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Backcountry Information for the High Peaks Region

Map of showing the High Peaks Region of the Adirondacks

Updated: February 16, 2017

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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Check the Adirondack Backcountry Information web page for important notices and information which apply broadly across the Adirondacks, and links to important information about hiking, camping and paddling in the Adirondacks.

Weather: Always be aware of and prepared for weather conditions. Being properly prepared for the weather and conditions will help to ensure a safe and enjoyable time in the outdoors. Check the current National Weather Service Weather Forecast. (leaves DEC's website)

Busy Holiday Weekend: Due to the good amount of snow on the ground, the great weather forecast, and the 3-day holiday weekend, expect to encounter larger than usual numbers of people on trails.

Snow: Deep snow is present at all elevations with 20-30 inches (51-76 cm) at low elevation trailheads up to 6 feet (185 cm) or more on high elevation summits. National Weather Service NERFC Snow Information Page (leaves DEC's website) provides additional information on snow conditions. Snow is 57 inches (145 cm) deep at the stake at the Lake Colden Caretaker's Cabin (2,775 feet (846 m) elevation).

Snowshoes or Skis: Snowshoes or skies are required in the High Peaks Wilderness - and strongly encouraged on all trails throughout the Adirondacks. Forest Rangers are turning back hikers without snowshoes.

Post-holing makes snow-covered trails more difficult to use and more hazardous for others to use. The use of snowshoes:

  • Prevents "post-holing" (deep footprints in the snow),
  • Avoids injuries, and
  • Eases travel on snow-covered trails.

Summits: Check the National Weather Service Mountain Point Forecasts (leaves DEC's website) for selected summits. Conditions on high elevation summits are worse than conditions encountered in the lower elevations:

  • Temperatures are colder
  • Winds are stronger
  • Snow is deeper
  • Exposed bedrock be can be covered in thick ice - crampons should be used.
  • Whiteout conditions from blowing snow are common
    • Carry a map and compass and know how to navigate without the ability to see land marks, cairns, or your tracks!
    • Better yet, do not summit mountains when whiteout conditions exist.

Avalanche RiskAvalanche Risks: 18 to 26 inches of new snow in the past two weeks on top of the previous snowpack which has distinct layers formed by rain and melt/freeze cycles. Due to high winds, snows depths are deeper on leeward slopes or areas of snow deposits, such as gullies. Snow depths in the mountains range from 32 to 46 inches. Lower snow layers may be reactive to the added stresses of the recent snows creating conditions conducive to avalanches.

Back country winter recreationists to take the following precautions when traveling in avalanche prone terrain:

  • Cross-country skiers and snowshoers should stay on trails and away from steep slopes on summits.
  • Know the terrain, weather and snow conditions.
  • Dig multiple snow pits to conduct stability tests - do not rely on other people's data.
  • Practice safe route finding and safe travel techniques.
  • Never ski, board, or climb with someone above or below you - only one person on the slope at a time.
  • Ski and ride near trees - not in the center of slides or other open areas.
  • Always carry shovel, probes and transceiver with fresh batteries.
  • Ensure all members of the group know avalanche rescue techniques.
  • Never travel alone.Let someone know where you are going.
  • Know and be prepared for avalanche conditions.

Ice on Trails: Thick ice is present at some locations on summits, exposed bedrock and other open areas. Carry crampons on all hikes and use when conditions warrant.

Ice on Water: Due to periods of thaw and the lack of extremely cold temperatures, ice on ponds and lakes is thinner than usual. Slush or water may be present between the snow cover and the surface of the main layer of ice on lower elevation waters. Ice over moving water is thin and may have only recently formed. Be safe on the ice.

Winter Conditions: Be prepared for snow, ice, cold temperatures and short days.

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. (2016)
  • Dogs are prohibited on the AMR. (2016)

Boreas Ponds Tract

  • Boreas Ponds Tract web page provides information on access and outdoor recreation opportunities available on these lands and waters including links to maps.
  • The lower gate on the Gulf Brook Road near the Blue Ridge Road is closed and lock. Public motor vehicle use is prohibited until the end of the spring mud season. (12/8)
  • The five exterior parking lots along Blue Ridge Road and Elk Lake Road will be plowed. (11/23)
  • Interim Access Plan for the Boreas Ponds Tract has been developed which identifies access and recreational opportunities (PDF 773 KB) including: (9/1)
    • Five year-round parking areas and three seasonal parking areas;
    • 3.2 miles of seasonal motor vehicle access on the Gulf Brook Road;
    • 6.7 miles of roadway open to bicycling from Blue Ridge Road to the Boreas Ponds Dam; and
    • Approximately 25 miles of seven roadways open to horse and horse drawn wagons.
    • DEC press release provides a summary.
  • The lands of this tract are unclassified at this time. The Interim Access Plan does not have any bearing on the future land classification of the tract currently in development and does not prejudge what access and uses will be allowed in the future. (9/1)
  • The public is prohibited from trespassing in and around leased hunting camps. (9/1)

