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Backcountry Information for the High Peaks Region

Map of showing the High Peaks Region of the Adirondacks

Updated: December 5, 2019

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).

Weather:

  • Nighttime and daytime temperatures will be below freezing through the weekend.
  • Additional 1 to 3 inches is forecast through Sunday.
  • Check the National Weather Service (leaves DEC website) or NY Mesonow (leaves DEC website) for updated warnings, and current weather conditions and forecasts for the location where you plan to recreate.

Early Winter Conditions in the High Peaks Region

  • Sunset is approximately 4:20 pm.
  • Snow and ice are present
  • Snow depths range from 4 to 6 inches (5 to 15 cm).
  • Snow is deeper in the higher elevations.
  • The National Weather Service NERFC Snow Page (leaves DEC website) provides maps depicting current snow depths and forecasts.
  • Ice has formed on many ponds, streams, backwaters, and bays. No ice is currently safe to travel on.

Be Prepared:

  • Wear:
    • Insulated, water resistant/water proof winter hiking boots
    • Layers of non-cotton, wicking fabric, and pack extra clothing
    • 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 clothes
    • Map of the area
    • Food or snack
    • Trail crampons (foot traction devices) and wear when conditions warrant
    • Snowshoes for high elevation hikes and wear when conditions warrant.
  • Watch a video about winter hiking safety tips. (leaves DEC website)

Seasonal Access Roads:

  • Most seasonal access roads will close to motor vehicle traffic next week.

Hunting Seasons: The Northern Zone (which includes all the Adirondacks) regular big game, small game, and waterfowl 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 Forest Preserve and Conservation Easement lands.
  • Hunting accidents involving non-hunters are extremely rare.
  • Hikers can wear bright colors if it makes them feel safer.

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

Hikers & Campers

General Information: Hiking and Camping

Trail Conditions:

  • Trailheads and trails are covered in ice and snow.
  • Many bridges were washed out or damaged in the Oct. 31 storm leaving some streams impassable. Use caution and be prepared to turn around.
  • DEC continues to assess back country infrastructure. Hikers should be aware that not all areas have been assessed - more remote and less traveled areas are likely to have unreported damage.
  • Expect to encounter heavy blow down in areas. Be cautious of hanging branches and unstable fallen trees. Blow down may take considerably more time to hike around.

Wear Proper Footwear:

  • Wear waterproof boots with warm, wool socks to keep feet dry.
  • Trail crampons (foot traction devices) should be carried on all hikes and used when warranted.
  • Snowshoes are recommended for all high elevation hikes.

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.
  • Some crossings may be difficult or impossible due to high water levels.

Mountain Summits:

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 is closed due to culvert damage and washout from the Oct. 31 storm. (11/14)
  • The inner universally accessible parking lot will not open until 2020. Boreas Ponds Dam is one (1) mile from the Four Corners parking lot. (10/24)
  • 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

  • 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)
  • Trails through the Elk Lake Conservation Easement to the Dix Mountain Range and Panther Gorge are closed to public use. The trails will reopen on December 9, after the closure of the Northern Zone Regular Big Game Season. (10/31)
  • Hikers seeking to use the Mt. Van Hoevenberg East Trail, which opened last fall, will be re-routed around the construction underway to make significant improvements to Olympic Sports Complex facilities. (2019)
    • Hikers can park at the Biathlon Facility parking area in the Complex and use a marked 1.0-mile detour bypassing the construction zone using roads, ski trails, and a temporary trail to reach the Mt. Van Hoevenberg East Trail.
    • It is a 3.8-mile round-trip hike from the parking area to the summit and back.
    • Hikers may also reach the summit using the traditional 2.2-mile (4.4-mile roundtrip) Mt. Van Hoevenberg West Trail which begins at the trailhead on Meadows Lane.
  • The roof of the Bradley Pond Lean-to was repaired by volunteers from the Adirondack 46ers. (8/22)
  • 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. (2019)
  • 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. (2019)
  • 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.
  • Cold Brook Trail is not a designated DEC trail and is not maintained. The trail has not been maintained since Tropical Storm Irene. (2019)
  • 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. (2019)
  • Cedar Point Lean-to has been repaired and relocated by Lean2Rescue volunteers. The lean-to is now located on southeastern shore of Lake Colden, off the trail about .2 miles from the Opalescent River. Camping is prohibited at the former lean-to site. (2018)
  • A primitive campsite with two tent pads has been developed in the Slide Brook Area south of Dix Mountain by volunteers from NOLS Northeast Adirondack Service Expedition. The site is west of the trail just before the crossing of slide brook. (2018)
  • Camping is prohibited at the former location of the Boquet Lean-to north of Dix Mountain and the open area adjacent to the trail. (2018)
  • 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. (2018)
  • 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. (2016)
  • 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. (2013)
  • 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. (2012)
  • The Calkins Creek Horse Trail has two bridges out, making it impassable for horse drawn wagons and difficult for horses. (2011)

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.
  • 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.
  • 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. (2018)

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. (2018)
  • Beaver activity has flooded some parts of the Jack Rabbit Trail. (2017)

More about Backcountry Information for the High Peaks Region: