Officials are asking hikers in New York to temporarily avoid high elevation trails and prepare for variable conditions in lower elevations.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) recently urged hikers to postpone hikes on Adirondack trails above 2,500 feet until high elevation trails have dried and hardened.
DEC officials say despite recent warm weather, high elevation trails above 2,500 feet 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. “Monorails,” narrow strips of ice and compacted snow at the center of trails, are difficult to hike and the adjacent rotten snow is particularly prone to postholing.
Officials advise hikers to avoid high elevation trails for the duration of the muddy trail advisory for several reasons: sliding boots destroy trail tread, damage surrounding vegetation, and erode thin soils to cause washouts; rotten snow and monorails are a safety hazard even with proper equipment; and high elevation and alpine vegetation are extremely fragile in spring months while starting regrowth after the winter.
Officials say hikers should avoid the following high elevation trails until trail conditions have dried and hardened:
- High Peaks Wilderness – all trails above 2,500 feet 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, specifically Whiteface, Esther, Moose and McKenzie Mountains;
- Sentinel Range Wilderness – all trails above 2,500 feet, specifically Pitchoff Mountain; and
- Jay Mountain Wilderness – specifically Jay Mountain.
Until conditions improve, hikers are encouraged to responsibly explore low elevation trails or enjoy other forms of recreation.
As for low elevation trails, officials say mud and variable conditions are prevalent across all trails in the Adirondacks. Hikers can encounter thick mud, flooding, ice, and deep slushy snow even on low-elevation trails. Hikers should be prepared to encounter these conditions and know how to reduce their impact to protect surrounding natural resources.
Hikers are advised to walk through the mud, slush, or water, and down the center of the trail. This helps to reduce erosion and trail widening and minimizes damage to trailside vegetation. Waterproof boots, gaiters, and trekking poles are recommended to safely and comfortably traverse these variable trail conditions.
The muddy trail advisory for high elevation trails can last into June as it sometimes takes that long for trails to dry and harden. The advisory may be lifted as soon as May for lower elevation trails. Hikers are advised to check the Adirondack Backcountry Information webpages for weekly updates on trail conditions, seasonal road closures, and general recreation information for the Adirondacks.
Visit the DEC website for a list of hikes found throughout the Adirondacks that are great alternatives to popular high elevation hikes during this time.