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Backcountry Information for the High Peaks Region

Map of showing the High Peaks Region of the Adirondacks

Updated: March 23, 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).

Snow: There are 15 to 20 inches (40 to 50 cm) of snow on the ground in the lower elevations; 4 feet (120 cm) at Lake Colden and 6 feet (180 cm) above tree line. National Weather Service NERFC Snow Information Page (leaves DEC's website) provides additional information on snow conditions.

Trail Conditions: Deep snow is present on all trails. Secondary, less used trails may have blowdown (fallen or leaning trees, limbs and branches) and may require "breaking trail". Snow bridges and ice on most stream crossings have only recently formed and may not hold the weight of a person.

Snowshoes or Skis: Snowshoes or skis are REQUIRED ON ALL TRAILS in the High Peaks Wilderness and should be used on all trails elsewhere. The use of snowshoes prevents "post-holing" (deep footprints in the snow), avoids injuries, and eases travel on snow-covered trails. Post-holing makes trails more difficult and hazardous for others to use.

Summits: Temperatures will be colder, winds will be stronger, and snow will be deeper. Whiteout conditions from blowing snow will occur during, and subsequent to, the snowstorm. 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. Check the National Weather Service Mountain Point Forecasts (leaves DEC's website) for selected summits.

Avalanche Risks: Last week's winter storm was accompanied by high winds and snowfall rates of 3 to 4 inches (7 to 10 cm) an hour resulting in more than 30 inches (75 cm) of snow on the higher peaks of the Adirondacks. The high winds transported snow to the leeward side of mountains producing deeper snows and cornices. Below freezing temperatures have slowed bonding in the snowpack. Additional snowfall has added to the total dropped from the storm and strong winds continue to add to leeward slopes, with potential for wind slab formation. Be cognizant of wind direction and those slopes prone to wind loading.

  • Cross-country skiers and snowshoers should stay on trails and away from steep slopes on summits.
  • Backcountry downhill skiers, snowboarders, and other winter recreationist who may traverse avalanche prone steep open terrain and slides should take precautions:
    • 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 Water: Ice had thinned, weakened, and receded from inlets, outlets and shorelines before the recent cold spell. Ice on rivers, streams, and most channels of moving water only recently formed during the very cold temperatures and is very thin even though it is covered with snow. Ice that can hold snow may not be able to hold the weight of a person. No ice should be considered safe without checking the thickness and condition first. 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. (2017)
  • Dogs are prohibited on the AMR. (2017)

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. (2017)
  • The five exterior parking lots along Blue Ridge Road and Elk Lake Road will be plowed. (2017)
  • Interim Access Plan for the Boreas Ponds Tract has been developed which identifies access and recreational opportunities (PDF 773 KB) including: (2016)
    • 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 public is prohibited from trespassing in and around leased hunting camps. (2017)

High Peaks Wilderness

  • Snowshoes or skis are required on all trails to prevent post-holing. (3/23)
  • People continue to cross Lake Colden and Avalanche Lake. Be aware that ice had receded from the areas around inlets and outlets, and thinned along the shorelines before the return of below freezing temperatures. (3/23)
  • Corey's Road remains been closed beyond the Raquette River Trailhead. The gate and access to the summer parking lot will reopen on May 15 unless the weather prevents the road from drying and hardening. (3/16)
  • The high water bridge on the Calamity Brook Trail is unsafe and unusable and should not be crossed. Crossing Calamity Brook, which is completely open at this time, without using the bridge will be difficult - especially with high water levels. On warm and rainy days water levels in the brook will be higher in the afternoon, plan accordingly. The East River Trail (aka the Opalescent River/Hanging Spear Falls Trail) can be used to access the Flowed Lands and Lake Colden. It is an additional 3.7 miles one-way to reach the Flowed Lands using this route. DEC will work to stabilize and repair the high water bridge in the spring. (3/9)
  • The top landing on the Mt. Adams Fire Tower has been damaged by ice wind. Fencing and railings were broken off and the tower stairs and landings are slippery. The top landing and the cab are closed to the public at this time. DEC plans to repair the tower this year. (3/9)
  • The High Peaks Information Center (HPIC) at Adirondak Loj is open. Although the store is not fully stocked at this time flush toilets; snowshoe and microspike rentals; and some retail merchandise are available. (3/3)
  • 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. (2017)
  • 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. (2017)
  • 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. (2016)
  • 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 to avoid post-holing. (3/23)
  • 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.(2017)

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 to avoid post-holing. (3/23)
  • 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

  • The Hurricane Mountain Wilderness web page provides information about the unit and its recreational opportunities.
  • Snowshoes or skis should be worn on all trails to avoid post-holing. (3/23)

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 to avoid post-holing. (3/23)

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 to avoid post-holing. (3/23)

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 worn on all trails to avoid post-holing. (3/23)
  • 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 to avoid post-holing. (3/23)
  • Beaver activity has flooded some parts of the Jack Rabbit Trail, check the ice before crossing. (2017)

More about Backcountry Information for the High Peaks Region: