Wednesday, May 10, 2017

DEC Muddy Trail Advisory Urges Hikers To Stay Below 2,500 Feet

Mud Season Muddy Trail Adirondacks (Adirondack Mountain CLub Photo)The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is urging hikers to postpone hikes on trails above 2,500 feet in the Adirondacks until higher elevation trails have dried and hardened.

“Backcountry trails in the highest elevations are still covered in slowly melting ice and snow,” DEC announcement says. “Steep trails with thin soils can become a mix of ice and mud as the ice melts and frost leaves the ground, making the trails slippery and vulnerable to erosion by hikers.”

DEC asks hikers to help avoid damage to hiking trails and sensitive high elevation vegetation by avoiding trails above 2,500 feet, particularly high elevation trails in the Dix, Giant, and High Peaks Wilderness Areas, especially the following trails:

  • High Peaks Wilderness Area – 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 John Brook Lodge, Range Trail, Skylight, Wright, and all “trail-less” peaks.
  • Dix Mountain Wilderness Area – all trails above Elk Lake and Round Pond
  • Giant Mountain Wilderness Area – all trails above Giant’s Washbowl, “the Cobbles,” and Owls Head.

Hikers are advised to only use trails at lower elevations as these trails usually dry soon after snowmelt and traverse deeper, less erosive soils. DEC suggests the following alternative trails for hiking, subject to weather conditions:

  • High Peaks Wilderness:
    • Ampersand Mountain
    • Mt. VanHoevenberg
    • Mt. Jo
  • Giant Mt. Wilderness:
    • Giant’s Washbowl
    • Roaring Brook Falls
    • Owl’s Head Lookout
  • Hurricane Mountain Wilderness
    • The Crows
    • Hurricane Mountain from Rt 9N
  • Jay Mountain Wilderness
    • Jay Mountain
  • McKenzie Mt. Wilderness:
    • Baker Mountain
    • Haystack Mountain
    • McKenzie Mountain
  • Saranac Lakes Wild Forest:
    • Panther Mountain
    • Scarface Mountain
    • Floodwood Mountain

In keeping with the Leave No Trace principle of traveling and camping on durable surfaces, the Adirondack Mountain Club has been asking members to avoid hiking during mud season for several weeks. The Adirondack 46ers bylaws require members to follow DEC recommendations.

Be Prepared: 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. The Adirondack Almanack reports weekly Outdoor Conditions each Thursday afternoon.

Photo courtesy Adirondack Mountain Club.

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4 Responses

  1. Paul says:

    This is insane. Don’t advise – these people don’t listen look at the picture. Close the trails! The state calls this stewardship? This is what will no happen at places like the Essex chain and Boreas.

  2. Taras says:


    Closing trails isn’t the best solution. No more than closing a county road every spring because it was built on a flood plain and receives little or no annual maintenance. The long-term solution is to rebuild/reinforce that poorly designed and built road. An annual official advisory, or an outright closure, is just a stop-gap measure.

    Hopelessly wet and muddy trails don’t just happen in the spring. I can show you pictures taken in summer that look wetter and muddier than the one above. Even in the summer, after a spate of rain, some sections of trail quickly revert to standing pools of water and muck. It’s due to a poor choice of trail placement (an inescapable historical problem) or a lack of sufficient mitigation techniques, like run-off ditches, stepping stones, or boardwalks.

    Walking through the center of the muddy trail is the solution promoted by many hiking organizations (including the ADK Mtn Club). If you look closely (and have hiking poles) you can often find *something* to step on so you don’t sink enough to get stuck (but enough to get wet/dirty footwear).

    Not all hikers follow this advice but choose to skirt the perimeter of the puddle. This practice erodes the trail’s sides and widens it. They either create a “shoulder” or an outright new “bypass route”. Here’s an example of a shoulder created on the Weld Trail.

    The solution is a combination of trail-improvement and hiker education. A lot of work was done on the Avalanche Pass Trail last year but funding is tight, the work is hard and slow (no motorized equipment is allowed in Wilderness areas) and there are many miles of trail.

    As for hiker education, there’s very little done in that area beyond asking them to “stay below 2500 until the trails dry out”. That’s like telling motorists to avoid the annually flooded county road and drive elsewhere.

    • Paul says:

      There just isn’t a budget to properly maintain these trails. That leaves you with stop-gap measures. Just like we close most of the roads on conservation easement lands during mud season – it stops some of the problem. Not all of it. I agree there are places that have issues year round (some of that could be avoided by limiting the number of users). The bottom line – hikers should not be on these trails under these conditions. They cannot help themselves so a closure is the only way to limit some of the damage.

      • Travis says:

        How do you go about enforcing a closed trail though? State Forest Rangers already have their time and resources stretched.

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