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Trail Information for the High Peaks

Image depicting the location of High Peaks region within the Adirondack Park

Updated: June 25, 2015

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General Notices

WARNING: Wilderness 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!

Report back country emergencies, such as lost or injured hikers, and wildland fires to the DEC Forest Rangers at 518-891-0235.

Mountain Forecast: Weather is an important factor in preparing for hiking or camping in the Adirondack backcountry. Often there is considerable difference in weather conditions at the trailhead and those experienced in the higher elevations. The National Weather Service in Burlington has a product that provides a weather forecast for elevations above 3,000 feet and spot forecasts for the summits of a handful of the highest peaks in Clinton, Essex and Franklin County. Use the link near the bottom of the right column to access the forecast.

Be Prepared

  • Know
    • Your own physical capabilities, knowledge of backcountry recreation and skill level
    • The distance you plan to travel and the terrain and conditions you will encounter
  • Check (before entering the backcountry)
    • With the local Forest Ranger for current information
    • Current weather conditions and short-term forecast
  • Wear
    • Hiking shoes or hiking boots
    • Comfortable non-cotton clothing
    • Hat for protection from the sun or rain
    • Sunglasses (if sunny)
  • Carry
    • Map and compass - know how to use them and use them!
    • Flashlight or headlamp & extra batteries
    • Pocket knife or other multi-tool device
    • Plenty of food and water
  • Pack
    • Extra clothes and socks
    • Waterproof jacket and pants
    • Gaiters for wearing in wet & muddy areas
    • Sunscreen
    • Bivy sack or space blankets in case you need to spend the night in woods
    • Fire starter supplies - waterproof matches, butane lighter, candles, starter material, etc.
  • Always inform someone of your itinerary and when you expect to return

Electronic Technology: Do not depend on electronic technology in the backcountry. Cell phone coverage is spotty at best and often non-existent. GPS signal can be poor under heavy tree cover. Batteries expire quickly in cold temperatures. Prepare before the trip and carry a map and compass for navigation or at least as backup.

Northville-Placid Trail Website: The Adirondack Mountain Club has created of a new web site devoted to the 133-mile Northville-Placid Trail. The new website provides information about planning a hike on the trail - whether a through-hike, section-hike or weekend-hike. It also provides information on the latest trail conditions. Use the link near the bottom of the right column. (2010)

Organized Events on State Lands: DEC regulation (190.8(cc)) prohibits any person from sponsoring, conducting or participating in any organized event of more than twenty people unless authorized by DEC under a temporary revocable permit (TRP). DEC seeks to ensure that large groups recreate on forest preserve lands 1) at locations, 2) during certain periods and 3) following practices that minimize their impacts on trails, vegetation, wildlife and other users.

Motorized Equipment in Wilderness, Primitive and Canoe Areas: DEC has adopted a regulation (Section 196.8)prohibiting the use of motorized equipment in lands classified as wilderness, primitive or canoe. Public use of small personal electronic or mechanical devices such as cameras, radios or GPS receivers are not affected this new regulation. See in the DEC Regulations.

Camping Group Sizes in Wilderness, Primitive and Canoe Areas: DEC regulation (Section 190.4) requires that groups of ten or more persons camping on state land obtain a permit from a forest ranger. DEC policy prohibits issuing group camping permits to groups wanting to camp on forest preserve lands in the Adirondacks that are classified as wilderness, primitive or canoe area. This policy was developed to protect natural resources, the primeval character of the area and exceptional wilderness experiences for all recreationists, and follows Leave No Trace practices. Except for the High Peaks Wilderness (not including the Canoe Zone along the Raquette River), Pharaoh Lake Wilderness and the William C. Whitney Wilderness, where the group size is 8, camping groups in wilderness, primitive and canoe area lands are limited to 9 people or less.

Camping Permits: Camping for more than three nights or in a group of ten or more in Wild Forest lands requires a permit from a Forest Ranger. The following information must be provided to the forest ranger to obtain a camping permit: Name, Address, City, State, Zip Code, Vehicle License Plate Number, Telephone Number, Date of Birth, Number in Group, Camping Dates, and Location of Campsite.

Backcountry Campsites: Camping at designated campsites in the backcountry is done on a first come, first served basis. There is no reservation system for these primitive campsites. Campsites in popular areas fill up quickly on weekends so plan accordingly.

Road & Traffic Information: Use the link in the right column to visit NYS Department of Transportation 511 New York for information on transportation services, traffic, and road conditions throughout New York State.

Trails Supporter Patch: The Trails Supporter Patch is now available for $5 at all outlets where sporting licenses are sold, on-line and via telephone at 1-866-933-2257. Patch proceeds will help maintain and enhance non-motorized trails throughout New York State.

Seasonal Notices

Weather: Always be aware of and prepared for weather conditions. Being properly prepared for weather and other conditions will help to ensure a safe and enjoyable time in the outdoors. Weather forecasts can and do change, use the National Weather Service "NWS Weather Forecast" link near the bottom of the right column to check the current weather forecast before entering the backcountry.

Fire Danger: Low. Never leave a campfire unattended. Be sure the fire is completely out and coals are cool to touch. Today's Fire Danger Map. (6/25)

Trail Conditions: The Muddy Trails Advisory requesting hikers to refrain from hiking on trails over 3,000 feet has been rescinded. DEC appreciates hikers who cooperated by remaining off those trails over the past few weeks. Trails are wet and muddy at all elevations, but especially in low areas and along water. Wear waterproof footwear and gaiters walk through - not around - mud and water on trails to avoid further eroding trails. (6/25)

High Water: Continued rains have raised water levels in streams and drainages. Heavy rains are forecast overnight Saturday night and rain is forecast on Sunday. Low water crossings accessible on Saturday may not be accessible on Sunday (6/25)

Paddlers & Boaters: Water levels are high and water temperatures are cool. A person in the water will quickly lose the ability to keep their head above water without a Personal Flotation Device (PFD). PFDs should be worn by all paddlers and boaters in small boats. See the USGS Current Streamflow for New York Waters (http://waterdata.usgs.gov/ny/nwis/rt) to check levels and flows of selected waters. (6/25)

High Use Periods: Visitors to the wilderness areas in this region, particularly the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness, should be aware that trailhead parking lots and interior campsites reach capacity on many weekends throughout the hiking season. Visitors should plan accordingly and are advised to seek backcountry recreational opportunities in other areas of the Adirondack Forest Preserve during these high use weekends. Hiking Trails Outside the High Peaks provides a list of nearby alternative day hikes. (2015)

While visitors can certainly expect capacity conditions to exist on holiday weekends, and most good weather weekends in July or August, they should check with DEC Forest Rangers (518/897-1300) prior to any weekend trip to the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness. The remaining holiday weekends this year are:

  • 4th of July/Canada Day Weekend: July 3-7
  • Labor Day Weekend: August 30 - September 2
  • Columbus Day/Canadian Thanksgiving Weekend: October 7-10

Summits: Temperatures are cooler and winds are stronger. Sight distance will be limited, sometimes significantly, when clouds cover the summits. Use the link near the bottom of the right column to view the National Weather Service "NWS Mountain Forecasts" for selected summits in this area. (2015)

Blowdown: Blowdown may be present on trails, especially lesser used secondary trails. (2015)

Adirondack Mountain Reserve (AMR) (aka Ausable Club): The public easement agreement for the Adirondack Mountain Reserve (Ausable Club) only allows for hiking on designated trails and roads. Do not trespass on AMR the lands and waters or participate in any unauthorized activities. (2015)

Dogs on Leash: Dog owners are reminded that dogs must be leashed in the Eastern Zone of the High Peaks when on trails, at primitive tent sites, at lean-to sites, everywhere above 4,000 feet, or at other areas where the public congregates. It is recommended dogs be kept leashed in most areas for the safety of your dog, the protection of wildlife and as a courtesy to fellow hikers. (2015)

Specific Notices

High Peaks Wilderness

  • A 10-foot section of trail near Uphill Lean-to along the Opalescent River above Lake Colden was washed out during heavy rains last weekend. Hikers can get around it by going through the trees but should use caution when doing so. (6/18)
  • As a result of recent heavy rains, some campsites around Marcy Dam may have water ponded on them. (6/12)
  • Stay on trails or bare rock when hiking on summits. Sensitive alpine vegetation can be easily damaged when stepped on. (2015)
  • 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. (2015)
  • The public easement agreement for the Adirondack Mountain Reserve (Ausable Club) only allows for hiking on designated trails and roads. (2015)
  • The road to the The Garden Trailhead is open and Town of Keene is charging for parking. (2015)
  • The Marcy Field Overflow Parking Area is open and the Town of Keene is operating the shuttle from Marcy Field to The Garden Trailhead this weekend and every weekend & holiday through October 18. (2015)
  • Corey's Road is open to public motor vehicle traffic. (2015)
  • The Clear Pond Gate is open and Elk Lake Road is open to public motor vehicle traffic to the Elk Lake Trailhead. (2015)
  • South Meadow Lane is open to public vehicle traffic. (2015)
  • The designated campsite on Big Slide Mountain Brook in Johns Brook Valley near the intersection with the Phelps Trail has been permanently closed due to site degradation. Other designated campsites are located across from the Howard Lean-to and just past Johns Brook Lodge. Signs on the hiking trail direct hikers to these sites. (2014)
  • The low water route through the Deer Brook Flume on the Deer Brook Trail to Snow Mountain has been repaired. (2013)
  • The first foot bridge on the Bradley Pond Trail has been dropped and is unusable. The stream can be forded /rock hopped most of time on the down stream side of the bridge site. (2013)
  • 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)
  • The Northville-Placid Trail contains a large area of blowdown near the Seward Lean-to. A detour around the blowdown has been marked with pink flagging. (2013)
  • The Southside Trail from the Garden Trailhead to John's Brook Outpost is closed and DEC is not maintaining it at this time. (2012)
  • The Cold Brook Trail between Lake Colden and Indian Pass is closed and DEC is not maintaining it at this time. (2012)
  • 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 bridge on the road to the Garden Trailhead is restricted to 6000 pounds. (2011)
  • The Calkins Creek Horse Trail has two bridges out, making it impassable for horse drawn wagons and difficult for horses. (2011)

Dix Mountain Wilderness

  • Stay on trails or bare rock when hiking on summits. Sensitive alpine vegetation can be easily damaged when stepped on. (2015)
  • The Clear Pond Gate is open and Elk Lake Road is open to public motor vehicle traffic to the Elk Lake Trailhead. (2015)
  • The Slide Brook Lean-to on the Dix Trail from Elk Lake has been relocated. It was taken apart and rebuilt by the Adirondack 46ers. (2014)
  • The public easement agreement for the Adirondack Mountain Reserve (Ausable Club) only allows for hiking, snowshoeing or skiing on the designated trails and roads. Traversing the Lower or Upper Ausable Lakes is prohibited. (2014)

Giant Mountain Wilderness

  • All rock climbing routes on Lower Washbowl Cliffs near Chapel Pond remain closed to climbers due to peregrine falcon nesting activity. (6/18)
  • Stay on trails or bare rock when hiking on summits. Sensitive alpine vegetation can be easily damaged when stepped on. (2015)
  • All rock climbing routes on the Upper Washbowl Cliffs near Chapel Pond are open. (2015)
  • Beaver activity has flooded the North Trail to Giant Mountain just past the lean-to. (2011)

Hurricane Mountain Wilderness

  • The Hurricane Mountain Trail from the Route 9N trailhead has been rerouted to bypass areas flooded by beavers. The trail now extends 3.4 miles from the trailhead to the summit. The reroute and new footbridges were completed by the Student Conservation Association Adirondack Program. (2014)
  • A bridge on the Carlott Road, one of the roads to access the Jay Mountain Road from the southeast, is closed. (2012)

McKenzie Mountain Wilderness

  • All rock climbing routes on Moss Cliff in Wilmington Notch remain closed to climbers to allow peregrine falcons to establish nest sites. (6/18)
  • Hikers accessing Whiteface Landing should park at the paved parking area along Route 86 immediately west of the bridge over the West Branch Ausable River. A trail connects the parking area and Connery Pond Road. Hikers may use the road to access trails to Connery Pond, Lake Placid and Whiteface Landing. (2015)
  • Volunteers from Lean2Rescue and the Syracuse University Outing Club reroofed the Whiteface Brook Lean-to. (2015)

Sentinel Range Wilderness

  • All trails and other recreational facilities are in satisfactory condition.

Wilmington Wild Forest

  • View of the Ausable Valley from Cobble Lookout
    The new 1.3-mile Cobble Lookout Trail has a mild ascents and descents as it follows the contour across the southwestern face of the Stephenson Range to a large rocky ledge. The vista from here offers great views of nearby Whiteface Mountain and much longer views across the Ausable River drainage to the Jay Mountains, Hurricane Mountain, and many other peaks. The trail was constructed under the guidance of DEC by the Student Conservation Association Adirondack Program with assistance from inmates at the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision Moriah Shock Camp. The trailhead is located on Gillespie Road a short distance past the intersection with the Whiteface Memorial Highway (Latitude: 44° 24.195' N; Longitude: 73° 52.652' W (NAD83/WGS84)). Parking is roadside, though a parking area is planned to be built in the future. (2014)
  • The map of the Beaver Brook Trail system has been updated to include a new 3.0 mile trail on the east side of Hardy Road. See the Beaver Brook Trail System web page for more information and a link to the map. (2015)
  • The outlet of Cooper Kill Pond is flooded by beaver activity. (2009)

More about Trail Information for the High Peaks: