With the recent increase in outdoor recreation leading to record numbers of visitors to areas of the Adirondack and Catskill Parks and issues with trash and unprepared hikers causing impacts to natural resources, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today reminded hikers and other visitors to the High Peaks Wilderness to follow the common-sense rules and recommendations in place to protect public safety and the sensitive plants and wildlife. These measures are in place to promote a shared respect for the resources, as well as respect for other visitors and the workers and volunteers tasked with protecting the Adirondacks, Catskills, and the forests, trails, lakes, and rivers throughout the State.
“New York’s wild places draw visitors from across the state and country, and it is crucial that we continue to provide safe, sustainable access,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “With more people looking to recreate locally during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen incredible increases in use throughout the state. We ask for everyone to help protect the fragile summit vegetation by hiking prepared, packing out your litter, treating each other with respect, and educating these new outdoor enthusiasts to the common sense rules of the outdoors.”
DEC recognizes the need to protect the Adirondack and Catskill Parks and promote sustainable use and is working with local partners and other stakeholders to implement several actions, including long- and short-term improvements to promote sustainable use, particularly in the High Peaks. Examples include creation of the High Peaks Strategic Advisory Group, which continues to meet and last month issued interim report recommendations; delineating parking on Route 73; working with DOT, State Police and the towns, reducing congestion in areas around the High Peaks; highlighting the great, and underused, opportunities elsewhere in the park and trying to reveal the hidden gems; and promoting sustainable use with partners through Leave No Trace to help visitors understand how their actions affect the resource and learn how they can protect it.
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:
- 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, waterbody, 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
- Adirondack Mountain Reserve-specific rules for this property include no camping, no dogs, no drones, and no off-trail travel.
Please avoid visiting crowded areas. For visitor safety and the safety of others, do not park on roadsides and only park in designated parking areas. If parking lots are full, please choose a different area to visit, or return another time or day when parking is available.
DEC and its partners are also committed to maintaining a safe work environment, and ask the public to treat employees, volunteers, and other partners with respect. New York State does not tolerate harassment of any kind. Inappropriate behavior or treatment by anyone will be reported. We encourage members of the community to help stop harassment – please report misconduct or harassment to DEC, partner organizations, or local law enforcement as appropriate.
Leave No Trace
Ensuring trash and other litter is removed from natural settings is another way to show respect to fellow New Yorkers and the environment. Litter is both an eyesore and poses a danger to local wildlife and delicate ecosystems. DEC is encouraging visitors to the State’s natural areas and facilities to keep New York’s environment clean by properly disposing of waste. Follow these tips to Leave No Trace:
- Carry out what you carry in. Don’t leave trash, food, gear, or any other personal belongings behind.
- Trash your trash. Use designated receptacles when available or carry your trash in a small bag so you can throw it out at home. Never put trash in outhouses or porta-potties.
- Use designated bathroom facilities when available. If traveling, use the rest areas closest to your destination before you arrive. Learn how to dig a cat hole (leaves DEC website) and properly dispose of your human waste for the times when nature calls and a bathroom is not available.
- During the COVID-19 public health crisis, take extra precautions when picking up trash you find on the trail. Wear gloves and make sure to hand sanitize when you are done.
PLAY SMART * PLAY SAFE * PLAY LOCAL
Earlier this summer, DEC and the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) launched the PLAY SMART * PLAY SAFE * PLAY LOCAL Campaign to encourage all New Yorkers to recreate safely, responsibly, and locally this summer and to always treat fellow outdoor adventurers with respect. The campaign invites people to take the PLAY SMART * PLAY SAFE * PLAY LOCAL pledge, and promise to use common sense to protect themselves and others when enjoying the outdoors. During the State’s ongoing response to COVID-19, New Yorkers across the state want and need to get outside for a nature break, which is good for physical and mental health. The campaign and pledge include common-sense guidelines for smart and safe recreation, including incorporating social distancing and wearing a face mask, planning trips ahead, choosing a destination close to home because public restrooms and restaurants may not be open, and visiting at off-hours. The agencies are also encouraging New Yorkers to take the pledge and use the hashtag #PlaySmartPlaySafePlayLocal when sharing their outdoor adventures on social media.
Take the Pledge to PLAY SMART * PLAY SAFE * PLAY LOCAL: Enjoy the Outdoors Safely and Responsibly
- I pledge to respect the rules and do my part to keep parks, beaches, trails, boat launches, and other public spaces safe for everyone.
- I will stay local and close to home.
- I will maintain a safe distance from others outside of my household.
- I will wear a mask when I cannot maintain social distancing.
- I accept that this summer, I may have to adjust how I enjoy the outdoors to help keep myself and others healthy and safe, even if it means changing my plans to visit a public space.
- I will be respectful of others by letting them pass by me if needed on a trail and keeping my blanket ten feet apart from others on the beach.
- I will move quickly through shared areas like parking lots, trailheads, and scenic areas to avoid crowding.
- If I’m not feeling well, I will stay home.
New Yorkers are strongly advised to plan their outdoor adventures ahead of time and choose alternate destinations if their first choice is closed or crowded. Check parks.ny.gov and 511ny.org for park capacity closure alerts and visit the DECinfo locator to find the nearest DEC-managed lands. DEC and State Parks websites also feature guidelines to help New Yorkers safely engage in outdoor activities including swimming, hunting, fishing, boating, golf, and hiking. Indoor spaces and restrooms at State Parks and DEC public facilities may remain closed out of an abundance of caution to prevent community spread of COVID-19, so New Yorkers are encouraged to stay local, within their region, and use the #RecreateLocal hashtag on social media.