See in the DEC Regulations.

Camping Group Sizes in Wilderness, Primitive and Canoe Areas: DEC regulation (Section 190.4) requires that groups of ten or more persons camping on state land obtain a permit from a forest ranger. DEC policy prohibits issuing group camping permits to groups wanting to camp on forest preserve lands in the Adirondacks that are classified as wilderness, primitive or canoe area. This policy was developed to protect natural resources, the primeval character of the area and exceptional wilderness experiences for all recreationists, and follows Leave No Trace practices. Except for the eastern High Peaks Wilderness, Pharaoh Lake Wilderness and the William C. Whitney Wilderness, where the group size is 8, camping groups in wilderness, primitive and canoe area lands are limited to 9 people or less.

Camping Permits: Camping for more than three nights or in a group of ten or more in Wild Forest lands requires a permit from a Forest Ranger. The following information must be provided to the forest ranger to obtain a camping permit: Name, Address, City, State, Zip Code, Vehicle License Plate Number, Telephone Number, Date of Birth, Number in Group, Camping Dates, and Location of Campsite.

Backcountry Campsites: Camping at designated campsites in the backcountry is done on a first come, first served basis. There is no reservation system for these primitive campsites. Campsites in popular areas fill up quickly on weekends so plan accordingly.

Road & Traffic Information: Use the link in the right column to visit NYS Department of Transportation 511 New York for information on transportation services, traffic, and road conditions throughout New York State.

Trails Supporter Patch: The Trails Supporter Patch is now available for $5 at all outlets where sporting licenses are sold, on-line and via telephone at 1-866-933-2257. Patch proceeds will help maintain and enhance non-motorized trails throughout New York State.

Seasonal Notices

Weather: Always be aware of and prepared for weather conditions. See the information under the "Be Prepared" heading above to ensure you are prepared. Being properly prepared for weather and other conditions will help to ensure a safe and enjoyable time in the outdoors. Weather forecasts can and do change, use the National Weather Service "NWS Weather Forecast" link near the bottom of the right column to check the current weather forecast before entering the backcountry. (12/11)

Winter Conditions: Winter conditions are present throughout the area. Snow, ice and cold temperatures are present at all elevations. Carry extra layers of non-cotton clothing. Put on and take off layers as needed to keep comfortable. Plan trips to be out of the backcountry before dark. Always carry a flashlight or headlamp with fresh batteries just in case. (12/11)

Snow: This week's nor'easter brought nearly 2 feet of new snow, more in the higher elevations. Lake Colden Caretaker reports 24 inches of snow at the stake. Winds are creating deeper drifts. Use the National Weather Service "NWS Snow Cover Map" link near the bottom of the right column to check the snow depths in the area. Thje map is updated daily. (12/11)

Backcountry Snow Information: Winter is finally here with our first significant snowfall of the 2014/2015 season. The High Peaks received 20-28" of new snow, with higher amounts the further east you go. This storm initially dropped a denser snow in the beginning, due to the warmer temps associated with it. As the storm progressed, temps dropped and the snow became less dense and easier to transport. Wind speeds also picked up, with speeds gusting up to 30 mph out of the east, so expect higher amounts on those leeward sides. The snow fell at rates of 1 - 2 inches falling per hour, so significant loading has occurred in a relatively short amount of time. Expect soft slab formation in non-wind affected areas and wind slab in leeward slopes and gullies, due to the lighter density snow and winds occurring at the tail end of this storm.

If you are going to travel in avalanche terrain, make sure your transceiver has new batteries, bring probe and shovel. Practice rescue techniques, have a plan before you venture out. Dig snow pits, make your own decisions based on what you find. Don't rely on other people's word, practice safe travel techniques. Know the red flags!! And if it doesn't feel right, DON'T GO. It will be there another day. (12/11)

Snowshoes & Skis: Snowshoes or skis are required on all trails in the High Peaks Wilderness and should be worn on all trails in the Adirondacks. The use of snowshoes or skis avoids "post-holing"; eases travel and prevents injuries. (12/11)

Trail Conditions: Many trails, especially secondary trails, may contain unbroken, fresh snow. Traveling through fresh snow (known as breaking trail) takes more time and energy - plan accordingly. Use caution around stream crossings as snow may cover thin ice or open water. (12/11)

Blowdown: Northern Warren County received 6 to 12 inches of heavy wet snow. A considerable number of trees and limbs broke under the weight of the snow. Trails have a considerable amount of downed trees and limbs in them. (12/11)

Summits: Temperatures will be colder, winds will be stronger and snow will be deeper - especially where drifts form. Sight distance will be limited, sometimes significantly, when clouds cover the summits or in heavy falling and/or blowing snow. Use the link near the bottom of the right column to view the National Weather Service "NWS Mountain Forecasts" for selected summits in this area. (12/11)

Ice on Water: Ice has only recently formed on lower elevation and larger waters. Always check ice thickness before traveling across it. Avoid ice over running water, near inlets & outlet and near boathouses & docks - especially those with "bubblers" or other ice prevention devices. Ice that holds snow will not hold the weight of a snowmobile at this time and may not hold the weight of a person. (12/11)

Seasonal Access Roads: Most gates on seasonal access roads are closed. The roads will reopen after the spring mud season. Motor vehicles should not be driving on seasonal access roads that serve as snowmobile trails in the winter. (12/11)

Snowmobile Trails: Many gates and designated snowmobile trails will be open by the weekend. Snowmobilers should check on local trail conditions before heading out. Skiers and snowshoers using designated snowmobile trails should keep to the side to allow safe passage of snowmobiles. Snowmobiles should slow down when passing skiers and snowshoers. (12/11)

Avoid Hypothermia: Stay dry and warm. Drink plenty of water, eat food and rest often. (12/11)

Hunting Seasons: Hunting seasons for big game, small game and waterfowl are open. Hikers should be aware that they may meet hunters bearing firearms or archery equipment while hiking on trails. Please recognize that these are fellow outdoor recreationists with the legal right to participate in these activities on the Forest Preserve. There is no record of a hunting related shooting incident in New York State involving a hiker. (12/11)Adirondack Mountain Reserve (AMR) (aka Ausable Club): The public easement agreement for the Adirondack Mountain Reserve (Ausable Club) only allows for hiking on designated trails and roads. Do not trespass on AMR the lands and waters or participate in any unauthorized activities. (2014)

Dogs on Leash: Dog owners are reminded that dogs must be leashed in the Eastern Zone of the High Peaks when on trails, at primitive tent sites, at lean-to sites, everywhere above 4,000 feet, or at other areas where the public congregates. It is recommended dogs be kept leashed in most areas for the safety of your dog, the protection of wildlife and as a courtesy to fellow hikers. (2014)

Specific Notices

High Peaks Wilderness

  • This week's nor'easter brought nearly 2 feet of new snow, more in the higher elevations. Lake Colden Caretaker reports 24 inches of snow at the stake. Winds are creating deeper drifts. Be sure to check the Backcountry Snow Information posting above in the Seasonal Notices section.(12/11)
  • Snowshoes or skis are required on all trails in the High Peaks Wilderness and should be worn on all trails in the Adirondacks. The use of snowshoes or skis avoids "post-holing; eases travel and prevents injuries. (12/11)
  • People have been traveling across the ice on Lake Colden and Avalanche Lake. Use caution around the inlets, outlets and along the shoreline which are slushy at this time. (12/11)
  • The two trails that pass through the Elk Lake property to Panther Gorge in the High Peaks Wilderness and the southern approaches to Dix Mountain in the Dix Mountain Wilderness are open for public use. The Clear Pond Gate on the Elk Lake Road is closed and will remain closed until the end of the spring mud season. This will add 4 miles to roundtrip, plan accordingly. (12/11)
  • The Town of North Elba has closed and barricaded Meadow Lane off the Adirondak Loj Road. The road will remain closed through the spring mud season. (11/20)
  • The use of bear-resistant canisters is required for all overnight users (campers) in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness and strongly recommended elsewhere. (2014)
  • The use of wood burning stoves is prohibited in the Eastern High Peaks. The ban on campfires applies to any type of use of wood as fuel to protect the trees and other vegetation from being damaged. (2014)
  • The public easement agreement for the Adirondack Mountain Reserve (Ausable Club) only allows for hiking on designated trails and roads. (2014)
  • The designated campsite on Big Slide Mountain Brook in Johns Brook Valley near the intersection with the Phelps Trail has been permanently closed due to site degradation. Other designated campsites are located across from the Howard Lean-to and just past Johns Brook Lodge. Signs on the hiking trail direct hikers to these sites. (2014)
  • The first foot bridge on the Bradley Pond Trail has been dropped and is unusable. The stream can be forded /rock hopped most of time on the down stream side of the bridge site. (2013)
  • Many of the herd paths found on Mount Marshall and some of the other trail-less peaks meander around the slopes of the mountain without reaching the peak. Those climbing these peaks should navigate with a map and compass rather than follow the paths created by others. (2013)
  • The Northville-Placid Trail contains a large area of blowdown near the Seward Lean-to. A detour around the blowdown has been marked with pink flagging. (2013)
  • The Southside Trail from the Garden Trailhead to John's Brook Outpost is closed and DEC is not maintaining it at this time. (2012)
  • The Cold Brook Trail between Lake Colden and Indian Pass is closed and DEC is not maintaining it at this time. (2012)
  • Fixed ropes, harnesses and other equipment are often abandoned in the Trap Dike. Due to the age, weatherizing and wearing of these materials they are unsafe and should never be used. (2012)
  • The low water route through the Deer Brook Flume on the Deer Brook Trail to Snow Mountain remains impassable due to severe erosion. (2011)
  • The bridge on the road to the Garden Trailhead is restricted to 6000 pounds. (2011)
  • The Calkins Creek Horse Trail has two bridges out, making it impassable for horse drawn wagons and difficult for horses. (2011)

Dix Mountain Wilderness

  • This week's nor'easter brought nearly 2 feet of new snow, more in the higher elevations. Lake Colden Caretaker reports 24 inches of snow at the stake. Winds are creating deeper drifts. Be sure to check the Backcountry Snow Information posting above in the Seasonal Notices section. (12/11)
  • Snowshoes or skis should be worn on all trails. The use of snowshoes or skis avoids "post-holing; eases travel and prevents injuries. (12/11)
  • The two trails that pass through the Elk Lake property to Panther Gorge in the High Peaks Wilderness and the southern approaches to Dix Mountain in the Dix Mountain Wilderness are open for public use. The Clear Pond Gate on the Elk Lake Road is closed and will remain closed until the end of the spring mud season. This will add 4 miles to roundtrip, plan accordingly. (12/11)
  • The Slide Brook Lean-to on the Dix Trail from Elk Lake has been relocated. It was taken apart and rebuilt by the Adirondack 46ers. (2014)
  • The public easement agreement for the Adirondack Mountain Reserve (Ausable Club) only allows for hiking, snowshoeing or skiing on the designated trails and roads. Traversing the Lower or Upper Ausable Lakes is prohibited. (2014)

Giant Mountain Wilderness

  • This week's nor'easter brought nearly 2 feet of new snow, more in the higher elevations. Lake Colden Caretaker reports 24 inches of snow at the stake. Winds are creating deeper drifts. Be sure to check the Backcountry Snow Information posting above in the Seasonal Notices section. (12/11)
  • Snowshoes or skis should be worn on all trails. The use of snowshoes or skis avoids "post-holing; eases travel and prevents injuries. (12/11)
  • Beaver activity has flooded the North Trail to Giant Mountain just past the lean-to. (2011)

Hurricane Mountain Wilderness

  • This week's nor'easter brought nearly 2 feet of new snow, more in the higher elevations. Lake Colden Caretaker reports 24 inches of snow at the stake. Winds are creating deeper drifts. Be sure to check the Backcountry Snow Information posting above in the Seasonal Notices section. (12/11)
  • Snowshoes or skis should be worn on all trails. The use of snowshoes or skis avoids "post-holing; eases travel and prevents injuries. (12/11)
  • The Hurricane Mountain Trail from the Route 9N trailhead has been rerouted to bypass areas flooded by beavers. The trail now extends 3.4 miles from the trailhead to the summit. The reroute and new footbridges were completed by the Student Conservation Association Adirondack Program. (10/24)
  • A bridge on the Carlott Road, one of the roads to access the Jay Mountain Road from the southeast, is closed. (2012)

McKenzie Mountain Wilderness

  • This week's nor'easter brought nearly 2 feet of new snow, more in the higher elevations. Lake Colden Caretaker reports 24 inches of snow at the stake. Winds are creating deeper drifts. Be sure to check the Backcountry Snow Information posting above in the Seasonal Notices section. (12/11)
  • Snowshoes or skis should be worn on all trails. The use of snowshoes or skis avoids "post-holing; eases travel and prevents injuries. (12/11)
  • The Connery Pond Road and its gate have been closed until the end of the spring mud season. Skiers and snowshoers may still use the road to access trails to Connery Pond and Whiteface Landing on Lake Placid. (12/11)
  • Hikers accessing Whiteface Landing should park at the newly developed and paved parking area along Route 86 immediately west of the bridge over the West Branch of the Ausable. A trail connects the parking area and Connery Pond Road. (2013)

Sentinel Range Wilderness

  • This week's nor'easter brought nearly 2 feet of new snow, more in the higher elevations. Lake Colden Caretaker reports 24 inches of snow at the stake. Winds are creating deeper drifts. Be sure to check the Backcountry Snow Information posting above in the Seasonal Notices section. (12/11)
  • Snowshoes or skis should be worn on all trails. The use of snowshoes or skis avoids "post-holing; eases travel and prevents injuries. (12/11)

Wilmington Wild Forest

  • This week's nor'easter brought nearly 2 feet of new snow, more in the higher elevations. Lake Colden Caretaker reports 24 inches of snow at the stake. Winds are creating deeper drifts. Be sure to check the Backcountry Snow Information posting above in the Seasonal Notices section. (12/11)
  • Snowshoes or skis should be worn on all trails. The use of snowshoes or skis avoids "post-holing; eases travel and prevents injuries. (12/11)
    View from Cobble Lookout
  • The new 1.3-mile Cobble Lookout Trail has a mild ascents and descents as it follows the contour across the southwestern face of the Stephenson Range to a large rocky ledge. The vista from here offers great views of nearby Whiteface Mountain and much longer views across the Ausable River drainage to the Jay Mountains, Hurricane Mountain, and many other peaks. The trail was constructed under the guidance of DEC by the Student Conservation Association Adirondack Program with assistance from inmates at the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision Moriah Shock Camp. The trailhead is located on Gillespie Road a short distance past the the intersection with the Whiteface Memorial Highway (Latitude: 44° 24.195' N; Longitude: 73° 52.652' W (NAD83/WGS84)). Parking is roadside, though a parking area is planned to be built in the future. (11/20)
  • The map of the Beaver Brook Trail system has been updated to include a new 3.0 mile trail on the east side of Hardy Road. See the Beaver Brook Trail System web page for more information and a link to the map. (2013)
  • A new trail segment has been completed connecting the hamlet of Wilmington's business district with a trail that leads to the remote and scenic Cooper Kiln Pond. The new three-mile trail segment will allow snowmobilers to travel from Wilmington, connect with the previously existing Cooper Kiln Pond Trail and travel another three miles to the pond. It creates a 12.6-mile round trip hiking opportunity. See the press release for more information. (2012)
  • The outlet of Cooper Kill Pond is flooded by beaver activity. (2009)

More about Trail Information for the High Peaks: