Compiled on Thursday February 23, 2017
Please be advised of the following conditions and prepare for them to ensure a safe and enjoyable outdoor recreational experience.
Weather forecasts and conditions can and do change quickly. Check current weather conditions and short-term forecast before entering the backcountry at: NWS Forecast Office BTV.
Electronic Technology: Do not depend on electronic technology in the backcountry. Cell phone coverage is spotty at best and often non-existent. GPS signal can be poor under heavy tree cover. Batteries can expire. Plan and prepare before entering the backcountry and carry a map & compass for navigation or at least as backup.
Snow: Snow depths have been reduced considerably in the lower elevations due to melting and compaction and will continue to be reduced through the weekend as rain and warm temperatures are forecasted. Deep snow remains present in middle and higher elevations. National Weather Service NERFC Snow Information Page provides additional information on snow conditions. There is 4 feet (~120 cm) of snow at the Lake Colden Caretaker’s Cabin (2,775 feet (846 m) elevation) with up to 6 feet (~185 cm) on high elevation summits.
Snowshoes or Skis: Snowshoes or skis are required in the High Peaks Wilderness – and strongly encouraged elsewhere to prevent “post-holing” (deep footprints in the snow), avoid injuries, and ease travel. Warm temperatures soften snows resulting in deeper and more permanent postholes. This will slow travel and could result in injury. Trails will be ruined for use by others. Forest Rangers are turning hikers back who don’t have snowshoes in the High Peaks Wilderness.
Ice on Trails: Trailheads and low elevation trails may be icy, use foot spikes or other traction devices. Thick ice is present at some locations on summits, exposed bedrock and other open areas. Carry crampons on all hikes and use when conditions warrant.
Ice on Water: Ice remains on high elevations ponds and lake, including Lake Colden and Avalanche Lake – avoid areas around the inlets and outlets. Lower elevation lakes and ponds have slush or water on the surface of the ice. Warm temperatures and rain continue to reduce the thickness of ice. Practice ice safety at all times.
Summits: Temperatures will be colder, winds will be stronger, and snow will be deeper. Whiteout conditions from blowing snow are common on high elevation open summits. Carry a map and compass and know how to navigate without the ability to see land marks, cairns, or your tracks! Check the National Weather Service Mountain Point Forecasts for selected summits.
Avalanche Risks: 18 to 26 inches of new snow in the past two weeks on top of the previous snowpack which has distinct layers formed by rain and melt/freeze cycles. Due to high winds, snows depths are deeper on leeward slopes or areas of snow deposits, such as gullies. Snow depths in the mountains range from 32 to 46 inches. Lower snow layers may be reactive to the added stresses of the recent snows creating conditions conducive to avalanches. Back country winter recreationists to take the following precautions when traveling in avalanche prone terrain:
- Cross-country skiers and snowshoers should stay on trails and away from steep slopes on summits.
- Know the terrain, weather and snow conditions.
- Dig multiple snow pits to conduct stability tests – do not rely on other people’s data.
- Practice safe route finding and safe travel techniques.
- Never ski, board, or climb with someone above or below you – only one person on the slope at a time.
- Ski and ride near trees – not in the center of slides or other open areas.
- Always carry shovel, probes and transceiver with fresh batteries.
- Ensure all members of the group know avalanche rescue techniques.
- Never travel alone.
- Let someone know where you are going.
- Know and be prepared for avalanche conditions.
Winter Conditions: Be prepared for snow, ice, cold temperatures and short days:
- Wear water and wind resistant outer layers.
- Wear layers of fleece, wool, and other non-cotton clothing.
- Pack extra clothing including a fleece, wool or other non-cotton jacket or sweater.
- Add or remove layers to maintain a comfortable body temperature.
- Wear a cold weather hat and gloves (or mittens).
- Eat, drink, and rest often.
- Carry snowshoes and foot spikes, and wear when warranted.
- Always carry a flashlight or headlamp and extra batteries.
NOTE: Fires are prohibited in Eastern High Peaks Wilderness Zone
NOTE: Group size regulations are in effect throughout the High Peaks Wilderness. Group size for overnight campers is 8 or less and for day use it is 15 or less.
Be Prepared Before Entering the Back Country:
Check (before entering the backcountry)
- Local Forest Ranger for current information.
- Current weather conditions and short-term forecast
- Appropriate outer wear and foot wear
- Layers of non-cotton clothes
- Map and compass and know how to use them and use them!
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- Plenty of food and water
- Extra clothes and socks
- Rain gear
- Ensolite pad to rest on and insulate your body from cold surfaces
- Bivy sack or space blankets for extra warmth
Always inform someone of your itinerary and when you expect to return
Please be aware that accessing the Forest Preserve through the rest areas is prohibited. In accordance with New York State Regulation §156.3(d), vehicles may not be left unattended in the rest area, unless the operator or passenger is within the rest area. Also parking of vehicles for longer than three hours during the hours of darkness is not permitted in accordance with §156.3(c).
High Peaks Information Center: The High Peaks Information Center (aka the HPIC) at Adirondak Loj remains closed. Adirondack Mountain Club is operating out of a heated tent for snowshoe and microspike rentals and some retail merchandise. The flush toilet and shower facilities are not available, though there are port-a-johns. Parking is still available.
Skiing Conditions: Trail conditions are good for skiing. Conditions improve as temperatures warm during the day and the snow softens, particularly on South Meadow Road and other low elevation trails.
Ski Trails: Trails designated as Ski Trails can only be used by people wearing skis. Snowshoeing or walking on Ski Trails is prohibited. This includes:
- Whale’s Tail Notch Ski Trail;
- Mr. Van Ski Trail;
- Avalanche Pass Ski Trail;
- Wright Peak Ski Trail; and
- Van Hovenberg Ski Trail
Corey’s Road: The town of Harrietstown does not plow the road beyond the bridge over Stony Creek. Plan accordingly. Do not park in the snowplow turnarounds.
Elk Lake Road: The road is closed to public motor vehicle access beyond the Clear Pond Gate until the end of the spring mud season. Park in the parking area at the Clear Pond Gate and hike, ski, or snowshoe two (2) miles to Elk Lake Trailhead.
South Meadow Lane: The lane is closed to public motor vehicle traffic until the end of spring mud season. Vehicles may park at the barrier at the intersection with the Adirondak Loj Road but should not block the opening to ensure emergency vehicles may access the lane.
Lake Arnold/Feldspar Brook Trail: The trail is flooded and the bog bridging cannot be crossed. Alternate routes using other trails in the area can be used to avoid the trail. DEC is working to find a permanent solution to this section of trail in the near future.
Blueberry Hiking Trail: The first 1,500 feet of this trail in the Western High Peaks has been closed. The trail now connects with the Blueberry Horse Trail approximately 0.3 mile east of the previous location (0.8 mile from the Seward Trailhead). This reroute eliminates the need to hike through a large wet area and avoids hiking (and maintaining) more than 120 feet of bog bridging.
Blueberry Horse Trail: The trail between the Calkins Creek Horse Trail and Ward Brook Horse Trail in the Western High Peaks contains extensive blowdown, is grown in with vegetation and is poorly marked. The trail is impassable to horses making it impossible to complete the Cold River Horse Trail Loop. DEC worked in the fall of 2016 to open up about 75% of the trail. During the spring of 2017 work will continue to open the trail back up.
Phelps Trail: The high water bridge over Slide Mountain Brook between the Garden Trailhead Parking Area and Johns Brook Lodge broke in spring of 2016 and the remains were removed. Materials were flown to the site so a new bridge can be built in 2017.
Whiteface Landing Trail: The trail has been rerouted to avoid private camps on Connery Pond. The new trail route starts at the small parking area just before the private gate. Please respect the private property and stay on the trail.
Bradley Pond Trail: The first and second foot bridges on the Bradley Pond Trail are damaged and unusable. The stream can be forded /rock hopped on the downstream side of the bridge sites.
Courtesy of DEC Region 5