Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner

Backcountry Information for the High Peaks Region

Map of showing the High Peaks Region of the Adirondacks

Updated: February 15, 2018

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!

Sign up for DEC Delivers

Enter email address:

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 15 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. (link 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 15 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.

Adirondack Mountain Reserve (AMR) (aka Ausable Club)

  • The Adirondack Mountain Reserve (link leaves DEC's website) web page provides information about the unit and its recreational opportunities.
  • The public easement agreement only allows for hiking on designated trails and roads. Do not trespass on AMR lands and waters or participate in any unauthorized activities. (2018)
  • Dogs are prohibited on the AMR. (2018)

Boreas Ponds Tract

High Peaks Wilderness

  • Lake Colden Caretaker reports 34 inches (90 cm) of snow at the stake on the shores of Lake Colden (Elevation 2,750 ft./838 m) with up to 5 to 6 feet snow (120 to 180 cm) in the higher elevations. (2/15)
    • Snowshoes or skis are required wherever snow depths exceed 8 inches, essentially all trails.
    • There is good snow coverage on all trails, but trails are icy on the surface due to recent and forecasted warm weather and rain.
    • Lake Colden and Avalanche Lake are crossable but ice around the inlets and outlets of both lakes should be avoided.
  • Cascade Lakes Day Use Area, located off State Route 73 between Lower and Upper Cascade Lakes, is closed until further notice due to the icy condition of the unmaintained entry road. (02/01)
  • Lake Colden Caretaker Report (02/01)
    • 22 inches (55 cm) of snow at the stake on the shores of Lake Colden (Elevation 2,750 ft./838 m) and up to 3 to 4 feet (91 to 122 cm) in the higher elevations.
    • Trails are icy.
      • Microspikes are suitable between trailhead and Marcy Dam (Elevation 2360 ft./720 m)
      • Crampons required on high elevation, steep slopes.
    • Snowshoes should be carried on all hikes above 2,300 feet (700 m) and used wherever snow depths exceed 8 inches.
    • Lake Colden and Avalanche Lake are crossable but ice around the inlets and outlets of both lakes should be avoided.
    • Water levels in high elevation brooks remain higher than usual.
  • The trail through the Elk Lake Easement lands connecting to the High Peaks Wilderness is open for public use once again. However, the Clear Pond Gate on the Elk Lake Road will remain closed through the spring mud season. This will add four miles to a roundtrip hike, plan accordingly. (2018)
  • The gate on Corey's Road will remain open until March 1, however the road and parking areas may not be plowed. If you don't' have a four-wheel drive vehicle and there is snow on the road, consider parking along the plowed section of road and walking. DO NOT BLOCK TRAFFIC. Have a shovel in your vehicle in case you need to dig out after a snowstorm. (2018)
  • South Meadow Lane is closed to public motor vehicle traffic until the end of the spring mud season. Vehicles can park at the barriers just off the Adirondac Loj Road. Do not block the opening as it used for emergency access. (2018)
  • A large tree has fallen on the Mr. Van Lean-to on the Mr. Van Ski Trail causing severe damage and rendering the lean-to unsafe and unusable. DEC is working with partners to evaluate the extent of the damage and the requirements and timing of repairs. (2018)
  • Several sections of the Phelps Trail in the Upper Johns Brook Valley contain extensive amount of blowdown (fallen trees, limbs, and branches). Please use caution when hiking in and around this area. (2018)
  • The trail across private lands to the summit of Owls Head is closed to public access on weekends, but remains open to the public use during the week. (2018)
  • Cold Brook Trail is not a designated DEC trail and is not maintained. The trail has not been a designated trail since Tropical Storm Irene. (2018)Blowdown has been cleared from the Blueberry Horse Trail between the Calkins Creek Horse Trail and Ward Brook Horse Trail in the Western High Peaks and the trail has been "brushed out" (trailside vegetation has been trimmed). The work was completed over the past two years with considerable effort from the DEC Ray Brook Trail Crew and the Student Conservation Association High Peaks Backcountry Stewards. The trail is once again passable to horses and riders, however, riders should take care near drainages and several stream crossings that will be muddy. DEC plans to improve the trail tread of this route in the future. (2017)
  • A new section of Bradley Pond Trail to Sanatanoni Mountain has been constructed near the beginning of the trail to avoid the two crossing which had unusable bridges. The new trail section leaves the old trail just as the trail leaves the gravel road and crosses Santanoni Brook on a newly constructed bridge, and then joins the old trail a short distance later. The project was a combined effort of NOLS Alumni Service, Student Conservation Association (SCA) Adirondack Program, SCA High Peaks Backcountry Stewards, DEC High Peaks Trail Crew, Adirondack 46ers Volunteer Trail Crew, NYS Department of Corrections and Community Supervision Moriah Shock Camp crews and DEC Lands & Forests staff. (2017)
  • The high water bridge over Calamity Brook has been repaired. Although it leans slightly it is usable for crossing. The lean will be corrected at a later date. The repairs were completed by SCA High Peaks Backcountry Stewards, a DEC Forest Ranger and the DEC High Peaks Wilderness land manager. (2017)
  • The high water bridge over Slide Mountain Brook on Phelps Trail between the Garden Trailhead Parking Area and Johns Brook Lodge has been replaced by the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) Professional Trail Crew under contract with DEC and ADK Volunteers. (2017)
  • The bridge over Ouluska Brook on the Northville-Placid Trail has collapsed into the brook. Due to low water conditions, crossing the brook is still possible. (2016)
  • 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. (2016)
  • 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)
  • 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 Calkins Creek Horse Trail has two bridges out, making it impassable for horse drawn wagons and difficult for horses. (2011)

Dix Mountain Wilderness

  • The Dix Mountain Wilderness web page provides information about the unit and its recreational opportunities.
  • The trail through the Elk Lake Easement lands connecting to the Dix Mountain Wilderness is open for public use once again. However, the Clear Pond Gate on the Elk Lake Road will remain closed through the spring mud season. This will add four miles to a roundtrip hike, plan accordingly. (2018)
  • The Boquet Lean-to on the Dix Mountain Round Pond Trail has been moved away from river and repaired by volunteers from the Adirondack 46ers (leaves DEC website). (2017)

Giant Mountain Wilderness

  • The Giant Mountain Wilderness web page provides information about the unit and its recreational opportunities.
  • A trail re-route has been constructed around the flooded area on the North Trail to Giant Mountain just past the lean-to. (2017)

Hurricane Mountain Wilderness

Jay Mountain Wilderness

  • The Jay Mountain Wilderness web page provides information about the unit and its recreational opportunities.
  • Nothing to report.

McKenzie Mountain Wilderness

  • The McKenzie Mountain Wilderness web page provides information about the unit and its recreational opportunities.
  • The first bridge on the Jackrabbit Trail between McKenzie Pond Road and McKenzie Pond is once again passable but caution should be used when crossing it. (1/25)
  • A small section of the Whiteface Mountain Trail just above the junction with the Whiteface Highway (Wilmington Turn) has been rerouted to avoid the hazard created by variable ice conditions and the "rock cut" of the highway. (1/18)
  • The portion of the Jack Rabbit Ski Trail through this Wilderness is popular with cross-country skiers. (1/12)
    • The use of segments of the trail which cross private property is by permission of the landowner. Please respect private property by staying on the marked trail and obeying posted signs.
    • Anyone using the trail should wear skis or snowshoes.
    • Snowshoers should avoid walking in ski tracks.

Northville-Placid Trail

  • The Northville-Placid Trail Chapter (leaves DEC website) of the Adirondack Mountain Club provides the latest trail conditions and information for planning a hike on the trail - whether a through-hike, section-hike or weekend-hike.
  • The bridge over Ouluska Brook has collapsed into the brook. Due to low water conditions, crossing the brook is still possible. (2017)

Sentinel Range Wilderness

  • The Sentinel Range Wilderness web page provides information about the unit and its recreational opportunities.
  • Beaver activity has flooded some parts of the Jack Rabbit Trail. (2017)

More about Backcountry Information for the High Peaks Region: