This information is provided to ensure a safe and enjoyable Adirondack hiking and backcountry trip and lessen your impact on the environment.
Plan your trip carefully. Learn about the area ahead of time. Read the trail guide description of the hike you will be taking and review the appropriate topographic maps. Assess the difficulty and length of the time needed to complete the trip and check Adirondack weather reports before you set out. Dress and equip yourself for the expected conditions. Always carry the latest Adirondack hiking books and maps. Ensure you are aware of the Forest Preserve Regulations to avoid tickets and fines.
Guide to Adirondack Hiking
Never Hike Alone
Companions are for safety as well as for sharing the scenery and fun. Each person in the party should know what to do in an emergency. Forest rangers recommend a minimum party size of three persons. In case of an accident, at least one person should remain with the injured person while others in the group should carefully note the location and contact the local forest ranger.
File a Trip Plan
Let a responsible person at home know what kind of car you are driving (make, color, license plate number), what your route will be and how long you will be gone. Always sign in at the trail registers. If you do not return by the designated time, the DEC should be notified.
Carry water. Each person should carry a minimum of two quarts of water in an unbreakable bottle. Drink plenty of fluids during strenuous activity; especially in the winter and summer. Purify water. All water sources must be considered contaminated by giardia protozoan which can cause severe sickness including diarrhea. For longer hikes, pack iodine tablets or a water purifier/filter. Or bring water to a rolling boil on a portable stove for a full five minutes to kill contaminants. Use proper sanitation methods. Use a privy where one is provided.
Carry out what you carry in. Carry a garbage bag and consider picking up trash left by others. Leaving the forest cleaner than you found it is a gesture of good trail etiquette. Burial is not an acceptable method of disposal. Bury human wastes under four inches of soil at least 150 feet from the trail or any water source.
Wear Appropriate Clothing
Wear sturdy boots and appropriate clothing. Trail hiking differs considerably from walking on roads. The trails are often rough with rocks and exposed roots, and there are sections of trail which are wet and muddy most of the time. Good ankle-high boots can support your ankles, give you traction and keep your feet dry. Clothing should be loose fitting and give protection from wind, rain, and cold. Keep dry and warm. Be ready for wind and rain (or snow), pack rain and wind gear, gloves, and a hat. Know the signs of hypothermia. Avoid cotton clothing especially in fall, winter and spring hiking. Cotton has no insulating ability when wet and takes a long time to dry. Wear wool, polypropylene or poly-fleece for warmth. Pack sunscreen, insect repellent and/or a head net. A baseball hat, for the sun, and a long-sleeved shirt and light-weight nylon pants are a good idea during buggy seasons.
Pack a Map and Compass
Each person in the group should have both and know how to use them. Guidebook trail descriptions are useful for finding unmarked overlooks and for following poorly marked sections of trail. Stay oriented; know where you are. Summer trails can easily disappear under leaves and snow.
Pack a flashlight with extra batteries, a whistle, and waterproof matches. Even if it is only for a day trip! Sometimes a hike takes longer than expected, a flashlight provides the only means to get out of the woods after dark. If lost you can't shout for long, but a whistle can be blown almost indefinitely. The signal for help is three consecutive blasts on the whistle. A smoky fire is one of the best ways to let search and rescue teams know where you are. Pack a first aid kit that includes ace bandages (to support tired joints) and moleskin (for blisters). Bring a jackknife, space blanket, extra protective clothing and high energy food items. A waterproof tarp and 30 feet of nylon cord can be used to erect an emergency shelter.
Alpine Summits Deserve Your Respect
On alpine summits walk only on rocks and avoid trampling fragile alpine vegetation. Join in the effort to save the endangered alpine plants. Extreme wind and weather are common on open summits. Use caution and wear protective clothing.
Don't Disturb the Wildlife
Observe and enjoy wildlife and plant life but leave them undisturbed. Picking, collecting or damaging living plants and trees on public lands is against the law. Feeding wildlife encourages animals to rely on humans for food. This is not only unhealthy but also may potentially reduce their ability to find food on their own.
Forest Preserve regulations are intended to preserve the environment and protect the safety of the user. Failure to comply may result in a ticketed violation punishable by fine. For more information and details contact your nearest DEC office and obtain the following booklets: "Use of New York State's Public Forest Lands" and "Tips for Using State Lands."
150 Foot Rule
Camping within 150 feet of any road, trail, spring, stream or body of water except at camping areas designated by DEC is prohibited. Wash yourself and your dishes at least 150 feet from water sources. Bury human wastes under four inches of soil and leaf litter at least 150 feet from the trail or any water source.
DEC designates Adirondack backcountry campsites to keep use to previously disturbed areas, to mark locations where camping is acceptable, and to limit adverse impacts to resources and other campers. Designated sites are identified by DEC sign or disk. Outside of designated camping areas, backpackers may choose their own campsites provided they comply with the 150-foot rule noted above.
A permit is required if camping on state land in one location exceeding three consecutive nights or in a group of 10 or more (regardless of the length of stay). The number of people per campsite may be limited in certain areas to reduce environmental and social impacts. Free permits may be obtained from DEC forest rangers. However, no permit will be issued to anyone under the age of 18.
Do not count on lean-to availability
Occasionally lean-tos will be relocated or removed entirely. Often they are already occupied. A lean-to must be shared with anyone who wishes to use it, up to capacity. You may not occupy a lean-to for more than three consecutive nights unless you have a camping permit. Tents may not be set up inside lean-tos. No nails or other fasteners may be used to secure tarps or ropes to the lean-to.
Bicycles are permitted on existing trails and roads on forest preserve lands classified as Wild Forest; unless specifically prohibited by DEC sign due to environmental damage, user conflicts or safety concerns. Bicycles are prohibited on forest preserve lands classified as Wilderness. Many trails are designated for Adirondack biking.
Hunting and Fishing Licenses
Adirondack Hunting and fishing is permitted on forest preserve lands in the Park within specified seasons. The Adirondack Park is a patchwork of private and public lands, please respect posted property. Applications for resident and non-resident big game licenses are available from local licensing agents. Contact the DEC for the name and address of the nearest vendor. Adirondack Anglers under 16 years of age are not required to have a fishing license. For specific rules and regulations, limits, bait restrictions, maps and stocking lists contact any DEC office.
Pack a Tent
Don't depend on the availability of a lean-to. Tents also offer more protection from annoying insects.
Pack Extra Food
Bring at least one extra day's food supply for multi-day trips in case your hike takes longer than expected. Pack light. Your hike will be more enjoyable if you carry as light a backpack as possible without sacrificing safety items. Judge pack weight by physical condition and body weight.
Hang Your Food
Keep a clean camp and hang your food in a sturdy bag 12 or more feet above the ground and away from your campsite. Do not eat or store food in your tent. Small and large animals alike can ravage a campsite and equipment, bringing your trip to an abrupt halt. Do not underestimate bears and their desire for human food. They are clever, capable and motivated. Pack a portable stove. Do not count on building a campfire. Dead and down firewood is only permitted for use and will not always be available or dry. Nor is it an effective way to cook. Stoves do not scar the landscape as campfires do. Campfires are not permitted at elevations in excess of 4,000 feet and they may not be permitted in some areas because of dry weather, scarce firewood or environmental impact. If you must build a fire, use wood collected from the forest floor. Do not use standing dead wood since this is valuable habitat for Adirondack birds, insects, and small mammals.
Extinguish Fires Completely
Stir the ashes and pour plenty of water on the hot coals and embers before leaving the area. Never leave a campfire unattended. Campfires are a major cause of forest fires in the Adirondacks.
Hiking with Pets
Your pet should be under your control at all times. As trail use increases, the number of dogs hiking with their owners is increasing. Please exercise consideration toward fellow recreationists so that restrictive measures will not be necessary for the control of pets. Keep your dog quiet and remove droppings from the trail and campsite area. When others approach, particularly small children and other animals, leash your dog. Remember that others have no knowledge of your dog's temperament and they may react accordingly. Dogs are not allowed on trails within the Adirondack Mountain Reserve which is in the Ausable Lakes area.