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High Peaks Wilderness Complex

Includes the Eastern Zone, Western Zone (including the Dix Mountain Tract and wilderness portions of the Boreas Ponds and MacIntrye Tracts), and the Adirondack Canoe Route

High Peaks Wilderness Locator Map

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  • Open for recreation: Year-round
  • Fees: Free
  • Contact Information:
    • DEC Region 5 Ray Brook Office: 518-897-1200 (M-F, 8:30 to 4:45); info.r5@dec.ny.gov
    • Backcountry Emergencies: 518-891-0235 (24/7)
    • Enforcement Matters: 518-408-5850 (24/7)
  • Location: Town of Harrietstown in Franklin County, Towns of North Elba, Keene, Elizabethtown, North Hudson and Newcomb in Essex County and the town of Long Lake in Hamilton County.
  • Wildlife Management Unit: 5F
  • Map: Google Earth || DECinfo Locator

The 275,460-acre High Peaks Wilderness is the largest unit in the Adirondack Forest Preserve (5263) and the second largest wilderness area east of the Mississippi.

The unit significantly increased in size with the following additions from the Adirondack Park Agency 2018 Land Classification Package:

  • 45,208 acres that was formerly the Dix Mountain Area;
  • 11,411 acres of the Boreas Pond Tract;
  • 4,418 acres of the MacIntyre East Tract; and
  • 1,490 acres the former Casey Brook Tract.

The High Peaks Wilderness lies within the area bounded largely by State Route 3, State Route 86, State Route 73, the Northway (Interstate 87), Blue Ridge Road, State Route 28N, State Route 30, and the Raquette River.

As its name implies, the Wilderness is known for its mountainous terrain and contains most of New York State's highest summits including the two highest: Mt. Marcy (5,344 feet) and Algonquin Peak (5,114 feet).

Many crystal-clear streams cascade from the mountain slopes, providing numerous scenic waterfalls, deep pools and brook trout fishing opportunities. Such streams as the Opalescent River, Johns Brook, Klondike Brook, Marcy Brook, Cold River, Moose Creek and Cold Brook are photographers' favorites. Lake Tear O' the Clouds, the highest elevation water body in the Hudson River watershed lies at about 4,300 feet altitude.

New Management Zones:

The High Peaks Wilderness is divided into three management zones with the 2018 ammendment: Central Zone, Outer Zone, and the Adirondack Canoe Route.

The Central Zone is the former Eastern Zone which contains most of the highest peaks and trails.

The Outer Zone encompasses the former Western High Peaks, the former Dix Mountain Area, Boreas Ponds Tract, and MacIntyre East Tract.

The Adirondack Canoe Route parallels the western boundary of the unit for 23 miles along the eastern shores of Long Lake and the Raquette River. This section is a major link in the 90-mile canoe route from Old Forge to Saranac Lake and the much longer Northern Forest Canoe Trail.

Featured Activities

Recreational Webpages for the individual High Peaks Wilderness zones are currently under development. Once complete, individual webpages will include trail descriptions, maps, camping, and other recreational opportunities and descriptions specific to that zone.

Current recreational pages:

Recreation Resources

Wildlife

General information on animals includes links to information about birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians and insects that inhabit or migrate through the state.

The Adirondacks contain large tracts of wildlife habitat with some boreal, bog, alpine and other unique habitats. Many species of birds and mammals are unique to the Adirondacks or are mainly found here. More than 50 species of mammals and hundreds of species of birds inhabit or pass through the Adirondacks at one time of the year or another so it is not unlikely to catch site of wildlife during your trip. Peregrine Falcons are known to nest in the area.

More information on Adirondack Flora and Fauna (Leaves DEC Website) from the SUNY ESF Adirondack Ecological Center.

You can protect wildlife and wildlife habitat when viewing them.

Wildlife Found in the Adirondacks:

Rules, Regulations & Outdoor Safety

All users of the High Peaks area must follow all State Land Use Regulations. The regulations for each zone below are the most current regulations.

  • No campfires in the Eastern Zone of the High Peaks Wilderness
  • Group Size Maximums
    • Day Trip - 15
    • Overnight - 8 (Permits for oversized groups are not available in the High Peaks Wilderness)
  • No camping on summits
  • No camping above 3,500 feet (except at lean-to)
  • No camping in areas with "No Camping" signs present
  • Whenever possible, camp in designated sites. If necessary, at-large camping is permitted as long as campsites are at least 150 feet from any road, trail, water body, or waterway. Place your tent on a durable surface, such as hardened soil, leaf litter, or pine duff. Do not place your tent on vegetation.
  • Bear canisters are required for all overnight campers in the Eastern Zone of the High Peaks Wilderness
  • Carry out what you carry in. Properly dispose of waste and pack out all gear and garbage. Do not leave waste at trailheads.
  • Dogs must be leashed at all times in the Eastern Zone of the High Peaks Wilderness and at trailheads, campsites and above 4,000 feet everywhere else
    • Please note: If accessing the High Peaks from the AMR trailhead, dogs are not allowed on AMR property.
  • Bikes are prohibited
  • Drones are prohibited
  • ATVs are prohibited
  • No fixed anchors for climbing on Forest Preserve at this time
  • Skis and Snowshoes required when snow depths are at least 8 inches
  • Adirondack Mountain Reserve (AMR) Rules
    • No Camping
    • No Dogs
    • No Drones
    • No Off-Trail Travel

Adirondack Canoe Route

  • The maximum capacity of any lean-to site (including associated tent camping) shall not exceed 12 persons
  • Campfires permitted in designated fire pits

Check the Adirondack Backcountry Information for the High Peaks Region for important general notices and information which apply across the Adirondacks.

Backcountry conditions can change suddenly. All users should plan accordingly, including bringing flashlights or headlamps with extra batteries, 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 backcountry. Backcountry hiking trails can be rugged and rough- wear proper footwear.

Practice Leave No Trace

Please abide by the Leave No Trace Seven Principles (leaves DEC website) when recreating in the Adirondacks.

Do not attempt any trips in the High Peaks without current USGS topographic maps and/or a good guidebook for the area. Maps and guidebooks may be purchased at local stores or suppliers of outdoor recreational equipment.

Planning and Management

DEC manages these lands in accordance with the 2018 High Peaks Wilderness Complex UMP Amendment. In addition to management objectives, the UMPs contain detailed information on natural features, recreational infrastructure, geology, natural & human history, habitats, wildlife, fisheries and much more.

Nearby State Lands, Facilities, Amenities & Other Information

State Lands & Facilities

Campgrounds

Gas may be obtained in the nearby communities of Keene, Elizabethtown, Lake Placid, North Hudson, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, and Long Lake

Food and supplies may be obtained in the nearby communities of Keene, Elizabethtown, Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, and Long lake

Dining is available in the nearby communities of Keene Valley, Keene, Elizabethtown, Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, and Long lake

Lodging is available in the nearby communities of Keene Valley, Newcomb, North Hudson, Keene, Elizabethtown, Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, and Long lake

Adirondack Regional Tourism Council (leaves DEC website), Essex County/Lake Placid Tourism ( leaves DEC website), and Adirondack Mountain Club (leaves DEC website) can provide information about other recreation, attractions and amenities in this area. Numerous guide books and maps are available with information on the lands, waters, trails and other recreational facilities in this area. These can be purchased at most outdoor equipment retailers, bookstores, and on-line booksellers.

Additional information, outdoor equipment, trip suggestions and guided or self-guided tours may be obtained from outdoor guide and outfitting businesses. Check area chambers of commerce, telephone directories or search the internet for listings.

Consider hiring an outdoor guide if you have little experience or woodland skills. See the NYS Outdoor Guides Association (leaves DEC Website) for information on outdoor guides.