This weekly report of outdoor recreation conditions in the Adirondacks is issued each Thursday afternoon and can be heard at North Country Public Radio on Friday mornings.
Sunrise Saturday in Lake Placid will be at 7:24 am; sunset at 4:51 pm, providing 9 hours and 27 minutes of sunlight. The Moon will rise at 1:41 am Saturday and set at 12:19 pm; it will be Waning Crescent, 34% illuminated.
WINTER CONDITIONS: This week saw a few inches of wet snow before another warming into the 40s with rain and mixed precipitation. Currently rain and warm temperatures have created a mix of soft snow and some open, snowless areas at lower elevations, with icy trail conditions and deep snow at higher elevations and off trail, and several feet on and near summits. Rain and melting snow has resulted in some difficult stream crossings, and open drainages. This weekend expect cooler daytime weather, mostly in the upper 20s and 30s to near or just above 40, with a mix of sun and clouds, a chance of spotty snow or rain showers, and nighttime lows in the single digits and teens to near 20 in mountain valleys. Expect summit daytime temperatures mostly in the 20s to near 30, and daytime wind chills on summits in the teens and 20s. Look for another a major storm, which could bring heavy rain or snow Monday-Tuesday.
HAZARDOUS WEATHER MON-TUES, HIGHER WATERS: A large coastal storm could bring significant precipitation to a good portion of the Adirondack area Monday and Tuesday. There is still uncertainty regarding the type of precipitation, with excessive rainfall somewhat more probable than significant snowfall. Monitor the forecast through the weekend. Forecasts Thursday did not show any flooding on area rivers and streams, although some river rises, are likely to occur, possibly some significant rises and ice jam flooding on smaller streams.
SNOWSHOES OR SKIS REQUIRED: Snowshoes or skies are required in the High Peaks Wilderness and strongly encouraged wherever snow depths exceed eight inches. The use of snowshoes prevents “post-holing” (leaving deep footprints in the snow), avoid injuries, and ease travel on snow-covered trails. Post-holing makes trails more difficult and more hazardous for others to use.
BE PREPARED! Always carry proper safety equipment – including plenty of food, water, extra clothing, a flashlight, and a map and compass – inform someone of your itinerary, and be prepared to spend an unplanned night in well below freezing temperatures in an emergency. Just before entering the backcountry or launching check the latest weather forecasts for the Adirondack region at Burlington and Albany and the High Elevation, Recreation, or Lake Champlain forecasts.
SNOW DEPTH: On Tuesday much of the area picked up 3 to 4 inches of snow, but warm weather and rain Wednesday and Thursday reduced the snow pack this week. There is currently (on Thursday) about 6-12 inches on the ground across most of the region at lower elevations; 37 inches at the Lake Colden Caretaker’s Cabin (2,775 feet); and five feet or more at higher elevations.
Approximate snow depths reported Thursday – expect some of these amounts to increase according to the Lake Effect Snows noted above:
Tupper Lake – 6 inches
Gabriels – 3 inches
Paul Smiths – 10 inches
Saranac Lake – 9 inches
Lake Placid – 11 inches
Wilmington – 6 inches
Peru – 1 inch
Keene Valley – 5 inches
Lake Colden – 37 inches (2,775 feet)
Newcomb – 12 inches
Olmsteadville – 13 inches
Indian Lake – 10 inches
Raquette Lake – 4 inches
Inlet – 8 inches
Old Forge – 5 inches
Northville – 5 inches
Chestertown – 6 inches
Warrensburg – 6 inches
North Creek – 6 inches
Ticonderoga – 0-1 inches
Whitehall – 0 inch
DOWNHILL SKI REPORT: With a softening of the snowpack, grooming at downhill ski areas has produced very good conditions. Whiteface will have about 75% of their terrain open this weekend (though no slides or glades – see their uphill policy); Gore is expected to be operating with about 75% of their trails (no glades); Titus will have most of the lower and middle mountain areas open. McCauley near Old Forge will have about 75% of their trails open this weekend, as will Oak Mountain near Speculator. Hickory near Warrensburg has announced they will not open this season. Big Tupper has announced that it’s unlikely they will open this season.
CROSS-COUNTRY / BACK COUNTRY SKI CONDITIONS:All cross-country facilities will be open and grooming with good conditions being reported (the trails at Dewey Mountain have reopened). Back-country ski conditions everywhere are being described as variable, with difficult, thin, and icy sections. Skiing is too poor at Tupper Lake to be recommended, but Paul Smith’s trails are in very good shape. . With the softening of the snowpack this week, the best bet is to stick to smoother terrain, and traditional ski trails. The Newcomb Lake road remains in good condition as is the Marcy Truck Trail. The trail to Avalanche Pass from Marcy Dam is in good condition, but the trail between Avalanche Lake and Lake Colden has little to no snow. There are several feet of snow above 2,700 feet and Lake Colden and Avalanche Lake are being crossed, but have layered ice and snow; use caution near inlets and outlets. Ski conditions for the Eastern High Peaks, Tri-Lakes, and Paul Smith’s areas may be updated more recently here.
SNOWMOBILE REPORT: Where trails are open, mostly in the west, south central and south western Adirondacks, conditions are mostly fair to good, with the best conditions north and west of Route 28 in the Big Moose – Stillwater area. Elsewhere, and along popular trails and village trails, conditions are marginal to fair. Most trails have a 3-5 inch base, with wet areas, some running water, icy spots, and limited grooming. Lakes are covered in water and slush. St. Lawrence County trails are closed. Trails out of Indian Lake, Newcomb, Long Lake, and east of Raquette Lake and in Warren and Saratoga counties are icy, thin, and marginal in spots. Do not ride on closed trails. A new route is being built in North Hudson, across from the Frontier Town property through the Yogi Bear Campground and out to Johnson Pond Road.
AVOID CAVES WHERE BATS ARE PRESENT: DEC is urging the suspension of cave and mine sites that may serve as homes for bat hibernations at this time of year. Human disturbances are harmful to the State’s bat population since the arrival of the disease known as white-nose syndrome, which has killed more than 90 percent of bats at most hibernation sites in New York. All posted notices restricting the use of caves and mines should be followed. You encounter hibernating bats while underground at unposted sites, leave the area as quickly and quietly as possible. Anyone entering a northern long-eared bat hibernation site from October 1 through April 30, the typical period of hibernation for bats, may be subject to prosecution.
DROUGHT MONITOR: The U.S. Drought Monitor is reporting that the eastern half of the Adirondack Park is in a Long Term Moderate Drought (greater than six months), while the Abnormally Dry warning has been lifted for the western half of the Adirondack Park.
ICE ON WATERS: Aside larger lakes such as Lake George, Lake Champlain, and Schroon Lake, most of the region’s lakes and ponds are iced over, although many will be covered in water and slush. Some lakes have dangerously thin areas, that were open water last week, but now do not appear any different from surrounding thicker ice. Check the depth of ice frequently as you cross and use extra caution near channels, inlets, outlets, pressure ridges, and bubblers. Remember, ice that holds snow may not hold the weight of a person.
RIVERS AND STREAMS RISING: Rivers and streams around the Adirondacks are above normal levels for this time of year and expected to rise – especially with and after heavy precipitation forecast for Monday-Tuesday. Waters around the region are high enough to make some crossings more difficult. Before heading out check the streamgages on the USGS website for waters where you intend to recreate. The following stream gage readings were observed on Thursday afternoon. Stream gage readings may be affected by ice.
Moose River at McKeever – 4.59 feet
Raquette River at Piercefield – 6.17 feet
Ausable River at AuSable Forks – 1.99 feet
Hudson River at North Creek – 4.07 feet
Schroon River at Riverbank (Route 11) – 2.51 feet
Lake Champlain at Whitehall – 94.89 feet
DO NOT RELY ON TECHNOLOGY: Do not depend on electronic technology in the backcountry. Cell phone coverage is spotty at best and often non-existent. GPS signal can be poor under heavy tree cover. Batteries expire quickly in cold temperatures. Plan and prepare carefully before entering the backcountry and always carry a map and compass – and know how to use them.
KEEP DOGS LEASHED: Dogs must be leashed in the Eastern Zone of the High Peaks when on trails, at primitive tent sites, at lean-to sites, everywhere above 4,000 feet, or at other areas where the public congregates. It is recommended dogs be kept leashed for the safety of your dog, the protection of wildlife and rare plants, and out of courtesy to fellow hikers.
LEAVE NO TRACE / CARRY IN – CARRY OUT: Learn and practice the seven Leave No Trace principles. Carry out what you have carried in. Do not leave gear, food, or other unwanted or unneeded items at lean-tos and campsites. Do not litter. Take the free online Leave No Trace course here.
GROUP SIZE RESTRICTIONS: Large groups have significantly more impact on the trails, natural resources and other users. DEC regulation restricts group size in the High Peaks Wilderness to no more than 15 hikers (day users) or 8 campers (overnight users) and encourages this practice to be followed in other areas. Outside the High Peaks Wilderness, DEC regulation requires a temporary permit be issued to authorize organized events of more than twenty people; camping at the same location for more than three nights; or camping in groups of more than 10 people.
VOLUNTEER FOR TRAIL WORK: No matter what your sport, if you’re a trail user consider contributing your efforts to one of the many organizations dedicated to maintaining the region’s network of thousands of miles of trails.
RECENT CHANGES IN THE ADIRONDACK BACKCOUNTRY
These are recent changes (within the last two weeks) to outdoor recreation roads, trails and facilities around the Adirondacks.
** indicates new or recently revised items for this week.
HIGH PEAKS – LAKE PLACID REGION
Including Wilmington, Keene, Newcomb, Essex Chain
** Eastern High Peaks: Many drainages are now free of snow. Trail between Avalanche Lake and Lake Colden has little to no snow. River crossings south of Lake Colden have variable amounts of ice. Deep snow at higher elevations.
** Snowshoes Or Skis Required: Snowshoes or skies are required in the High Peaks Wilderness. Trails designated as Ski Trails can only be used by people wearing skis. Snowshoeing or walking on Ski Trails is prohibited. The use of snowshoes prevents “post-holing” (leaving deep footprints in the snow), avoid injuries, and ease travel on snow-covered trails. Post-holing makes trails more difficult and more hazardous for others to use.
** Lake Colden and Avalanche Lake: Lake Colden and Avalanche Lake are being crossed; use caution near inlets and outlets.
** South Meadow Lane: The lane is closed to public motor vehicle traffic until the end of spring mud season. Vehicles may park at the barrier at the intersection with the Adirondak Loj Road but should not block the opening to ensure emergency vehicles may access the lane. Respect other users and do not bare-boot / post-hole on this traditional ski route.
** Adirondack Loj Info Center: The Adirondack Mountain Club’s High Peaks Information Center (HPIC) has extended its closure for renovations into early February. Parking will not effected, but the flush toilets and shower facilities at the HPIC will not be available (Port-a-Johns will be available). The HPIC is operating 8 am to 4 pm daily out of a heated tent. Micro-spike and snowshoe rentals will be available along with information and some retail merchandise.
Lake Arnold/Feldspar Brook Trail: The trail is flooded and the bog bridging cannot be crossed. Alternate routes using other trails in the area can be used to avoid the trail. DEC is working to find a permanent solution to this section of trail in the near future.
Corey’s Road: Corey’s Road is open to the summer gate, however the town of Harrietstown does not plow the road beyond the bridge over Stony Creek. Plan accordingly. Do not park in the snowplow turnarounds.
Elk Lake Trails: The trails from the Elk Lake Trailhead through the privately-owned Elk Lake Easement Lands to High Peaks Wilderness and the Dix Mountain Wilderness are open but the Elk Lake Road is closed to public motor vehicle access beyond the Clear Pond Gate. The public may park in the parking area at the Clear Pond Gate and hike, ski, or snowshoe two miles to Elk Lake Trailhead.
Ouluska Brook Bridge: The bridge over Ouluska Brook on the Northville-Placid Trail has collapsed into the brook. Due to low water conditions crossing the brook is still possible.
Garden Trailhead Parking Area: The town of Keene operates the Garden Parking Area and charges a $7/day fee for parking. The attendant is no longer present at the parking area. Hikers should use an envelope and the collection slot to pay.
Cold River Bridge: Some boards are broken on the suspension bridge over the Cold River on the Northville-Placid Trail. Use caution when crossing.
Northville-Placid Trail: The Northville Placid Trail has rerouted around a beaver pond south of Plumley’s Point on the shores of Long Lake. The reroute passes the beaver pond higher up the slope and eliminates having to cross the beaver dam and the wet feet obtained when the water levels were high. Follow the Blue NPT trail markers.
Whiteface Landing Trail: Construction occurring on the State Route 86 Bridge over the West Branch Ausable River about three miles northeast of Lake Placid has limited parking near the bridge. Those accessing Whiteface Landing are discouraged from using the parking areas near the bridge.
Boreas Ponds Tract: The lower gate on the Gulf Brook Road near the Blue Ridge Road is closed and lock. Public motor vehicle use is prohibited until the end of the spring mud season. The Gulf Brook Road is not plowed. The five exterior parking lots along Blue Ridge Road and Elk Lake Road will be plowed.
Long Lake, Indian Lake, Fulton Chain, Speculator, West Canada Lakes
Blue Mountain Wild Forest/Township 19 Tract & Township 20 Tract Easement Lands: Gates are closed and public motor vehicle use is prohibited on O’Neil Flow, Pickwickett Pond, and Minerva Club Roads.
Moose River Plains: The Limekiln Lake Gate and the Cedar River Gate are open for snowmobiling. Conditions in the Moose River Plains are fair.
Seventh Lake Mountain Snowmobile Trail: Seventh Lake Mountain Snowmobile Trail is very muddy.
** Wakely Mountain Fire Tower: Wakely Mountain Fire Tower has been found to be structurally unsound and has been closed to the public until further notice.
Essex Chain Lakes: The portion of the Cornell Road that is a designated snowmobile trail is open to snowmobiles.
Stillwater Mountain Fire Tower: The Stillwater Mountain Fire Tower has reopened.
Perkins Clearing: The south entrance of Perkins Clearing Road is open and plowed to Mud Lake Road for log trucks and other vehicles and equipment related to ongoing logging operations. Snowmobilers can access Perkins Clearing from the south entrance via a trail bypass on the west side of the road.
Black River Wild forest: The third bridge on the Otter Lake – Brandy Lake Trail (approximately 1.5 miles from the trailhead on State Route 28) has been flooded by beaver activity. The bridge and the trail on either side of it are under nearly two feet of water.
Ha-De-Ron-Dah Wilderness: East Pond-Lost Creek Trail has been cleared of blowdown and vegetation has been cut back. Blackfoot Pond Trail off of the East-Pond Lost Creek Trail remains rough, grown in and may contain blowdown. The trail is difficult to follow at times. The sign at the junction of the trails is missing, the turn off to Blackfoot Pond is not readily marked or noticeable. DEC will be replace the sign soon.
East Stony Creek Trail: Hikers using the East Stony Creek Trail must park at the new trailhead parking area on Hope Falls Road and walk the 0.4 mile on the road to reach the East Stony Creek Trailhead. It is 5.1 miles from the new trailhead to Wilcox Lake and 6.0 miles from the new trailhead to the Harrisburg Road.
Tenant Creek Falls: A new trail has been built to Tenant Creek Falls from a new trailhead parking area on Hope Falls Road, 0.4 mile before the old trailhead. The old trail across private land is now closed. Hikers must use the new trail to Tenant Creek Falls and not trespass on private lands. The new trail is 0.9 mile from the new trailhead to the first falls, it is 2.1 miles to the second and third falls. The trail was constructed by an Adirondack Mountain Club Volunteer High School Group under DEC contract and direction. An ADA accessible outhouse at the new trailhead was constructed by DEC Northville Operations
Wilcox Lake Wild Forest: The Spruce Mountain Trail is open for public use. The cab of the Spruce Mountain Fire Tower is closed for the season as is the cab of the Hadley Mountain Fire Tower and the Hadley Mountain Observer’s Cabin.
Round Pond Snowmobile Trail: A section of the Round Pond Snowmobile Trail has been rerouted so that it no longer crosses Round Pond.
Sacandaga, Lake George, Champlain, Washington Co
** Ferries Closed For Season: The Fort Ticonderoga Ferry between Shoreham, Vermont and Ticonderoga and the Port Kent to Burlington Ferry have ended their seasons. Champlain crossings are available at the Champlain bridge, or the ferries from Essex to Charlotte; and from Plattsburgh to Grand Isle.
Lake George Village Boat Launch: The Lake George Boat Launch on Beach Road remains open to use by boaters. DEC does not plow the main parking area to protect the porous pavement. When snow depths increase or ice forms on the lake the gate will be shut and the launch will be closed. Ice anglers and others will be able to access the ice on the lake by parking in the auxiliary parking area on the south side of Beach Road. DEC will put up temporary fencing to create a path with packed snow from the parking area to the lake. Snowmobiles are prohibited in the main parking area outside of the fenced path as they will damage the porous pavement. Boaters, anglers, and others seeking to access the lake can call the DEC Warrensburg office at 518 623-1200 to learn whether the gate is open or closed.
Dacy Clearing Road – Lake George Wild Forest: Dacy Clearing Road is closed to motor vehicle traffic until the end of the spring mud season. The road is a designated snowmobile trail (S49E) but remains closed to snowmobiles until conditions improve.
Gay Pond Road – Lake George Wild Forest: Gay Pond Road is open, but the road is heavily rutted from illegal use by four-wheel drive vehicles during the snowmobile season. Only high clearance vehicles should be used to traverse the road and even those should be used with caution.
Siamese Ponds Wilderness: Two foot bridges have collapsed. The 55-foot bridge over the East Branch Sacandaga River on the Botheration Pond Loop Trail has collapsed and cannot be crossed. Do not attempt to scramble over it. During low water, rock hopping is possible. A 30-foot bridge on the Puffer Pond Trail over a tributary to the Thirteenth Lake south of the lake collapsed earlier this year and cannot be crossed.
Sable Highlands Conservation Easement Lands: A logging operation is using the C7 Snowmobile Trail (D&H) during the week.
** New North Hudson Snowmobile Trail: A new route is being built in North Hudson, across from the Frontier Town property through the Yogi Bear Campground and out to Johnson Pond Road.
Santa Clara, Tupper and Saranac Lakes, St. Regis, Lake Lila
Loon Lake Mountain Trail: The Loon Lake Mountain Trail has reopened for public use.
Kushaqua Tract Easement: The main gate next to the parking area and register box on the North Branch Road is closed and locked. Public motor vehicle use is prohibited on Hunter’s Camp Road and Mountain Pond Road until the end of spring mud season.
Madawaska Road – Santa Clara Tract Easement: Gates on Madawaska Road and Pinnacle Road are closed until the end of the spring mud season.
Independence River Wild Forest: A temporary bridge as been installed over Fourth Creek on the C8 Snowmobile Corridor in Three Lakes Conservation Easement in Herkimer County.
Black River Wild Forest: The bridge across the inlet to Little Woodhull Lake on the Little Woodhull Lake Trail is out. The stream may not be passable in times of high water. The third bridge on the Otter Lake – Brandy Lake Trail (approximately 1.5 miles from the trailhead on State Route 28) has been flooded by beaver activity. The bridge and the trail on either side of it are under nearly two feet of water. Nick’s Lake Outlet Trail to Remsen Falls may be rough and grown in. Nelson Lake Loop Trail has several blowdown trees. The gate at the end of the Wolf Lake Landing Road has been vandalized. Motor vehicle access beyond the gate is prohibited except by permit. Bear Lake Trail is wet and muddy for the first mile from the trailhead on Wolf Lake Landing Road. Chubb Pond Trail east from the new bridge over Gull Lake outlet is muddy to Buck Pond. Most blowdown has been cleared from the first two miles of Twin Lakes Trail from the Farr Road, the trail is in poor shape beyond to the marsh.
Fulton Chain Wild Forest: Safford Pond Trail is flooded by beaver activity near the Safford Pond Inlet. The Scenic Mountain (aka Vista) Trail contains several blown downs.
Ha-De-Ron-Dah Wilderness: Brown’s Tract Trail has been flooded by beavers between Tamarack lake and Bare Mountain, the trail is difficult to traverse. A culvert is washed out on the Big Otter Lake East Trail near Indian Brook. Also Big Otter Lake East Trail is flooded at South Inlet Flow but the trail remains passable. Moose River Mountain Trail has heavy blow down and is difficult to follow at times. Middle Settlement Lake Trail is flooded due to beaver activity between the Cedar Pond Trail and Middle Settlement Lake. East Pond-Lost Creek Trail between East Pond and the Big Otter Lake East Trail is rough, grown in and may contain blowdown. The trail is difficult to follow at times.
Stillwater Mountain: Stillwater Mountain Fire Tower and the trail to the summit of Stillwater Mountain are open for public use.
Otter Creek Horse Trail System: The Otter Creek Assembly Area is open for use but the water has been turned off for the season. Some horses will not cross the bridge over Otter Creek on Erie Canal Trail – they may ford the stream parallel to the bridge. The foot trail to Old Hotel campsite along the west side of Big Otter Lake is rutted from illegal vehicle use.
Pigeon Lake Wilderness: Approximately half of the Twitchell Lake Trail (7.5 miles to Beaver River Station) at the Twitchell Lake end has been cleared of blowdown. The bridge crossing over the Oswego Pond Outlet on the Twitchell Lake Trail has washed out. An old beaver den can be used to cross the outlet. Cascade Lake Trail is wet and very muddy on the north-west section of the trail around Cascade Lake. Be alert of trail reroutes. Chub Lake Trail between Constable Pond and Queer Lake Trail is rough and grown in.
Watson’s East: Bear Pond Road is open to public motor vehicle access as are all designated seasonal access road on the Croghan Tract and Oswegatchie Tract Easements. Access to the Oswegatchie Tract Easement via the Bryant Bridge Road is limited to those paddling on the easement lands. All others should use the Bald Mountain Road.
William C. Whitney Wilderness & Round Lake Wilderness: Whitney Headquarters, including the Forest Ranger’s office is closed for the winter. Contact the Forest Ranger at 518-505-4151.
Lake Lila Road: The gate has been closed and locked on the Lake Lila Road. Public motor vehicle use is prohibited until the end of the spring mud season. The public can hike, snowshoe, and ski on the road but is prohibited from trespassing on adjacent private lands.
Be sure to properly prepare and plan before entering the backcountry. Visit DEC’s Hiking Safety webpage and Adirondack Trail Information webpage for more information about where you intend to travel. Check the Adirondack Almanack Outdoor Conditions Reports each Thursday afternoon. A map of the Adirondack Park can be found here.
The NYS Trails Supporter Patch is available for $5 at all outlets where sporting licenses are sold, on-line and via telephone at 1-866-933-2257. Patch proceeds help maintain and enhance non-motorized trails throughout New York State.