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Backcountry Information for the Southwestern Adirondacks

Updated: February 25, 2021

Map of showing the Southwestern Region of the Adirondacks

Welcome to the Adirondacks

The Welcome to the Adirondacks webpage is the place to go if you are interested in learning more about the Adirondacks. It provides information about the Forest Preserve and conservation easement lands, outdoor recreation opportunities, and Leave No Trace (leaves DEC website). Be sure to check out the links to additional information and tips for recreating safely and minimizing your impacts on natural resources, recreational infrastructure, and other backcountry users in the Adirondacks.

Keep Our Environment Clean

Help preserve the beauty of the Adirondacks and protect our local wildlife by putting garbage in designated trash cans when available or taking your garbage home with you. Please do not leave trash, gear, or food scraps behind. Use designated toilets when available and visit the Leave No Trace website to learn how you can Leave No Trace when going to the bathroom in the woods. Do not graffiti or carve rocks, trees, or backcountry structures like lean-tos or fire towers.

Drone Use

Drones are prohibited on lands classified as Wilderness, Primitive, and Canoe Area. Before you launch your device, learn more about drone use on DEC lands.

Play Smart * Play Safe * Play Local

New York State's PLAY SMART * PLAY SAFE * PLAY LOCAL campaign encourages residents to engage in responsible recreation during the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis. This guidance (PDF) urges New Yorkers to recreate locally in their region (PDF) (leaves DEC's website), practice physical distancing, show respect for all outdoor adventurers, and use common sense to protect themselves and others.

Use DECinfo Locator to find a DEC-managed resource near you and visit the State Parks website (leaves DEC's website) for information about parks and park closures. Use the hashtags #PlaySmartPlaySafePlayLocal, #RecreateResponsibly, and #RecreateLocal on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to share how you get outside safely, responsibly, and locally.

Pack A Mask: When recreating in New York, hikers and others are required to wear masks in public (leaves DEC's website) when appropriate social distancing cannot be maintained, including on trails and in the backcountry. No matter how or where you plan to recreate, pack a mask and wear it in parking lots, on crowded summits, and anywhere else you meet people along the trail or in the outdoors.

COVID-19 Travel Restrictions: New York State residents and visitors from other states should check New York's most recent COVID-19 travel advisory before making plans.

Limit Parking: Please avoid visiting crowded areas. For visitor safety and the safety of others, do not park on roadsides and only park in designated parking areas. If parking lots are full, please choose a different area to visit, or return another time or day when parking is available.

Hike within the Limits of Your Physical Abilities and Experience: Adirondack lands and forests are monitored by Forest Rangers and Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) and other staff. These officers and staff respond to, and assist, local agencies with search and rescue missions, wildfire suppression, and more. Following this guidance (PDF) will prevent unnecessary burdens on, and dangers to, state resources and frontline emergency first responders during the ongoing COVID-19 response.

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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Emergency Situations: If you get lost or injured; keep calm and stay put. If you have cell service, call 911 or the DEC Forest Ranger Emergency Dispatch, 518-891-0235.

Unstable Snowpack: Recent weather conditions have created unstable snowpack on open slopes. Practice safe travel when crossing exposed areas. Assess the stability of snowpack before back country skiing or hiking on open slides and faces. Be aware of and prepared for avalanche conditions.

Prepare for Variable Conditions: Warm, wet conditions at base elevations will give way to below freezing temperatures and deep snow at higher elevations. Be prepared for all conditions with appropriate gear and extra clothing layers. Change out of wet clothes to prevent hypothermia.

Weather forecasts and conditions can and do change quickly.

  • Check the forecast for your destination and pack and plan accordingly. Conditions will be more severe on summits, with below freezing temperatures, thick ice, deep snow, and strong winds. Take wind chill into consideration when preparing for temperatures.
  • Check the National Weather Service (NWS) Forecast (leaves DEC website) for updated notices and current conditions and forecasts. 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.
  • Check the National Weather Service Northern Adirondacks (leaves DEC website) and Southern Adirondacks (leaves DEC website) Mountain Point Forecasts for selected summits.

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

Travel: Check 511NY (leaves DEC website) for road closures and conditions.

Adirondack Backcountry Information: Check the Adirondack Backcountry Information main webpage for Adirondack recreation resources, hiking resources, and other information which applies across the Adirondacks.

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.

Black River Wild Forest (Flat Rock Mountain, John Brown & North Lake Conservation Easement Tracts)

  • The Black River Wild Forest webpage provides information about the unit and its recreational opportunities, and a map of the unit.
  • The Wolf Lake Landing Road in McKeever is a groomed snowmobile trail during the winter. This includes where the McKeever Trailhead Parking Area is located. Vehicles should not attempt to drive into the McKeever Trailhead, nor down the Wolf Lake Landing Road, when the road is covered with snow and/or ice. Multiple vehicles have become stuck when attempting to drive in and needed to be towed out. There is no official winter parking at this location. (2/11)
  • The Little Salmon Outlet Bridge on the South Lake-Herkimer Landing Road has been replaced (11/5)
  • A bridge has been installed Loop Road (North Lake) at the location where a culvert had previously washed out. The full length of the road is once again open to public motor vehicle use. Be aware of logging trucks on the road. (9/3)
  • The bridge across Little Woodhull Creek on the Stone Dam Trail has been reset and repaired. (9/3)
  • The bridge across the inlet to Bear Lake on the Bear Lake Trail is currently out, all users should be prepared to ford the stream or cross elsewhere. (2019)
  • The bridge across the inlet to Little Woodhull Lake on Little Woodhull Lake Trail is out. The stream may not be passable in times of high water. (2016)
  • Nick's Lake Outlet Trail to Remsen Falls may be rough and grown in. (2016)
  • Watch for trains when crossing the rails to the Nelson Lake Access Hand Launch off State Route 28 on the banks of the Middle Branch Moose River. There is an active railroad present in the summer. Camping is prohibited in and around the hand launch site during June, July and August. (2016)
  • Gull Lake Road (the jeep road) is impassable to motor vehicles at this time because it is very rutty and rocky. ATVs use is prohibited. (2016)
  • Six of the ten water access sites on the east shore of North Lake are rarely used. Vegetation has begun to grow in on the six sites making them harder to find. (2016)
  • Haskell/West Creek Road is a rough road, and 4-wheel drive trucks, SUVs and other high clearance vehicles are recommended. (2016)
    • Travel beyond Seabury Brook is challenging as road conditions are poor.
    • The road is closed beyond the Honnendaga Outlet Bridge because the bridge is in disrepair. Landowners of the private lands beyond may choose to use the bridge to access their lands.
  • Herkimer Landing Road is not open to public motor vehicles, however there are private rights to use motor vehicles on the road. (2016)
  • Flansburg/Black Creek Road is open to public motor vehicle use. However, travel beyond Mill Creek Lake will be limited by poor road conditions and snowmobile bridges not designed to support vehicles. (2016)

Fulton Chain Wild Forest

  • The Fulton Chain Wild Forest webpage provides information about the unit and its recreational opportunities, and a map of the unit.
  • Obey "No Parking" signs on Rondaxe Road in the vicinity of the Rondaxe (aka Bald) Mountain Trailhead . DEC has been issuing numerous parking tickets every weekend this year. (10/8)

Ha-De-Ron-Dah Wilderness

  • The Ha-De-Ron-Dah Wilderness webpage provides information about the unit and its recreational opportunities, and a map of the unit.
  • Lost Lake Trail has been flooded by beaver activity a half mile east of Lost Lake. (7/2)
  • Moose River Mountain Trail has heavy blow down and is difficult to follow at times. (2016)

Independence River Wild Forest (Stillwater Reservoir, Big Moose & Three Lakes Conservation Easement Tracts)

  • The Independence River Wild Forest webpage provides information about the unit and its recreational opportunities, and a map of the unit.
  • The Stillwater Fire Tower Trail has re-opened following an annual closure in accordance with a Recreation Management Plan agreement with the private landowner. (12/23)
  • Water and restrooms at the Otter Creek Horse Trails have been shut down for the season. Camping is still permitted at the assembly area. (10/22)
  • Big Otter Lake Road has been rehabilitated up to Tommy Roaring Brook. The road will be temporarily blocked beyond Tommy Roaring Brook until further rehabilitation occurs. (2018)
  • The Erie Canal Trail Bridge over Otter Creek has been damaged and is closed indefinitely. Horses may ford Otter Creek at the old bridge site. Snowmobiles can cross Otter Creek at the Eatonville Falls Bridge. (2018)

Pigeon Lake Wilderness

  • The Pigeon Lake Wilderness webpage provides information about the unit and its recreational opportunities, and a map of the unit.
  • The bridge crossing over the Oswego Pond Outlet on the Twitchell Lake Trail has washed out. An old beaver den can be used to cross the outlet. (2016)
  • Cascade Lake Trail is wet and very muddy on the north-west section of the trail around Cascade Lake. Be alert of trail reroutes. (2016)