New York officials are asking hikers to temporarily avoid trails in the Adirondack High Peaks because of muddy conditions.
Yesterday, New York Department of Environmental Conservation officials announced their annual trail advisory asking people to avoid using trails above 2,500 feet until the trails have dried and hardened. Heavy hiker traffic on these sensitive trails while muddy can cause significant damage.
Officials said north-facing trails have retained snow and ice late into the season this year. As snow and ice continue to melt at high elevations, steep trails pose a danger to hikers, thin soils are susceptible to erosion, and sensitive alpine vegetation is easily damaged.
Despite recent warm weather, high-elevation backcountry 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 adjacent rotten snow is particularly prone to postholing. Hikers can severely damage trail treads as they struggle to gain traction on loose, saturated soils. Hiking off the compacted snow impacts vulnerable trailside soils and easily damages sensitive alpine vegetation. Avoiding high-elevation trails during the Muddy Trail Advisory helps to alleviate impacts to the trail tread and adjacent areas and minimizes trail widening.
DEC encourages hikers to help minimize damage to hiking trails and alpine vegetation by avoiding trails above 2,500 feet, particularly high elevation trails in the Giant and High Peaks Wilderness areas, including the former Dix Mountain Area in the northern Adirondacks. Hikers are asked to 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.
- Sentinel Range Wilderness – all trails above 2,500 feet where wet, muddy, snowy conditions still prevail, specifically Pitchoff Mountain.
DEC urges hikers to postpone higher elevation hikes until further notice to protect our Adirondack trail system. Until conditions improve, hikers are encouraged to explore lower elevation trails close to home and enjoy other forms of recreation such as paddling and fishing. If hikers do encounter mud on trails, they should hike through mud instead of around it to help reduce trail widening and minimize damage to trailside vegetation.