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Backcountry Information for the High Peaks Region

Map of showing the High Peaks Region of the Adirondacks

Updated: February 21, 2019

General Notices

Check out hikes outside the Adirondack High Peaks for a hiking experience similar to a High Peaks hike, including great scenic views, but with fewer people.

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 and forecasts.

Travel: Check NY511 for road closures and conditions (link leaves DEC website).

Route 73 Corridor: DEC is undertaking a multi-year, comprehensive effort to promote sustainable tourism, and address public safety in the Adirondacks focused on the State Route 73 Corridor between Exit 30 of the Northway (I87) and Lake Placid.

Changes to Parking on State Route 73: Parking is prohibited on the shoulders of both lanes of State Route 73 in the vicinity of Roaring Brook Falls Trailhead and the Ausable Club Road (south) starting Friday, Sept. 21, 2018. The parking prohibition supports DEC's multi-year, comprehensive effort to promote sustainable tourism and address public safety in the Adirondacks.

Snow Depths:

  • Snow depths ranging from 15 to 20 inches (38 to 51 cm) in the lower elevations.
  • There is 55 inches (140 cm) of snow at the stake on the shore of Lake Colden(2,750 feet (838 m) elevation).
  • Snow is deeper in the higher elevations; snow is 4-5 feet deep (120 to 150 cm) above 3,000 feet (915 m).
  • The National Weather Service NERFC Snow Page (leaves DEC website) provides maps depicting current snow depths, forecasts, and other snow information.

Be Prepared for Winter Conditions:

  • The sun sets early - ALWAYS carry a flashlight or headlamp.
  • Avoid hypothermia:
    • Dress properly, stay dry, and add or remove layers to regulate your body temperature.
      • Dress in layers of non-cotton, wicking fabric, and pack extra clothing
      • Wear hat and gloves.
    • Carry plenty of food and water.
    • Eat, drink and rest often.
    • Being tired, hungry, or dehydrated makes you more susceptible to hypothermia.
  • Watch a video about winter hiking safety tips. (leaves DEC website)

Ice on Waterbodies: Ice has formed on most waters.

  • Always check the thickness of ice 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.
  • Remember, ice that holds snow may not hold the weight of a person.
  • Observe ice safety, especially when ice fishing.

Hikers/Skiers/Snowshoers

General Information on Hiking

General Information on Skiing and Snowshoeing

Trail Conditions: Trail conditions are excellent for snowshoeing and skiing.

  • Trail conditions will vary depending on location, elevation, and time of day.
    • Trails will be icy or hard in the morning and throughout the day in the higher elevations.
    • Trails will soften as temperatures rise through the day, especially in the lower elevations.
    • Wet and icy conditions may be encountered in low spots, seeps, drainages, and along water ways.
    • Ice may be present below the snow, or on the trail surface on summits and other windswept locations.
    • Unbroken trails will have a layer of crust and ice on the surface of the snow.
    • Trails in the highest elevations will have hard-packed snow but be ice will be present on windblown summits and other exposed areas.
  • Snowshoes or skis should be used on all trails. The use of snowshoes or skis is required in the High Peaks Wilderness when the terrain is covered with eight inches or more of snow.
  • The use of snowshoes
    • Eases travel on snow,
    • Prevents "post holing" which can ruin trails, and
    • Reduces injuries from trips and falls
  • Carry trail crampons and steel-tipped hiking poles on all hikes and use when warranted.
  • Traveling through snow takes more time and energy than hiking on bare ground - especially when you are breaking trail through recently fallen snow.

Mountain Summits: Temperatures will be much colder, winds will be stronger, ice will be present, and snow will be deeper. Check the National Weather Service Mountain Point Forecasts (leaves DEC website) for selected summits.

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

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 web page provides information about the unit and its recreational opportunities, and a map of the unit.
  • Snowshoes or skis should be used on all trails. The use of snowshoes: (2/21)
    • Eases travel on snow,
    • Prevents "post holing" which can ruin trails, and
    • Reduces injuries from trips and falls
  • Carry trail crampons and steel-tipped hiking poles on all hikes and use when conditions warrant. (2/21)
  • Parking is prohibited along the Ausable Club Road and at the trailhead. (2019)
  • The easement agreement provides for public hiking only on designated trails and roads. Do not trespass on AMR lands and waters or participate in any unauthorized activities. (2019)
  • Dogs are prohibited. (2019)

Boreas Ponds Tract

High Peaks Wilderness

  • DEC is seeking two trail crew supervisor and eight trail crew laborers to work in the backcountry of the High Peaks Wilderness as part of the DEC High Peaks Trail Crews. (2019)
    • The trail crews work with other crews to construct a new sustainable-design trail up Cascade Mountain.
    • Each week the entire crew will spend the week in the backcountry, camping out in tents.
    • Most of the project is located 2-5 miles from the nearest road and will require a strenuous hike with a heavy pack to get to each week.
    • Tasks will primarily include trail building but may also include hardening tent sites, relocating privies, installing turnpiking, rock and drainage work, bridge building, and clearing blowdown.
    • Email Info.R5@dec.ny.gov for a full job description and application instructions.
    • Be part of the effort to maintain and protect the High Peaks Wilderness.
  • Snowshoes or skis should be used on all trails. The use of snowshoes or skis is required in the High Peaks Wilderness when the terrain is covered with eight inches or more of snow. The use of snowshoes: (2/21)
    • Eases travel on snow,
    • Prevents "post holing" which can ruin trails, and
    • Reduces injuries from trips and falls
  • Carry trail crampons and steel-tipped hiking poles on all hikes and use when warranted.(2/21)
  • Lake Colden Caretaker Report (2/21)
    • 55 inches (140 cm) of snow at the stake
    • 4-5 feet (120-150 cm) on the summits
    • South Meadow Lane, Marcy Truck Trail, and the ski trails are in good condition for skiing.
    • Snow cover on foot bridges may be above the handrails. Use caution when crossing.
  • Marcy Dam #4 Lean-to has been removed. (2019)
    • A new Phelps Brook Lean-to has been installed off the Marcy Truck Trail.
    • The lean-to was built by students from the Franklin-Essex-Clinton Counties BOCES Natural Resource Science Program.
    • The students and volunteers from Lean2Rescue assembled the new lean-to.
    • Follows signs from the bridge below Marcy Dam to the new lean-to.
  • The trails through the Elk Lake Conservation Easement Tract - to Mt. Marcy via Panther Gorge and to Dix Mountain - are open for public use. However, the Clear Pond Gate is closed for the winter. The Clear Pond Parking Area is two miles from the Elk Lake Trailhead - plan your travels accordingly. (2019)
  • South Meadow Lane is closed to motor vehicle use. Do not block the opening when parking at the entrance. This is used by emergency response vehicles. (2019)
  • The gate on Corey's Road is closed to accommodate logging operations in Ampersand Park. Parking is available at Raquette Falls Trailhead. (2019)
  • DEC with the assistance of NY State Police Aviation Unit airlifted 55 bags of stone to the summit of Mt. Van Hoevenberg. (2018)
    • These stones will be used to help stabilize the summit ledge viewing area from wind, rain, and hiking erosion.
    • DEC and partners will undertake the stone work in the spring.
    • Please stay off the piles and enjoy the views if you hike the summit this winter
  • The new, sustainably designed and built, Mt. Van Hoevenberg East Trail is open for public use. The 1.7-mile trail climbs 920 feet from the trailhead in the Olympic Sports Complex to the 2,940-feet summit of the mountain in the High Peaks Wilderness. (2018)
  • Cedar Point Lean-to has been repaired and relocated by Lean2Rescue volunteers. The lean-to is now located on southeastern shore of Lake Colden, off the trail about .2 miles from the Opalescent River. Camping is prohibited at the former lean-to site. (2018)
  • A primitive campsite with two tent pads has been developed in the Slide Brook Area south of Dix Mountain by volunteers from NOLS Northeast Adirondack Service Expedition. The site is west of the trail just before the crossing of slide brook. (2018)
  • Camping is prohibited at the former location of the Boquet Lean-to north of Dix Mountain and the open area adjacent to the trail. (2018)
  • Bradley Pond Lean-to has a 3ft by 6ft hole in the roof. The lean-to can still be used but should be avoided if it's raining. DEC is developing a temporary fix for the 2018 season and will fully repair the roof during the off season. (2018)
  • The trail to Little Porter Mountain from the Garden Trailhead is closed. The portion of the trail crossing private land has been closed to public use by the landowner. Trespassing on those lands is now prohibited. The summit of Little Porter Mountain can still be accessed from the Marcy Field Trailhead or the Cascade Mountain Trailhead. (2018)
  • Once again the private landowners have agreed to allow hiking on the Owls Head Trail during the week. Parking at the trailhead and hiking the trail are prohibited on weekends. (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)
  • Blueberry Horse Trail is 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. (2018)
  • The bridge over Ouluska Brook on the Northville-Placid Trail has collapsed into the brook. During low water conditions, crossing the brook is still possible. (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 Area

  • The Dix Mountain Area web page provides information about the area and its recreational opportunities, and a map of the area. This will be incorporated into the High Peaks Wilderness web page in the near future.
  • The lands of the Dix Mountain Area are now part of the High Peaks Wilderness. (2019)
    • DEC will be changing signs, web pages, and regulations to transition to the High Peaks Wilderness.
    • Group size regulations are now in effect on these and groups should consist of no more than 15 hikers and no more than 8 campers.
    • Information about the former Dix Mountain Lands may be found in the High Peaks Wilderness section above.

Giant Mountain Wilderness

  • The Giant Mountain Wilderness web page provides information about the unit and its recreational opportunities, and a map of the unit.
  • Snowshoes or skis should be used on all trails. The use of snowshoes: (2/21)
    • Eases travel on snow,
    • Prevents "post holing" which can ruin trails, and
    • Reduces injuries from trips and falls
  • Carry trail crampons and steel-tipped hiking poles on all hikes and use when conditions warrant. (2/21)

Hurricane Mountain Wilderness

  • The Hurricane Mountain Wilderness web page provides information about the unit and its recreational opportunities, and a map of the unit.
  • Snowshoes or skis should be used on all trails. The use of snowshoes: (2/21)
    • Eases travel on snow,
    • Prevents "post holing" which can ruin trails, and
    • Reduces injuries from trips and falls
  • Carry trail crampons and steel-tipped hiking poles on all hikes and use when conditions warrant. (2/21)

Jay Mountain Wilderness

  • The Jay Mountain Wilderness web page provides information about the unit and its recreational opportunities, and a map of the unit.
  • Snowshoes or skis should be used on all trails. The use of snowshoes: (2/21)
    • Eases travel on snow,
    • Prevents "post holing" which can ruin trails, and
    • Reduces injuries from trips and falls
  • Carry trail crampons and steel-tipped hiking poles on all hikes and use when conditions warrant. (2/21)

McKenzie Mountain Wilderness

  • The McKenzie Mountain Wilderness web page provides information about the unit and its recreational opportunities, and a map of the unit.
  • Snowshoes or skis should be used on all trails. The use of snowshoes: (2/21)
    • Eases travel on snow,
    • Prevents "post holing" which can ruin trails, and
    • Reduces injuries from trips and falls
  • Carry trail crampons and steel-tipped hiking poles on all hikes and use when conditions warrant. (2/21)

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.
  • Snowshoes or skis should be used on all trails. The use of snowshoes: (2/21)
    • Eases travel on snow,
    • Prevents "post holing" which can ruin trails, and
    • Reduces injuries from trips and falls
  • Carry trail crampons and steel-tipped hiking poles on all hikes and use when conditions warrant. (2/21)
  • The bridge over Ouluska Brook has collapsed into the brook. The brook is passable during low water conditions. (2018)

Sentinel Range Wilderness

  • The Sentinel Range Wilderness web page provides information about the unit and its recreational opportunities, and a map of the unit.
  • Snowshoes or skis should be used on all trails. The use of snowshoes: (2/21)
    • Eases travel on snow,
    • Prevents "post holing" which can ruin trails, and
    • Reduces injuries from trips and falls
  • Carry trail crampons and steel-tipped hiking poles on all hikes and use when conditions warrant. (2/21)
  • Several sections of the Pitchoff Mountain Trail, including the segment to "Balanced Rocks", are severely eroded. These areas are challenging to navigate. Please use caution and turn back if it is too difficult for your party to safely cross. (2018)
  • Beaver activity has flooded some parts of the Jack Rabbit Trail. (2017)

More about Backcountry Information for the High Peaks Region: