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Backcountry Information for the High Peaks Region

Updated: October 21, 2021

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!

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Adirondack Recreation Resources (October 21, 2021)

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. With the arrival of cooler temperatures, remember that temperatures will likely decrease as you gain elevation.

Winter Conditions: Winter conditions are starting to appear on some of the tallest Adirondack summits. If you're planning a hike in the High Peaks, be prepared with warm, waterproof layers, extra layers, and proper gear for snow and ice, including microspikes and crampons.

Wet and Muddy Trails: Wear waterproof shoes and walk through mud, not around it, to help protect fragile trail edges. Gaiters help keep feet dry and trekking poles provide added stability. Mountain bikers are encouraged to avoid riding in muddy and wet conditions as biking on wet trails can significantly contribute to erosion and trail widening. As with hiking, ride through the center of the trail to avoid impacting trailside soils and plants.

Fire Danger: Fire danger in the Adirondack Park is low and in the Champlain Region is low. Never leave campfires unattended. Fully extinguish your campfire before leaving your campsite. Ashes should be cool to the touch. Learn more about campfire safety.

Water Conditions: Water levels throughout the Adirondack region range from average to significantly above average for most of the region, with the exception of the Raquette River in South Colton and the Salmon River in nearby Plattsburgh. Check the USGS Current Water Data for New York (leaves DEC website) for stream flow of selected waters. Water temperatures are still extremely cold this time of year and falling in can lead to immediate hypothermia. Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs aka lifejackets) are strongly recommended to be worn by all anglers, boaters, and paddlers. Use caution at crossings and on trails along fast-flowing brooks and rivers. Where bridges are not available, do not attempt stream crossings during periods of high, fast moving water.

Hunting & Trapping: Hunting and trapping seasons are underway throughout New York State. Hikers and bikers are advised to dress in bright colors such as hunter orange, put bright colors and bells on pets and equipment like backpacks, bikes, and walking sticks, and keep pets leashed to discourage roaming. Horseback riders should dress horses in hunter orange and wear hunter orange while riding. Avoid interfering with hunters and trappers. Stay on or close to trails and give hunters space. Don't attempt to scare game, sabotage a hunt, or tamper with traps, and never harass hunters or trappers. Be aware that you might encounter hunters carrying firearms, bows, or crossbows on trails or in camping areas.

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.

Bear Canisters Required: NYSDEC requires the use of bear-resistant canisters by overnight users in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness between April 1 And November 30. NYSDEC encourages campers to use bear-resistant canisters throughout the Adirondack backcountry. Bear canisters should be used to store all food, food garbage, toiletries, and other items with a scent. Canisters should be stored a minimum of 100ft from tents, lean-tos, and cooking sites, and kept closed whenever they are not being accessed. Learn more about bear canisters and avoiding human-bear conflicts.

Ticks: 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 and walk in the center of trails. Avoid dense woods and bushy areas. Additional tips for tick prevention (leaves DEC website).

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. With the arrival of cooler temperatures, 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. Using reliable sources, research the route. Double check your route on a map and bring a paper map with you. Research trailhead parking. Share your plans with a reliable friend or family member who will notice if you do not return on time.

Hiking at AMR: DEC and AMR have launched a pilot reservation system developed in partnership to provide reliable access and address public safety along a particularly crowded stretch of Route 73 near Ausable Road. The reservation system, operated by AMR, facilitates safer public access to trailheads through the AMR gate as well as for the Noonmark and Round mountain trailheads accessed through AMR lands and improve visitors' trip planning and preparation by ensuring they have guaranteed parking upon arrival. Reservations are required for parking, daily access and overnight access, including for individuals getting dropped off/picked up and arriving on bicycle, from May 1 through October 31. Walk-ins are not permitted. For a complete FAQ list, and to make a reservation, visit the Hike Adirondack Mountain Reserve website.

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 and wearing or bringing additional warm, waterproof, and windproof layers, a hat, mittens, and extra socks. Wear sturdy waterproof boots that are already broken in. Learn more about layering for your hike from DEC Forest Rangers in a DEC Facebook 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.

Pack a Light: Bring a headlamp or flashlight on every hike. Bring extra batteries and a back-up 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

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.

Trap Dike on Mount Colden

DEC has seen an increased number of rescues in the Trap Dike over the past decade or so. This may be attributed to the general increase in hiker activity and the increased use of social media hiking forums. It is common for individuals to document and post about their adventures on the Forest Preserve. Unfortunately, some of these postings motivate inexperienced hikers to undertake routes beyond their capability, which can lead to complex and dangerous rescues for everyone involved.

The Trap Dike route up Mount Colden in the High Peaks Region is not an official trail. In fact, it is not a trail at all. 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.

Forest Rangers have seen injuries within the dike itself as well as climbers who exit the dike "off route" and find themselves stuck on a ledge without the climbing experience to get themselves out. Portions of the Trap Dike are what we refer to as "no fall zones" meaning that an accidental fall could result in serious physical injury or death. Generally, you would want to rope up in this portion of the climb and use proven climbing techniques to safely climb "on belay".

Rescues in the Trap Dike involve much more complex technical rescue techniques and increased risk to all those involved compared to our usual trail rescues. It is often debated on social media forums whether this is a hike or a climb. Either way, a fall or accident in the Trap Dike could mean a long duration rescue event and, worst case, could prove to be fatal.

The best advice is to utilize an experienced licensed guide to safely assist in enjoying the Trap Dike. Additionally, this route should be avoided in periods following rain events and is best climbed when dry. It is essentially a waterfall, and increased runoff makes it much more difficult and even treacherous to climb. There are numerous trails that lead to the summit of Mount Colden and provide a much more enjoyable, yet still challenging experience for hikers.

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.
  • Beginning May 1 through October 31, 2021, reservations are required for parking in the AMR lot as well as daily access and overnight access to the AMR trailhead and Noomark and Round mountain trailheads accessed through AMR. This includes individuals getting dropped off/picked up and arriving on bicycle. Walk-ins are not permitted. Reservations can be made as early as two weeks in advance. Visit Hike Adirondack Mountain Reserve website for a full list of FAQs and to make a reservation.
  • 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. (5/21)
  • 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)

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, which provides access to the Boreas Ponds, will temporarily close to pedestrians starting Friday, September 24, while culvert repair work is underway. The road is expected to reopen to pedestrians only by the end of November 2021. The road has been closed to motor vehicles since the 2019 Halloween Storm, which damaged culverts and caused washouts on the road. DEC has repaired several ditches and culverts to date. Additional roadwork is anticipated to ensure the road is resilient to damage from future storms. (09/23)
  • 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 bridge at the start of the Klondike trail is currently unsafe. A reroute has been marked that starts on the South Meadows trail, goes to the Mr. Van ski trail, and then reconnects with the Klondike trail. The reroute will add approximately a half mile each way. (10/21)
  • From the evening of October 22 until the morning of December 6, no hikers may enter the Elk Lake Conservation Easement. (10/21)
  • 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. (09/23)
  • 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. (10/12)
  • Visitor parking at the Upper Works trailhead transitioned to a new lot on Friday, June 18. The new lot is adjacent to MacNaughton cottage approximately one tenth of a mile before the old lot on Upper Works Road. The lot is located on land owned by the Open Space Institute. Parking at the old lot is no longer permitted. (06/24)
  • 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. (10/8)
  • 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
  • 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)
  • The Town of Keene prohibits parking along Johns Brook, Market, and Adirondack Streets in Keene Valley. Violators will be towed.(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.
  • 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)
  • 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. (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. (5/28)

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 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: