Photo by Dave Warner – The Adirondacks fall foliage.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today urged hikers to postpone hikes on trails above 2,500 feet until high elevation trails have dried and hardened. As snow and ice continue to melt at high elevations, steep trails can pose a danger to hikers due to thick ice and deep, rotten snow. Thin soils are susceptible to erosion and sensitive alpine vegetation can be easily damaged.
Despite recent warm weather, high elevation trails 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. These conditions, known as “monorails,” are difficult to hike and the adjacent rotten snow is particularly prone to postholing.
Hikers are advised to take extreme caution on low elevation trails. Hikers will encounter variable conditions such as thick mud, flooded areas, and deep slushy snow. Backcountry streams are particularly susceptible to high waters and flooding due to consistently melting snow from high elevations mixing with spring rainfall. Hikers should not attempt stream crossings during periods of high, fast moving water. The stream water is very cold and hikers who fall in can become immediately hypothermic.
Avoiding high elevation trails during the Muddy Trail Advisory helps to alleviate impacts to the trail tread due to erosion and protects alpine vegetation. When encountering mud on low elevation trails, hikers should walk through the mud instead of around it to help reduce trail widening and minimize damage to trailside vegetation.
DEC encourages hikers to avoid all trails above 2,500 feet in the Adirondacks, particularly high elevation trails in the Giant and High Peaks Wilderness areas, including the former Dix Mountain Area in the northern Adirondacks. Please avoid the following trails until trail conditions improve:
- High Peaks Wilderness – all trails above 2,500 feet where wet, muddy, snow conditions still prevail, 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 where wet, muddy, and snowy conditions still prevail, specifically Whiteface, Esther, Moose and McKenzie mountains; and
- Sentinel Range Wilderness – all trails above 2,500 feet where wet, muddy, snowy conditions still prevail, specifically Pitchoff Mountain.
DEC urges hikers to postpone these hikes until further notice to protect the Adirondack trail system. Until conditions improve, hikers are encouraged to explore lower elevation trails close to home and enjoy other forms of recreation.
Visit the DEC website for a list of hikes in the Adirondacks below 2,500 feet. Check the Adirondack Backcountry Information webpages for weekly updates on backcountry conditions and seasonal recreation information for the Adirondacks.
DEC continues to encourage people to engage in responsible recreation during the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis.