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Backcountry Information for the High Peaks Region

Updated: January 23, 2020

Map of showing the High Peaks Region of the Adirondacks

General Notices

Check out hikes outside the Adirondack High Peaks for a hiking experience similar to a High Peaks hike, including great scenic views, but with fewer people.

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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Be sure to check Adirondack Backcountry Information for important general notices and information which apply across the Adirondacks.

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

Travel: Check NY511 for road closures and conditions (leaves DEC website).

Trail Crew and Other Positions for Hire: If you are interested in any of the positions listed here contact DEC Region 5, indicate the position your are interested in, and more information will be sent to you.

  • High Peaks Trail Crew (10 positions)
  • Ray Brook Trail Crew (1 position)
  • Marcy Dam Interior Caretaker (1position)

Weather

  • Nighttime low temperatures in the mid 20s with day time high temperatures low 30s throughout the weekend.
  • Snow and snow showers are forecast to begin Saturday and last through Sunday, however, no significant accumulations are forecast.
  • Check the National Weather Service (leaves DEC website) or NY Mesonow (leaves DEC website) for updated hazardous weather notices and current conditions and forecasts for the location where you plan to recreate.

Winter Conditions

  • Winter conditions are present throughout the Adirondacks.
  • Sunset is approximately 4:55 pm.
  • Snow depths range from 10-12 inches (25-30 cm) in the lower elevations, 1-3 feet (30-90 cm) in the middle elevations, and 5 feet (150 cm) on the summits.
  • The snow pack is consolidating, and snow depths are decreasing, due to above freezing daytime temperatures.
  • The National Weather Service NERFC Snow Page (leaves DEC website) provides maps depicting current snow depths and forecasts.

Be Prepared:

  • Wear:
    • Insulated, water resistant/waterproof winter hiking boots
    • Waterproof outer shell
    • Layers of non-cotton, wicking fabric
    • Hat and mittens (or gloves)
  • Pack or carry the following items on all hikes:
    • Water
    • Working headlamp or flashlight and extra batteries
    • Extra layers of clothing and wool socks
    • Map of the area
    • Food or snack
  • View a video with winter hiking safety tips. (leaves DEC website)

Ice on Waterbodies: Ice has formed on most all waters.

  • Always check the thickness of ice before traveling across it.
  • Avoid ice over running water, near inlets & outlets.
  • Remember, ice that holds snow may not hold the weight of a person.
  • Be safe on the ice. Especially when ice fishing.

Drones: Drones are motorized equipment and the operation of drones on lands classified as Wilderness, Primitive, or Canoe is prohibited.

Hikers, Skiers, and Snowshoers

General Information: Hiking and Skiing & Snowshoeing

Trail Conditions:

  • Damage from recent significant rain and snow melt event.
    • Be aware that blowdown, washouts, and other hazards may be hidden under snow.
    • Foot bridges and other infrastructure may be damaged or washed away.
    • Be cautious especially in remote, lesser traveled locations.
  • Trailheads and trails are covered in snow which will deepen as the weekend progresses.
  • Good to excellent conditions for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are present throughout the High Peaks Region.
  • Breaking trails through fresh snow uses more energy and takes more time. Plan accordingly.

Mountain Summits:

Wear Proper Footwear:

  • Trail crampons (foot traction devices) should be carried on all hikes and used when warranted.
  • The use of snowshoes is required in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness and recommended wherever snow depths exceed 8 inches. Using snowshoes:
    • Eases travel on snow,
    • Prevents "post holing" which can ruin trails, and
    • Reduces injuries from trips and falls

Water Crossings: Use caution at crossings and on trails along fast flowing brooks and rivers.

  • Rocks and other surfaces may be covered with ice from splashing water.
  • Wear crampons and use steel or carbide pointed hiking sticks.

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 Conservation Easement Tract (AMR/Ausable Club)

  • The Adirondack Mountain Reserve webpage provides information about the unit and its recreational opportunities, and a map of the unit.
  • The easement agreement provides for public hiking only on designated trails and roads. Do not trespass on AMR lands and waters or participate in any unauthorized activities. (2019)
  • Dogs are prohibited. (2019)

Boreas Ponds Tract

  • The Boreas Ponds Tract webpage provides information about the area and its recreational opportunities, and a map of the area.
  • Gulf Brook Road (1/23)
    • A large washout is present about a half mile from the Blue Ridge Road - the washout can be problematic to traverse but is passable.
    • There are several smaller washouts along the road that are easily traversed.
    • The there is some blowdown on the road but all of it is easy to pass around.
  • The inner universally accessible parking lot will open later this year. (2020)
  • Management of the Boreas Ponds Tract is defined by the 2018 High Peaks Wilderness UMP Amendment and the 2018 Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest UMP Amendment. The amendments describe the management, access, and public recreational opportunities available for the lands and waters on this tract of land. (2018)

High Peaks Wilderness

  • Lake Colden Caretaker Report (1/23)
    • 25 inches (65 cm) of snow is present at the stake at the cabin.
    • 5 feet (150 cm) in the higher elevations
    • Use snowshoes on all hikes above 2,500 feet (762 m).
    • Avalanche Lake and Lake Colden are frozen, use caution around outlets and inlets.
    • Meadows Lane, South Meadows Truck Trail, and the Van Hoevenberg Trail all have good skiing conditions.
    • Avalanche Pass Ski Trail and other designated ski trails have good to excellent conditions.
  • The new Van Hoevenberg East Trail cannot be accessed due to construction activity at the Olympic Sports Center. (1/23)
  • Snowshoes are required on all trails in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness.
  • There is significant blowdown on the Phelps Trail before you reach Slant Rock. It is difficult to get through the blowdown. DEC is developing a plan to clear a way through the blowdown. (12/27)
  • There are 4-5 mid-size trees down at various locations on the Big Slide via the Brothers Trail. It is easy to get around, over, or under them. (12/26)
  • Corey's Road is open for winter access to the Seward Trailhead. (12/12)
    • Only Four-wheel drive vehicles should use the road.
    • Do not block the road when parking
    • Bring a shovel and be prepared to shovel out off-road parking spots and your vehicle when you return from your hike or ski
  • Elk Lake Road is open to the Clear Pond Gate. This will add four miles round trip to hikes. Plan accordingly. (2020)
  • Trail Storm Damage
    • Three bridges were washed out on the Elk Lake - Marcy Trail. (11/22)
      • Repair of the bridges won't occur until spring 2020.
      • Currently the trail is closed to the public through the end of the big game hunting season.
      • When the trail reopens the three crossings will be hazardous except when low water levels are low
    • The Opalescent Bridge on the East River Trail to Allen Mountain and Hanging Spear Falls is washed out. River is impassable at this time. (11/7)
    • Calamity Trail has several bridges out. (11/7)
  • The roadway on the Bradley Pond Trail has been washed out by the Harkness Lake Outlet approximately a half mile from the parking lot. Hikers will be unable to cross the outlet when water levels are high. (2020)
  • Cold Brook Trail is not a designated DEC trail and is not maintained. The trail has not been maintained since Tropical Storm Irene. (2020)
  • The trail to Little Porter Mountain from the Garden Trailhead is closed. The portion of the trail crossing private land has been closed to public use by the landowner. Trespassing on those lands is now prohibited. The summit of Little Porter Mountain can still be accessed from the Marcy Field Trailhead or the Cascade Mountain Trailhead. (2020)
  • 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. (2020)
  • 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. (2020)
  • Camping is prohibited at the former location of the Boquet Lean-to north of Dix Mountain and the open area adjacent to the trail. (2020)
  • Blueberry Horse Trail is passable to horses and riders, however, riders should take care near drainages and several stream crossings that will be muddy. DEC plans to improve the trail tread of this route in the future. (2020)
  • The bridge over Ouluska Brook on the Northville-Placid Trail has collapsed into the brook. During low water conditions, crossing the brook is still possible. (2020)
  • The Calkins Creek Horse Trail has two bridges out, making it impassable for horse drawn wagons and difficult for horses. (2020)
  • Once again the private landowners have agreed to allow hiking on Owls Head Trail during the week. Parking at the trailhead and hiking the trail are prohibited on weekends. (2020)
  • Marcy Dam #4 Lean-to has been removed. (2019)
    • A new Phelps Brook Lean-to has been installed off the Marcy Truck Trail.
    • The lean-to was built by students from the Franklin-Essex-Clinton Counties BOCES Natural Resource Science Program.
    • The students and volunteers from Lean2Rescue assembled the new lean-to.
    • Follows signs from the bridge below Marcy Dam to the new lean-to.

Dix Mountain Area

  • The Dix Mountain Area webpage provides information about the area and its recreational opportunities, and a map of the area. This will be incorporated into the High Peaks Wilderness webpage in the near future.
  • The lands of the Dix Mountain Area are now part of the Eastern Zone of High Peaks Wilderness. (2019)
    • DEC will be changing signs, webpages, and regulations to transition to the High Peaks Wilderness.
    • All regulations applicable to the Eastern Zone are now in effect including but not limited to:
      • Group size: Groups should consist of no more than 15 hikers and no more than 8 campers.
      • Bear Resistant Canisters: The use of bear-resistant canisters is required for overnight users between April 1 and November 30. All food, toiletries and garbage must be stored in bear-resistant canisters. (6 NYCRR Section 190.13)
      • Glass Containers: Glass containers are prohibited.
    • Information about the former Dix Mountain Lands may be found in the High Peaks Wilderness section above.

Giant Mountain Wilderness

  • The Giant Mountain Wilderness webpage provides information about the unit and its recreational opportunities, and a map of the unit.
  • There is a large tree across the Rocky Peak Ridge Trail. It is easy to step or slide over the tree trunk. (1/2)

Hurricane Mountain Wilderness

  • The Hurricane Mountain Wilderness webpage provides information about the unit and its recreational opportunities, and a map of the unit.
  • Nothing to report.

Jay Mountain Wilderness

  • The Jay Mountain Wilderness webpage provides information about the unit and its recreational opportunities, and a map of the unit.
  • Nothing to report.

McKenzie Mountain Wilderness

  • The McKenzie Mountain Wilderness webpage provides information about the unit and its recreational opportunities, and a map of the unit.
  • Nothing to report.

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.
  • The bridge over Ouluska Brook has collapsed into the brook. The brook is passable during low water conditions. (2020)

Sentinel Range Wilderness

  • The Sentinel Range Wilderness webpage provides information about the unit and its recreational opportunities, and a map of the unit.
  • Several sections of the Pitchoff Mountain Trail, including the segment to "Balanced Rocks", are severely eroded. These areas are challenging to navigate. Please use caution and turn back if it is too difficult for your party to safely cross. (2020)
  • Beaver activity has flooded some parts of the Jack Rabbit Trail. (2020)

More about Backcountry Information for the High Peaks Region: