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Backcountry Information for the High Peaks Region

Updated: October 1, 2020

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.

Hiker Information Stations

In an effort to provide increased education outreach, real-time updates and general information to hikers in the High Peaks region, DEC and Town of Keene stewards will staff hiker information stations at several high-traffic locations. Visitors are encouraged to stop by these locations for information about parking, alternative hiking locations, local land use rules and regulations, safety and preparedness, and Leave No Trace. Please visit us at the following locations:

  • Mid's Park, Lake Placid: Friday, 1pm - 7pm*
  • High Peaks Rest Area, Northbound Interstate 87: Saturday & Sunday, 6am - 11:30am
  • Marcy Field, Keene: Friday-Monday, 7am - 1pm

*This station will move inside the Lake Placid Visitors Bureau during inclement weather.

Remember a Headlamp

A headlamp or flashlight is one of the 10 essential items you should bring on every hike. DEC is seeing an increase in individuals without headlamps requiring rescue. Hiking in the dark can be dangerous. When you are unable to see where you are going, you are more likely to get lost or injured. A headlamp will help you hike out safely if you get caught in the woods after dark. Even if your planned hike should conclude before sunset, you should still bring a headlamp in case of emergencies or unexpected delays. Do not rely on your phone's flashlight. Phones can die and using the flashlight will drain your battery quickly. Bring extra batteries and a back-up source of light as well. Approximate Time of Sunset: 6:30 PM

Carry Extra Layers

Fall is here, which means it's time to layer up. It's getting colder in the mountains, and temperatures fluctuate depending on the time of day and your elevation. Stay safe and warm by wearing and bringing the right clothes. Start with non-cotton, moisture-wicking base layers. Wear or pack additional warm, waterproof, and windproof layers, a hat, and mittens. Bring extra base layers and socks. Add or remove layers as needed. Avoid sweating through your clothes - as sweaty clothes cool, they create ideal conditions for hypothermia. Learn more about layering and fall hiking preparedness on DEC's Hike Smart NY webpages.

Daytime Temperatures ~ 50s

Night time Temperatures ~ 30s

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. New York State DEC and State Parks recommendations for getting outside safely incorporate guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New York State Department of Health for reducing the spread of infectious diseases. This guidance (PDF) urges New Yorkers to recreate locally, practice physical distancing, show respect for all outdoor adventurers, and use common sense to protect themselves and others.

Use the hashtags #PlaySmartPlaySafePlayLocal, #RecreateResponsibly, and #RecreateLocal on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to share how you get outside safely, responsibly, and locally. ? Consistent with the NYForward (leaves DEC's website) phased reopening plan, DEC and State Parks are encouraging New Yorkers to recreate locally in their region (PDF) (leaves DEC's website). 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.

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

Pursuant to the Governor's Executive Order 205, visitors coming from travel restricted states (leaves DEC's website) will not be issued camping permits and will not be allowed to stay on state lands until they have completed a mandatory 14-day quarantine. Quarantining on state land is not permitted.

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.

Keep It Clean

DEC PSA (leaves DEC website) reminds outdoor adventurers to Play Smart * Play Safe * Play Local while keeping natural areas litter-free.

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

Weather forecasts and conditions can and do change quickly. Temperatures are getting cooler

  • 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.

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

  • NEW: If you plan on hiking in the High Peaks, use NY511 to check the status of parking lots along the busy Route 73 corridor. Have back-up plans in place and, if the parking lot at your desired destination is full, move on to your back-up plan. Status of parking lots is being updated throughout the day on weekend days by patrolling DEC Forest Rangers and Forest Ranger Assistants.

Trash in the Backcountry: DEC is receiving increased reports of visitors leaving trash behind after trips to State lands, waters, and facilities in the Adirondacks. Outdoor adventurers are reminded to follow the principles of Leave No Trace (leaves DEC website) and keep New York's environment clean by properly disposing of waste.

Fire Danger: Low. Check the DEC Fire Danger Map for updated conditions.

Campfires: Never leave campfires unattended. Fully extinguish your campfire before leaving your campsite. Stirring water or dirt into the remains of the fire can help. Learn more about campfire safety.

Nuisance Bears: Due to dry conditions, nuisance bear activity is high in the front country and the backcountry. Please take steps to prevent attracting bears in the backcountry. The use of bear resistant canisters by overnight campers is required in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness and recommended throughout the Adirondacks.

Hunting Seasons: Many small game, and some waterfowl and big game, hunting seasons are open. Hikers should be aware that they may meet hunters bearing firearms or archery equipment while hiking on trails. Please recognize that these are fellow outdoor recreationists with the legal right to participate in these activities on the Forest Preserve. Hunting accidents involving non-hunters are extremely rare. Hikers may wear bright colors as an extra precaution if it makes them feel more comfortable.

Ticks: Ticks are still a concern at this time of year. Wear light-colored clothing with a tight weave to spot ticks easily. Wear enclosed shoes, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Tuck pant legs into socks or boots and shirt into pants. Check clothes and any exposed skin frequently for ticks while outdoors. Consider using insect repellent. Stay on cleared, well-traveled trails. Walk in the center of trails. Avoid dense woods and bushy areas. Additional tips for tick prevention (leaves DEC website).

Water Conditions: Water levels in rivers and streams are in the average rangee. Check the USGS Current Water Data for New York (leaves DEC website) for stream flow of selected waters.

Hiking

Before you hit the trail, check out DEC's Hike Smart NY webpage to learn about safety, best practices, and preparedness. While recreating in the Adirondacks, please follow the Hiker Responsibility Code and avoid busy trailheads. Discover trails less traveled and visit when trails may not be as busy.

Be Prepared. Trails will be wet and muddy due to recent rains. Wear waterproof shoes and walk through mud, not around it, to protect trail edges. Seasonal temperatures are dropping, and temperatures will be even lower on high summits. Many exposed summits will be windy. Wear appropriate baselayers, bring waterproof and windproof outer layers, and pack extra baselayers and socks. Check the National Weather Service Northern Adirondacks and Southern Adirondacks Mountain Point Forecasts (links leave DEC's website) for selected summits. If conditions become unfavorable, turn around. You can always complete your hike another day.

Manage your time wisely. As daylight hours shorten, be mindful of sunrise and sunset times and plan accordingly. Start long hikes early to ensure you will have enough sunlight to finish before dark, and always bring a headlamp in case your hike takes longer than anticipated. Approximate Time of Sunset: 6:30 PM

Use Caution. Many Adirondack trails encounter water crossings and not all of them have bridges. Use caution at crossings and on trails along fast flowing brooks and rivers.

Adirondack Backcountry Information: Be sure to check Adirondack Backcountry Information main webpage for important general notices and information which applies across the Adirondacks.

Use of Drones in the Adirondacks

Both commercial and hobbyist use of drones on Forest Preserve lands is prohibited in areas classified as Wilderness, Primitive, Primitive Bicycle Corridors, or Canoe Areas.

Hobbyist use is allowed, and commercial use may be allowed with an approved temporary revocable permit (TRP), on lands classified as Wild Forest and on the Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor.

For information on hobbyist and commercial drone use on conservation easement lands contact the DEC Lands and Forests office nearest the easement property. Lands and Forests staff will, in consultation with the easement landowner, determine if such use is prohibited by the terms of the easement or whether the use of drones conflicts with the existing use(s) of the land.

Learn how to Leave No Trace while using drones and other important information about using drones.

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.
  • Rules specific to this property include no camping, no dogs, no drones, and no off-trail travel.
  • If you plan on hiking in the High Peaks, use 511NY (leaves DEC website) to check the status of parking lots along the busy Route 73 corridor. Have back-up plans in place and, if the parking lot at your desired destination is full, move on to your back-up plan. Status of parking lots is being updated throughout the day on weekend days by patrolling DEC Forest Rangers and Forest Ranger Assistants. (6/11)
  • Indian Head via Gill Brook Trail contains a few smaller trees blocking the trail. (5/21)
  • 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)
  • Dogs are prohibited. (2020)

Boreas Ponds Tract

  • The Boreas Ponds Tract webpage provides information about the area and its recreational opportunities, and a map of the area.
  • Boreas Road - which DEC opens during hunting season - cannot be accessed during this year's hunting season due to the damage and closure of the Gulf Brook Road. (10/1)
  • Gulf Brook Road (9/3)
    • The road, which provides access to the Boreas Ponds, remains closed to public motor vehicle use at this time due to washouts caused by the 2019 Halloween storm.
    • Hikers, off-road bikers, and horse riders may still use the road to access ponds.
    • DEC is working to repair the storm damage. Repairs to ditches and replacement of small culverts is underway.
    • Additional work includes installing large culverts and bridges to ensure the road is resilient to damage from future storms.
    • DEC is working to have the road open as early as possible, but likely not until the 2021 season.
  • 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.
  • The sign on the Blue Ridge Road (aka Boreas Road) identifying the turn onto Tahawus Road and the southern entrances into the High Peaks Wilderness has been stolen. (9/3)
    • If accessing the Blue Ridge Road from the west (Route 28N) watch for Tahawus Road on the left a short distance after the rail crossing.
    • If accessing the Blue Ridge Road from the east (I87) watch for Tahawus Road on the right a short distance after the rail crossing warning sign..
  • 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
  • If you plan on hiking in the High Peaks, use 511NY (leaves DEC website) to check the status of parking lots along the busy Route 73 corridor. Have back-up plans in place and, if the parking lot at your desired destination is full, move on to your back-up plan. Status of parking lots is being updated throughout the day on weekend days by patrolling DEC Forest Rangers and Forest Ranger Assistants. (2020)
  • The Trap Dike route up Mount Colden is not a trail, it is rock climbing route. DEC Forest Rangers have had to rescue numerous people in recent weeks that have become stuck on the climb. (2020)
  • There continues to be high levels of nuisance black bear activity resulting in several incidents of campers losing food to the bears. Avoid losing your food and gear to a hungry bear by following these tips: (2020)
    • Store all food, trash, toiletries, and anything else with a scent in a bear resistant canister at least 100 feet from your tent, lean-to, or sleeping area.
    • Immediately secure the lid on your bear canister after adding or removing items.
    • Cook & eat at least two hours before dark in an open area. Never cook or eat in a tent, lean-to, or sleeping area.
    • If you see a bear, group up, raise and wave your arms, speak in a loud voice, make loud noises by banging pots or clapping, and warn others that there is a bear nearby.
    • Carry bear spray, keep it readily accessible on your person at all times, and know how to use it.
    • Report food and gear loss and close encounters to DEC.
    • Learn more about properly handling bear encounters.
  • DEC and other agencies will be enforcing the No Parking Zones along State Route 73. (2020)
  • Town of Keene's Garden Shuttle between Marcy Field Parking Lot and The Garden Shuttle is not operating. (2020)
  • The Town of Keene prohibits parking along Johns Brook, Market, and Adirondack Streets in Keene Valley. Violators will be towed.(2020)
  • Clear Pond Gate on the Elk Lake Road remains closed. This adds two miles each way to hikes from the Elk Lake Trailhead - plan accordingly. (2020)
  • The main span bridge in Marcy Swamp on the Elk Lake-Marcy Trail has failed. (2020)
    • Hikers will have to wade the river to get across - rock hopping is not possible as it is a swamp.
    • Be aware that during rain events the water level can fluctuate significantly.
    • DEC does not expect to replace the bridge this year.
  • Adirondack Mountain Reserve (aka Ausable Club) has reduced the parking capacity on its lot near the intersection of Ausable Road and State Route 73 to a maximum of 28 vehicles in response to COVID-19. Parking is not permitted along Ausable Road, on Ausable Club lands, or along the nearby stretches of State Route 73. (2020)
  • The new Van Hoevenberg East Trail cannot be accessed due to construction activity at the Olympic Sports Center. (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. (5/21)
  • 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. (2020)
  • Three bridges were washed out on the Elk Lake-Marcy Trail during the Halloween Storm. The three crossings will be hazardous except when water levels are low. (2020)
  • The Opalescent Bridge on the East River Trail to Allen Mountain and Hanging Spear Falls is washed out. River is impassable at this time. (2020)
  • Calamity Trail has several bridges out. (2020)
  • 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)

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.
  • If you plan on hike Giant Mountain, use 511NY (leaves DEC website)to check the status of parking lots along the busy Route 73 corridor. Have back-up plans in place and, if the parking lot at your desired destination is full, move on to your back-up plan. Status of parking lots is being updated throughout the day on weekend days by patrolling DEC Forest Rangers and Forest Ranger Assistants. (6/11)
  • 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.
  • The Hurricane Mountain Fire Tower is open for visitors. (6/26)
    • Only one household group should be in the fire tower cab;
    • Groups should social distance on the summit while waiting to climb to the cab;
    • Sanitize hands before and after being on the fire tower, and;
    • Wear face masks.
  • Hurricane Mountain East Trail has a few small to mid-sized trees downed across the trail. (5/28)

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 closed to public motor vehicle use in the Town of Lewis.(4/30)

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.
  • Rock climbing routes on Notch Mountain remain closed to allow for peregrine falcon nesting except for The Guides Wall which is open which includes Summit Cliffs, The Slabs, The Roast, and Boast Slab. (6/5)
  • 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: