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For Release: Thursday, April 6, 2023

DEC Issues Annual Muddy Trails Advisory for Adirondacks

Hikers Advised to Temporarily Avoid High Elevation Trails and Prepare for Variable Conditions on Low Elevation Trails

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today urged hikers to postpone hikes on Adirondack trails above 2,500 feet until high elevation trails have dried and hardened. DEC resources provide information for hikers on how to reduce negative impacts on all trails and protect the natural resources throughout the Adirondacks during this time.

High Elevation Trails

Despite recent warm weather, high elevation trails above 2,500 feet are still covered in slowly melting ice and snow. These steep trails feature thin soils that become a mix of ice and mud as winter conditions melt and frost leaves the ground. The remaining compacted ice and snow on trails is rotten, slippery, and will not reliably support weight. "Monorails," narrow strips of ice and compacted snow at the center of trails, are difficult to hike and the adjacent rotten snow is particularly prone to "post-holing" - leaving deep footprints in the snow - which makes trails more difficult and hazardous for others to use.

Hikers are advised to avoid high elevation trails for the duration of the muddy trail advisory for several reasons: sliding boots destroy trail tread, can damage surrounding vegetation, and erode thin soils causing washouts; rotten snow and monorails are a safety hazard even with proper equipment; and high elevation and alpine vegetation are extremely fragile in spring months as they start their regrowth after winter.

Hikers should avoid the following high elevation trails until trail conditions have dried and hardened:

  • High Peaks Wilderness - all trails above 2,500 feet specifically Algonquin, Colden, Feldspar, Gothics, Indian Pass, Lake Arnold Cross-Over, Marcy, Marcy Dam - Avalanche - Lake Colden, which is extremely wet, Phelps Trail above Johns Brook Lodge, Range Trail, Skylight, Wright, all "trail-less" peaks, and all trails above Elk Lake and Round Pond in the former Dix Mountain Area;
  • Giant Mountain Wilderness - all trails above Giant's Washbowl, "the Cobbles," and Owl Head Lookout;
  • McKenzie Mountain Wilderness - all trails above 2,500 feet, specifically Whiteface, Esther, Moose and McKenzie Mountains;
  • Sentinel Range Wilderness - all trails above 2,500 feet, specifically Pitchoff Mountain; and
  • Jay Mountain Wilderness - specifically Jay Mountain.

Until conditions improve, hikers are encouraged to responsibly explore low elevation trails or enjoy other forms of recreation.

Low Elevation and Other Trails

Mud and variable conditions are prevalent across all trails in the Adirondacks. Hikers can encounter thick mud, flooding, ice, and deep slushy snow even on low elevation trails. Hikers should be prepared to encounter these conditions and know how to reduce their impacts to protect the surrounding natural resources.

Hikers are advised to walk through the mud, slush, or water and down the center of the trail. This helps to reduce erosion and trail widening and minimizes damage to trailside vegetation. Waterproof boots, gators and trekking poles are recommended to safely and comfortably traverse these variable trail conditions.

Cold Water Advisory

Water temperatures are freezing and falling in can lead to immediate hypothermia. Hikers are advised to never attempt to cross high, fast-moving water, especially following rain or significant snowmelt. If there is precipitation forecast during the day, hikers should be mindful of how water crossings might swell between their first crossing and return trip. Hikers should use extreme caution in areas of moving water, such as inlets, outlets, and streams. Banks will be icy and currents are swift.

"As spring progresses and the snowpack in the High Peaks melts, everyone should really expect higher than average water levels until we're well on into the spring." said Forest Ranger Pete Evans. "Then if you add in a rain event with that, these smaller streams and brooks that are easily crossed sometimes in the morning, by afternoon can be something that are unmanageable or uncrossable. So really pay attention to what you're doing. Make sure that if you are going to try to cross a brook, you take not only the current weather pattern, but the weather that's going to be happening in the afternoon and early evening into account." View Ranger Evan's sound bite on DEC's website (video, 11 MB).

The muddy trail advisory for high elevation trails may last into June as it sometimes takes that long for trails to dry and harden, while in lower elevations. The advisory may be lifted as soon as May for lower elevation trails. Hikers are advised to check the Adirondack Backcountry Information webpages for weekly updates on trail conditions, seasonal road closures and general recreation information for the Adirondacks.

Visit the DEC website for a list of hikes found throughout the Adirondacks that are great alternatives to popular high elevation hikes during this time.

New York State lands belong to all of us, and we all have a responsibility to protect them. Love our NY lands this spring by finding alternate forms of sustainable outdoor recreation, always practicing Leave No TraceTM, and giving back through volunteer work and stewardship.

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