Hikers Should Avoid High Elevation Trails in the Adirondacks During Mud Season
With the start of a new spring season of Adirondack hiking and recreation on public lands, hikers are anxious to climb mountains before blackflies and other biting insects become prevalent.
Special regulations apply to higher elevation hiking trails, especially those in the High Peaks Wilderness area. As warmer temperatures melt months of accumulated snow and ice, trails can become soft and slick - so extra precaution is needed when planning an early spring hiking expedition. Avoid trails with soft snow cover to limit environmental damage and "post-holing," which can lead to leg and ankle injuries.
Hikers are advised to only use trails at lower elevations during the spring mud season, to avoid damaging natural resources and promote safety by reviewing Adirondack hiking guidelines. Lower trails usually dry soon after snowmelt and are on less erosive soils than the higher peaks. The best thing a hiker can do for the high elevation trails and plant communities is to postpone taking any hikes on trails above 3,000 feet until mid-June when the trails have dried and hardened.
High elevation trails in the Dix, Giant, and High Peaks Wilderness Areas of the northern Adirondacks are particularly vulnerable.
Adirondack Areas to Avoid in Spring:
- High Peaks Wilderness Area - all trails above 3,000 feet; 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 John Brook Lodge, Range Trail, Skylight, Wright and all "trail-less" peaks.
- Dix Mtn. Wilderness Area - all trails above Elk Lake and Round Pond
- Giant Mtn. Wilderness Area - all trails above Giant's Washbowl, "the Cobbles," and Owls Head.
Lower elevation alternatives are available to hike during the spring months while you await the high elevation trails to dry out.
Best Adirondack Spring Hiking Areas:
- Debar Mountain Wild Forest: Azure Mountain
- Giant Mt. Wilderness: Giant's Washbowl and Roaring Brook Falls
- High Peaks Wilderness: Ampersand Mountain, Cascade Mountain, Big Slide, the Brothers, and Porter Mountain from Cascade Mountain - avoid all other approaches
- Hurricane Primitive Area: The Crows and Hurricane Mountain from Route 9N
- McKenzie Mountain Wilderness: Haystack Mountain and McKenzie Mountain
- Pharaoh Lake Wilderness Area: Pharaoh Mountain
- Saranac Lakes Wild Forest: Baker Mountain, Panther Mountain, and Scarface Mountain
Check the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) website contains additional information on Trail conditions in the Adirondacks or you may contact the DEC Forest Rangers at 518- 897-1300. In case of emergencies, the New York State DEC Forest Rangers' number for District 5, which includes five Adirondack counties: Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, and Warren, is (518) 897-1200. Lewis and St, Lawrence counties are located in District 6 and the emergency number is (315) 785-2239.
In the spring, temperatures and conditions can change suddenly, so be prepared for extreme weather, including snow storms, thunderstorms, rain, and wind. The National Weather Service in Burlington offers a special weather forecast for elevations over 3,000 feet.
Remember when hiking in wet and muddy conditions to wear waterproof footwear and gaiters and walk through - not around - mud and water on trails. This will avoid unnecessary trampling of vegetation and widening of trails through erosion.
Suggested Adirondack Spring Hiking Gear:
- Crampons or Yak Traks
- Trekking Poles
- Warm clothes (even if the weather is fair)
- Comfortable, sturdy shoes or hiking boots
- Wool or blend socks
- Extra food
- Bug spray and sunscreen
- Compass/maps for back-country treks
- Knife/multipurpose tool
- First aid kit
- Waterproof matches or a lighter