Compiled on Thursday March 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: There are 15 to 20 inches (40 to 50 cm) of snow on the ground in the lower elevations; 4 feet (120 cm) at Lake Colden and 6 feet (180 cm) above tree line. National Weather Service NERFC Snow Information Page provides additional information on snow conditions.
Trail Conditions: Trail conditions are excellent with deep snow on all trails. Secondary, less used trails may have blowdown (fallen or leaning trees, limbs and branches) and may require “breaking trail”. Snowbridges and ice on most stream crossings have only recently formed and may not hold the weight of a person.
Snowshoes or Skis: Snowshoes or skis are REQUIRED ON ALL TRAILS in the High Peaks Wilderness and should be used on ALL TRAILS elsewhere. The use of snowshoes prevents “post-holing” (deep footprints in the snow), avoids injuries, and eases travel on snow-covered trails. Post-holing makes trails more difficult and hazardous for others to use.
Summits: Temperatures will be colder, winds will be stronger, and snow will be deeper. Whiteout conditions from blowing snow can occur regularly and suddenly.
- Carry a map and compass;
- Know how to navigate without the ability to see land marks, cairns, or your tracks; and
- Do not attempt to summit mountains when whiteout conditions exist.
- National Weather Service Mountain Point Forecasts for selected summits.
Avalanche Risks: Last week’s winter storm was accompanied by high winds and snowfall rates of 3 to 4 inches (7 to 10 cm) an hour resulting in more than 30 inches (75 cm) of snow on the higher peaks of the Adirondacks. The high winds transported snow to the leeward side of mountains producing deeper snows and cornices. Below freezing temperatures have slowed bonding in the snowpack. Additional snowfall has added to the total dropped from the storm and strong winds continue to add to leeward slopes, with potential for wind slab formation. Be cognizant of wind direction and those slopes prone to wind loading. Be cognizant of wind direction and those slopes prone to wind loading.
- Cross-country skiers and snowshoers should stay on trails and away from steep slopes on summits.
- Backcountry downhill skiers, snowboarders, and other winter recreationist who may traverse avalanche prone steep open terrain and slides should take precautions:
- 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.
Ice on Water: Ice had thinned, weakened, and receded from inlets, outlets and shorelines before the recent cold spell. Ice on rivers, streams, and most channels of moving water only recently formed during the very cold temperatures and is very thin even though it is covered with snow. Ice that can hold snow may not be able to hold the weight of a person. No ice should be considered safe without checking the thickness and condition first. Be safe on the ice.
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 the Adirondak Loj Trailhead is now open. Although the store is not fully stocked at this time flush toilets, snowshoe and microspike rentals, and some retail merchandise are available.
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.
Corey’s Road: The road remains closed beyond the Raquette River Trailhead. The gate and access to the summer parking lot will reopen on May 15 unless the weather prevents the road from drying and hardening.
Lake Colden & Avalanche Lake: While people continue to cross these to lakes, be aware that ice had receded from the areas around inlets and outlets, and thinned along the shorelines before the return of below freezing temperatures.
Calamity Brook Trail: The high water bridge on the Calamity Trail is unsafe and unusable and should not be crossed. Crossing Calamity Brook, which is completely open at this time, without using the bridge will be difficult – especially with high water levels. On warm and rainy days water levels in the brook will be higher in the afternoon, plan accordingly. The East River Trail (aka the Opalescent River/Hanging Spear Falls Trail) can be used to access the Flowed Lands and Lake Colden. It is an additional 3.7 miles one-way to reach the Flowed Lands using this route. DEC will work to stabilize and repair the high water bridge in the spring.
Mt. Adams Fire Tower: The top landing on the Mt. Adams Fire Tower has been damaged by ice wind. Fencing and railings were broken off and the tower stairs and landings are slippery. The top landing and the cab are closed to the public at this time. DEC plans to repair the tower this year.
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