High Peaks Wilderness

  • Snowshoes or skis are required to worn on all trails. Forest Rangers are turning back hikers without snowshoes. (2/16)
  • Ski Conditions: Excellent! (2/16)
  • The High Peaks Information Center (HPIC) at Adirondak Loj remains closed. Adirondack Mountain Club is operating out of a heated tent to snowshoe and microspike rentals, along with some retail merchandise. The flush toilet and shower facilities are not available, though there are porta-johns. Parking is still available. (2/16)
  • Trails designated as Ski Trails can only be used by people wearing skis. Snowshoeing or walking on Ski Trails is prohibited. This includes: (2/9)
    • Whale's Tail Notch Ski Trail;
    • Mr. Van Ski Trail;
    • Avalanche Pass Ski Trail;
    • Wright Peak Ski Trail; and
    • Van Hovenberg Ski Trail
  • Corey's Road is open to the summer gate, however the town of Harrietstown does not plow the road beyond the bridge over Stony Creek. Plan accordingly. Do not park in the snowplow turnarounds. (12/9)
  • The trail from the Elk Lake Trailhead located on the privately-owned Elk Lake Easement Lands is open. Elk Lake Road is closed to public motor vehicle access beyond the Clear Pond Gate until the end of the spring mud season. Park in the parking area at the Clear Pond Gate and hike, ski, or snowshoe two (2) miles to Elk Lake Trailhead. (12/8)
  • South Meadow Lane is closed to public motor vehicle traffic until the end of spring mud season. Vehicles may park at the barrier at the intersection with the Adirondak Loj Road but should not block the opening to ensure emergency vehicles may access the lane. (11/23)
  • The Lake Arnold/Feldspar Brook Trail is flooded and the bog bridging cannot be crossed. Alternate routes using other trails in the area can be used to avoid the trail. DEC is working to find a permanent solution to this section of trail in the near future. (10/13)
  • The second bridge on the East River Trail to Allen Mountain and Hanging Spear Falls has been replaced by DEC and Student Conservation Association Adirondack Program. Please do not bounce on the bridge. (2016)
  • 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 first 1,500 feet of Blueberry Hiking Trail has been closed. The trail now connects with the Blueberry Horse Trail approximately 0.3 mile east of the previous location (0.8 mile from the Seward Trailhead). This reroute eliminates the need to hike through a large wet area and avoids hiking (and maintaining) more than 120 feet of bog bridging. (2016)
  • The Blueberry Horse Trail between the Calkins Creek Horse Trail and Ward Brook Horse Trail in the Western High Peaks contains extensive blowdown, is grown in with vegetation and is poorly marked. The trail is impassable to horses making it impossible to complete the Cold River Horse Trail Loop. DEC intends to work on the trail this fall. (2016)
  • The high water bridge over Slide Mountain Brook on the Phelps Trail between the Garden and Johns Brook Lodge is broken and unusable. (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)
  • The first and second foot bridges on the Bradley Pond Trail has been damaged and are unusable. The stream can be forded /rock hopped most of time on the down stream side of the bridge sites. (2015)
  • 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.
  • Snowshoes or skis should be worn on all trails. (2/16)
  • The trail from the Elk Lake Trailhead located on the privately-owned Elk Lake Easement Lands is open. Elk Lake Road is closed to public motor vehicle access beyond the Clear Pond Gate until the end of the spring mud season. Park in the parking area at the Clear Pond Gate and hike, ski, or snowshoe two (2) miles to Elk Lake Trailhead.(12/8)

Giant Mountain Wilderness

  • The Giant Mountain Wilderness web page provides information about the unit and its recreational opportunities.
  • Snowshoes or skis should be worn on all trails. (2/16)
  • Beaver activity has flooded the North Trail to Giant Mountain just past the lean-to. (2011)

Hurricane Mountain Wilderness

  • The Hurricane Mountain Wilderness web page provides information about the unit and its recreational opportunities.
  • Snowshoes or skis should be worn on all trails. (2/16)
  • Nothing to report.

Jay Mountain Wilderness

  • The Jay Mountain Wilderness web page provides information about the unit and its recreational opportunities.
  • Snowshoes or skis should be worn on all trails. (2/16)

McKenzie Mountain Wilderness

  • The McKenzie Mountain Wilderness web page provides information about the unit and its recreational opportunities.
  • Snowshoes or skis should be worn on all trails. (2/16) 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 should be carried on all hikes and used wherever snow depths exceed 8 inches. (1/26)
  • Moose Creek Suspension Bridge between Shattuck Clearing and Cold River is now open. DEC and National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) Northeast have completed the repairs. (2016)
  • The bridge over Ouluska Brook has collapsed into the brook. Due to low water conditions, crossing the brook is still possible. (2016)
  • The trail has been rerouted around a beaver pond south of Plumley's Point on the shores of Long Lake. The reroute passes the beaver pond higher up the slope and eliminates having to cross the beaver dam and the wet feet obtained when the water levels were high. Follow the Blue NPT trail markers. (2016)

Sentinel Range Wilderness

  • The Sentinel Range Wilderness web page provides information about the unit and its recreational opportunities.
  • Snowshoes or skis should be worn on all trails. (2/16)
  • Beaver activity has flooded some parts of the Jack Rabbit Trail, check the ice before crossing. (12/29)

More about Backcountry Information for the High Peaks Region: