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Backcountry Information for the High Peaks Region

Map of showing the High Peaks Region of the Adirondacks

Updated: April 12, 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!

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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.

Late Winter/Early Spring Conditions: Snow and ice remain present throughout most of the Adirondacks.

  • Expect to encounter 1-4 inches of recently fallen, wet snow in the lower elevations.
  • 6-8 inches of snow fell this week in the higher elevations.
  • Woods, north facing slopes, and other shaded areas will have deeper snow
  • 2 to 4 feet of snow between 2,500 and 3,000 feet
  • 4 to 5 feet of snow above 3,000 feet
  • Snow remains deep in the highest elevations with fresh accumulations during the past week.
  • NERFC Snow Page provides current snow information.

Cool and Cold Temperatures:

  • In the lower elevations, daytime temperatures are forecast in the 40s and 50s this weekend
  • Night time and morning temperatures will be below freezing.
  • Temperatures will remain below freezing throughout the day in the higher elevations (above 3,000 feet)
  • Below zero wind chills are forecast for the highest summits.

Be Prepared for Conditions: Stay dry and warm to avoid hypothermia, bring/wear:

  • Water proof upper and lower outer shell
  • Waterproof footwear
  • Layers of synthetic or wool clothing (not cotton!)
  • Hat and gloves or mittens

Learn how to have a safe and enjoyable outdoor winter experience. (link leaves DEC's website)

Low Elevation Trail Conditions:

  • Compacted snow has turned to ice on many lower elevation trails, creating "monorails" on the trails as surrounding snow melts.
  • Low elevation trails will be covered in mud, snow, and ice in various combinations.
  • Wear proper foot wear and carry trail crampons (microspikes) on all hikes.
  • Walk on monorails and through mud and water to avoid post-holing in trailside snow, trampling vegetation, and eroding trails.

High Elevation Trail Conditions:

  • Compacted snow has turned to ice which may be thick in some locations.
  • Deep snow is still present above 3,000 feet.
  • Carry crampons and snowshoes and use when warranted.
  • Climbing or mountaineering crampons may be required in some places.

Water Levels and Temperatures: Melting snow will raise water levels.

  • Rivers and streams will be flowing high and fast.
  • Stream crossings may be dangerous or impossible.
  • Water temperatures are very low.
  • People immersed in cold waters can lose the ability to think clearly and move quickly after only a short time in the water.
  • Anglers fishing from shore or wading should wear a personal flotation device.
  • Boaters and paddlers are required to wear personal flotation devices until May 1.

Blowdown: The Adirondacks have experienced heavy winds recently resulting in a significant amount of blowdown (fallen trees, limbs, and branches). Plan for all hikes to take longer than usual and be prepared to turn back if blowdown is heavy.

Ice on Waterbodies: While most flowing waters are open, most ponds and lakes are still covered in ice - except around inlets and outlets. No ice should be considered safe at this time.

Seasonal Access Roads: All gates on seasonal access roads are closed for mud season. Seasonal access roads will remain closed until they have dried and hardened, and all needed repairs and maintenance are completed.

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

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

  • There was 43 inches (110 cm) of snow at the Lake Colden Caretaker Cabin (Elevation 2,750 ft/838 m) with up to 3 to 5 feet snow (120 to 150 cm) in the highest elevations. (4/17)
  • Beware of ice falling from the cliffs above Avalanche Pass. (3/29)
  • Corey's Road in the Western High Peaks is closed beyond the Calkins Brook/Raquette River Trailhead Parking. Please don't block the gate or park in the plow turn around area. It will remain closed through mud season. The road will reopen when it has dried and hardened, and all routine maintenance and repairs have been completed. (3/1)
  • 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. (2/1)
  • 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)
  • 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)
  • 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)

Giant Mountain Wilderness

  • The Giant Mountain Wilderness web page provides information about the unit and its recreational opportunities.
  • Beginning April 1, all rock climbing routes on Upper and Lower Washbowl Cliffs in the Chapel Pond area are closed to allow peregrine falcons to mate and select nesting sites. Once nest sites are identified DEC will reopen routes that will not interfere with nesting activities. (3/29)
  • 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.
  • Trails are covered with deep snow. Snowshoes or skis should be used on all trails. (3/15)
    • Snowshoers and skiers should stay on designated trails to avoid avalanche prone terrain.
    • More energy and time is required when traveling through deep snow
    • Secondary trails may contain deep, untrammeled snow. "Breaking trail" takes even more time and energy.
    • Use caution when hiking above tree line as trail markers (stone cairns) are covered by snow and blowing snow will shorten sight distance and cover tracks.
  • Beaver activity has flooded some parts of the Jack Rabbit Trail. (2017)

More about Backcountry Information for the High Peaks Region: