Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner

Backcountry Information for the High Peaks Region

Updated: January 20, 2022

Map of showing the High Peaks 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.

General Conditions

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!

Sign up for DEC Delivers

Enter email address:

Adirondack Recreation Resources (January 20, 2022)

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 Dispatch, 833-NYS-RANGERS (833-697-7264).

@NYSDECAlerts: Follow @NYSDECAlerts on Twitter for real-time updates to help you prepare. @NYSDECAlerts provides updates for DEC-managed lands throughout New York State, including the Adirondacks.

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

Weather: Check the National Weather Service or NY Mesonow (leaves DEC website) for current conditions and forecasts for the locations where you plan to recreate. Check the National Weather Service Northern Adirondacks and Southern Adirondacks (leaves DEC website) Mountain Point Forecasts for selected summits. Check both daytime and nighttime temperatures and remember that temperatures will drop as you gain elevation. Check wind chill temperatures and prepare for colder, windier summits.

Winter Conditions: Be prepared for winter conditions. Snow and ice are now present throughout the region. Be prepared with warm, waterproof layers, extra layers, and proper gear for snow and ice, including snowshoes, microspikes and crampons. In the High Peaks Wilderness, snowshoes or skis are required where snow depth exceeds 8 inches. Remember that conditions will change as you gain elevation and cool, wet weather poses a significant risk of hypothermia.

Snow report as of 01/20: The Van Ho and South Meadows trails to Marcy Dam are skiable. Both Avalanche Lake and Lake Colden are frozen, though there are soft spots on Lake Colden. There is approximately 25in of snow at the Lake Colden Outpost and 3-4ft of snow at higher elevations like Algonquin and Colden. NOTE: Conditions may have changed since last report.

Share the Trails: Many multi-use trails are enjoyed by a variety of users in the winter. Be respectful of everyone's experience by following winter trail etiquette. Wear snowshoes to prevent postholing and keep ski and snowshoe tracks separate when possible. Let faster users pass and yield to downhill skiers as they have built up momentum. Move to the side of the trail to let snowmobiles pass, and snowmobilers slow down when passing skiers and snowshoers. Please pick up after yourself and pets.

Seasonal Roads: Although some seasonal access roads remain open, the use of four-wheel drive vehicles is strongly recommended and many seasonal access roads have transitioned to snowmobile use. Visitors are advised to plan ahead and check local club, county, and State webpages and resources, including the NYSSA Snowmobile webmap (leaves DEC website), for up-to-date snowmobile trail information.

Review Regulations: Take a moment to review the rules and regulations for the High Peaks Wilderness, provided below.

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

Hiking Information

Be prepared, bring the right gear, and wear the right clothes and shoes to ensure a safe and enjoyable hike. Review Hike Smart NY's list of 10 essentials and bring those items on every hike. Prepare for your hike by doing the following:

Check the Weather: Check the forecast for your destination and pack and plan accordingly. Check the National Weather Service Northern Adirondacks (leaves DEC website) and Southern Adirondacks (leaves DEC website) Mountain Point Forecasts for selected summits. Check both daytime and nighttime temperatures. If conditions become unfavorable, turn around. You can always complete your hike another day. Remember that temperatures will likely decrease as you gain elevation.

Research Your Hike: Research a variety of hikes and pick one that is appropriate for the physical abilities and experience of every person in your group. Estimate how long the hike will take and make a realistic timeline. Remember that winter conditions will likely slow your travel. Using reliable sources, research the route. Share your plans with a reliable friend or family member who can report you missing if you do not return on time.

Hiking at AMR: The 2021 season of the Pilot Parking Reservation System at AMR has concluded. Parking is now available on a first come, first served basis.

Plan and Practice Navigation: Plan and study your route using an up-to-date map published by a reliable source before you begin your hike. Take note of significant landmarks and trail intersections. Leave your planned route with a trusted friend or relative. While hiking, pay close attention to posted signage and check your map at trail intersections to confirm you are on the correct path.

Have a Back-up Plan: The Adirondacks is a popular destination with limited parking in most places. Well-known trails get crowded and parking spots fill up quickly and early. Have several backup plans. If you arrive at your desired location and cannot find parking, move on to back-up locations until you find a place with safe, legal parking.

Layer Up: Temperatures can change significantly depending on your location, the time of day and your elevation. Stay safe and warm by wearing non-cotton, moisture-wicking base layers, insulating layers, and waterproof, windproof outer layers. Wear a hat, mittens or gloves, and a buff. Gaiters can help keep your lower legs warm and prevent snow from getting in your boots. Bring additional layers. Wear sturdy waterproof boots that are already broken in. Learn more about layering for cold weather by watching DEC's How To video (leaves DEC website).

Manage your time wisely: Be mindful of sunrise and sunset times and plan accordingly. Start long hikes early to maximize sunlight hours and always bring a headlamp. Set a turnaround time and stick to it.

Pack a Light: Bring a headlamp on every hike. Bring extra batteries and a back-up headlamp or alternate source of light. Even if you plan to be done before sunset, bring a headlamp in case of emergencies or unexpected delays. Don't rely on your phone's flashlight. Using your phone's flashlight will drain the battery quickly.

Stick to Designated Trails: Wear waterproof shoes and walk through mud and snow, not around it, to protect trail edges. Use traction devices when you encounter ice.

No Overnight Camping at Trailheads: Please note that overnight camping is not permitted at trailheads or other roadside locations where a camping disc is not present. This includes individuals sleeping in cars, vans and campers. Campers should seek out designated roadside campsites marked with a camp here disc or campgrounds.

Fire Danger: Never leave campfires unattended. Fully extinguish your campfire before leaving your campsite. Ashes should be cool to the touch. Learn more about campfire safety.

Trap Dike: The Trap Dike route up Mount Colden in the High Peaks Region is not an official trail. This route is classified as a rock-climbing route and preparation and safety should be planned specifically for this type of activity. This route should be avoided by those who do not have rock climbing experience and equipment like a climbing rope and helmet. Without the proper equipment, this route can be life threatening.

Adirondack Backcountry Information: Be sure to check Adirondack Backcountry Information main webpage for important general notices and 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.

Adirondack Mountain Reserve Conservation Easement Tract (AMR/Ausable Club)

  • The Adirondack Mountain Reserve Conservation Easement Tract webpage provides information about the unit and its recreational opportunities, and a map of the unit.
  • The 2021 season of the Pilot Parking Reservation System at AMR has concluded. Parking is now available on a first come, first served basis. (11/4)
  • Rules specific to this property include no camping, no dogs, no drones, and no off-trail travel.
  • Indian Head via Gill Brook Trail contains a few smaller trees blocking the trail. (5/2021)
  • 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. (2020)

Boreas Ponds Tract

  • The Boreas Ponds Tract webpage provides information about the area and its recreational opportunities, and a map of the area.
  • Work on three bridges along Gulf Brook Road is complete. Due to weather conditions, the road is closed for the winter season to motor vehicles but skiing and snowshoeing is allowed. The road will be open to public motor vehicles as far as the Fly Pond Parking Area after the spring mud season, generally in late May. (01/06)
  • 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

  • The High Peaks Wilderness webpage provides information about the area, its recreational opportunities, and the special regulations that serve to protect the natural resource of the wilderness and the experience of those who visit.
  • Snowshoes or skis are now required to be worn as snow depths now exceed 8 inches. (01/20)
  • The gate on Coreys Road will remain open this winter but will close in early spring mud season. The road may or may not be plowed and vehicles cannot block access to Ampersand Park staff. Four-wheel drive vehicles are recommended. (12/2021)
  • The Bridge over South Meadow Brook on the Klondike Trail was removed due to a broken stringer and unsafe conditions. Hikers can follow the South Meadow Trail to the Mt Van Ski Trail to gain access to the Klondike Trail. (12/2021)
  • The gate on the access road to the Cascade Lakes Day Use Area is now closed for the winter. DEC installed this gate in 2020 to allow seasonal closure of the unmaintained access road after several motor vehicles became stuck on the hill. (12/2021)
  • The Flowed Lands lean-to (on the west side of Flowed Lands) will be unavailable until further notice. The closure is expected to last several months. Lean2Rescue is rehabilitating the lean-to. To date they have deconstructed the existing lean-to and installed a new foundation and base. The structure will be reassembled this winter. The Calamity and Griffin lean-tos north and south of this location are available. (11/2021)
  • The trail from Lake Arnold to Feldspar Brook is experiencing extensive flooding. Crossing flooded areas on floating logs and old pieces of bridging is dangerous and should be avoided when possible. Seek alternate routes. If you must cross, be prepared to wade through deep water. (09/2021)
  • Per the conservation easement agreement with Elk Lake Lodge, the Gate at Clear Pond is closed to public motor vehicles as of October 12 and will not open until after mud season in May of 2022. Hikers will need to park at the Upper Elk Lake Road Parking Lot on the west side of the Elk Lake Road approximately 2.3 miles south of the Elk Lake Parking Lot and Trailhead. (10/2021)
  • The high-water crossing footbridge over Phelps Brook on the VanHo Trail to Mt. Marcy just above Marcy Dam came to the end of its service life and was removed by DEC. When Phelps Brook is running high and the low water crossing is unsafe, hikers can use the newly developed Phelps Brook Lean-to Trail between the South Meadow (aka Marcy Dam Truck) Trail (0.5 mile north of Marcy Dam) and the Van Ho Trail (above the crossing). The trail is marked with red Foot Trail markers. (10/2021)
  • Protecting the Uniqueness of the High Peaks: The Adirondacks contain some of New York's rarest plants. They are found in tundra-like habitats resembling those of the Arctic. This condition is encountered on the State's highest peaks and the total area covered by alpine vegetation approximates 40 acres on 19 peaks, 18 of which are in DEC's High Peaks Wilderness. To protect this ecosystem, DEC reminds visitors to the High Peaks Wilderness of the rules and recommendations in place that include but are not limited to: (2020)
    • No campfires in the Eastern Zone of the High Peaks Wilderness
    • Group Size Maximums: Day Trip maximums are 15 people. Overnight maximums are 8 people. 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. If accessing the High Peaks from the Adirondack Mountain Reserve (AMR) trailheads, 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
  • DEC and other agencies will be enforcing the No Parking Zones along State Route 73. (2020)
  • The Town of Keene prohibits parking along Johns Brook, Market, and Adirondack Streets in Keene Valley. Violators will be towed.(2020)
  • In the Dix Mountain Area, Nippletop via Elk Pass Trail has a few mid-sized trees downed across the trail between Elk Pass and the summit of Nippletop. (5/2021)
  • Several bridges were washed out on the Elk Lake-Marcy Trail during the Halloween Storm. Water crossings without bridges may be hazardous during periods of high water. (2020)
  • The Opalescent Bridge on the East River Trail to Allen Mountain and Hanging Spear Falls is washed out. (2020)
  • Calamity Trail has several bridges out. (2020)
  • Cold Brook Trail 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)
  • 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)

Dix Mountain Tract

  • The Dix Mountain Tract 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 Tract are now part of the High Peaks Wilderness. (2020)
    • DEC will be changing signs, webpages, and regulations to transition to the High Peaks Wilderness.
    • All regulations applicable to the High Peaks Wilderness 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.
      • Glass Containers: Glass containers are prohibited.
    • Information about the former Dix Mountain Area 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.
  • Nothing to report.

Hurricane Mountain Wilderness

  • The Hurricane Mountain Wilderness webpage provides information about the unit and its recreational opportunities, and a map of the unit.
  • Hurricane Mountain East Trail has a few small to mid-sized trees downed across the trail. (5/2021)

Jay Mountain Wilderness

  • The Jay Mountain Wilderness webpage provides information about the unit and its recreational opportunities, and a map of the unit.
  • Jay Mountain Road is managed by the Town of Lewis and is a seasonal road. The road is not maintained from October - April, effectively closing it to public automobile use during that time.

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: