Monday, July 17, 2017

Efforts Underway To Address Crowds In The High Peaks

hikers on Big Slide Mt on a prime autumn dayhikers on Big Slide Mt on a prime autumn day The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) owns land with trailheads for some of the most popular mountains in the High Peaks Wilderness, but you wouldn’t know that from their recent promotions on social media and traditional print publications. That’s because the club does not want to exacerbate overcrowding in the High Peaks.

Instead of encouraging people to climb Mount Marcy and Algonquin Peak, ADK is teaching people backcountry ethics, including Leave No Trace principles. “People are coming no matter what, so we don’t need to promote it, and what we need to promote is how to recreate responsibly,” said Julia Goren, ADK’s education director and summit-steward coordinator.

The education campaign is just one of several ways that ADK, the state Department of Environmental Conservation, and other organizations are addressing the overcrowding issue.

The number of hikers visiting the High Peaks has grown substantially in the past decade. As a result, parking lots have overflowed along Route 73, summits have become packed on holiday weekends, trails have seen more erosion, the number of search and rescues has risen, and litter and human waste has accumulated in high-congestion areas.

“I’ve been thinking about this and talking about the overuse issue pretty much nonstop since pretty much last fall,” Goren said. “And even though there’s definitely not a single answer, there’s a whole lot of people working on different various parts of the strategy, so that’s, I think, a really positive thing.”

For now, the Department of Environmental Conservation has decided that education, outreach, and redirecting hikers, not increased regulation, is the best way to deal with the problem. Education is being done through social media and partner projects with hiking clubs. However, many people believe DEC will have to take other steps if the crowding issue continues to escalate.

“The five-hundred-pound gorilla in the room that stakeholders whisper about is the prospect of implementing a permit system to finally regain control of usage,” Chuck Schwerin wrote in his article “A Search for Wilderness,” published this spring in the Adirondack Forty-Sixers magazine, Adirondack Peeks. “All agree the current situation is unsustainable. The parking problem, especially at trailheads on heavily trafficked roads like Route 73, is a public safety concern. DEC knows it. Community leaders know it. The DOT knows it.”

When the Adirondack Explorer asked DEC if it would implement new policies to manage the crowds in the High Peaks, spokeswoman Erica Ringewald replied that the department wants to give the public access to the Forest Preserve with minimal regulations. “As overuse becomes more of an issue, DEC will explore a variety of options to curtail overuse and damage to the environment,” she said.

One action DEC has taken is to create a five-person crew that will be based in the High Peaks. The crew will be replacing ladders and bridges, improving the trail in Avalanche Pass, and relocating campsites at Marcy Dam and near Lake Colden and the Flowed Lands.

On busy weekends, parking along Adirondak Loj Road — which ends at one of ADK’s lodges — has raised public-safety issues in the past. With cars lining both shoulders of the road, the driving corridor has sometimes narrowed to the point that emergency vehicles might have trouble getting through. At the request of DEC and ADK, the town of North Elba has put no-parking signs along one side of the road.

In response to increasing foot traffic on Cascade Mountain, the Adirondack Forty-Sixers will station volunteers at the trailhead on weekends (and possibly other times) to greet hikers, educate them on Leave No Trace principles, and perhaps redirect them to other trails. The Forty-Sixers also have resurrected their tradition of corresponding (now via email) with aspiring hikers to teach them about proper use of the mountains. In addition, information geared toward beginner hikers is available on the group’s website.

Cascade Mountain parking on Sunday, October 15, during Columbus Day weekend Cascade is perhaps the easiest High Peak to climb and one of the most popular. On summer weekends, cars often line both sides of Route 73 near the trailhead. Keene Supervisor Joe-Pete Wilson says DEC, local towns, and other organizations need to work together to address the problem. One idea, written about by Pete Nelson in the Adirondack Almanack, is to shuttle hikers to Cascade from parking areas at the nearby Mount Van Hoevenberg cross-country-ski center.

“I’m not against hikers and climbers. I want hikers and climbers,” Wilson said. “I’m saying lets manage things better. Let’s provide sensible ways to handle the traffic we have.”

Digital media have become essential tools in reaching hikers. The Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism (ROOST), which is based in Lake Placid, recently created a website that among other things provides updates on trail conditions and includes links to a DEC list of suggested hikes outside the High Peaks and ADK’s Leave No Trace page. The website allows hikers to sign up for email notices.

Organizations also are using Facebook Live to get the word out. In February, Forest Ranger Robbie Mecus took part in an interview on the popular Facebook page Aspiring Adirondack Forty-Sixers to answer questions and discuss High Peaks issues. Representatives of ADK and the Forty-Sixers also have done live presentations on Facebook. They are archived on the Aspiring Adirondack Forty-Sixers Facebook page.

In Late June, ROOST held an Adirondack Backcountry Social Media Summit to discuss overcrowding in the High Peaks and how to educate hikers on backcountry ethics. The summit was held in coordination with several area organizations, including DEC and ADK.

hiker finds a moment of solitude on Giant Mountain during a busy weekend Despite official concerns about crowding in the High Peaks, not all hikers think there is a problem. Indeed, many hikers have come to expect crowds on the more popular High Peaks.

Molly Heller, who hiked Giant Mountain over Memorial Day weekend, enjoys meeting fellow hikers on the trail. “It’s nice to meet other people from other places, and you bond with them over something that you love so much,” she said. “I think that is a little bit unique to the Adirondacks. You don’t really get that in the White mountains as much or other places.”

Sabrina Mongielo of Buffalo found about twenty people on top of Giant that same day. “Everyone up there was amazing,” she said. “Everybody up there was so friendly. I actually borrowed an icepack from somebody. They lent me an icepack. Everyone up there was sharing food, having summit beers together, sharing experiences, asking if this was their first hike, sharing patches, looking at everyone’s patches, taking pictures. It was a really cool experience. Everyone that hikes, all does it because they share a love for it, and everybody is very friendly, and very helpful.”

Sean Slattery of New Jersey, who was hiking with a half-dozen friends, said the crowds did not diminish his wilderness experience. “When you hike something it’s great to share it with other people,” he said. “What’s the point of doing something if no one else can hear about it or you can’t share it with someone else?”

Photos from above: Hikers on Big Slide Mt on a prime autumn day, courtesy Nancie Battaglia; Cascade Mountain parking on Sunday, October 15, during Columbus Day weekend; and Hiker on Giant Mountain, courtesy Mike Lynch.

A version of this story originally appeared in the Adirondack Explorer, a nonprofit newsmagazine devoted to the protection and enjoyment of the Adirondack Park. Get a full print or digital subscription here.

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Mike Lynch is a staff writer and photographer for the nonprofit Adirondack Explorer, the regional bimonthly news magazine with a focus on outdoor recreation and environmental issues. Mike’s favorite outdoor activities include paddling, hiking, fishing and backcountry skiing. In 2011, he paddled the 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail from Old Forge to Fort Kent, Maine. From 2007 until 2014, Mike worked as an outdoors writer and photographer for the Adirondack Daily Enterprise in Saranac Lake. Mike welcomes story ideas and can be reached at

96 Responses

  1. Paul says:

    There is a simple answer – limit the number of hikers.

    • Taras says:

      Not simple, simplistic … and complicated to enforce with numerous official trailheads, many more unofficial ones, hundreds of miles of trails, and a handful of AFRs and six rangers whose plates are already overflowing.

      Educate the hikers. It’s what been done in the past to correct other problems and can help with preserving trails as well.

      As for “crowding” that seems to irk armchair hikers more than those who hike in the Hike Peaks. It’s like complaining that Times Square on New Year’s Eve is overcrowded. You’ve (cherry)picked a popular spot at a very popular time.

      Visit the High Peaks on a Wednesday or outside of summer and leaf-peeping season and “overcrowding” will be far from mind.

      Spend money on upgrading the infrastructure (trails, trailhead parking) and educating hikers. In other words, invest in the resource and the market, not in a new layer of bureaucracy.

  2. JohnL says:

    Nice job Paul. This is probably the correct (and only) answer, but I’ll bet there are dozens more comments before we end up right back here.

  3. Jim S says:

    I think it will be a long shot for the state to get involved with limiting the number of hikers in the high peaks. They are actively looking at eroding the protections in place and building yurts and glamping facilities in what should be a large addition to the high peaks wilderness. The last thought in this administration is protection of natural assets.

  4. Frank says:

    It’s time for a permit system just like the back country in Yellowstone.

    • Justin Farrell says:

      Hiker/camper permits or cards to access high-use areas & trailheads, with stiff penalties for violators.

      • Jeff Miller says:

        Stiff penalties for violators? Oh the mirth for people wanting to get away from their televisions and actually do something with this free world that God gave us…

        • Bruce says:


          So Jeff, what would you suggest? I agree stiff penalties is a bit out there, but part of the reason for permits is so authorities know who’s out there and where to start looking for them if need be, just like trail logs, but trail logs don’t limit users.

        • Justin Farrell says:

          Yeah, what’s wrong with having to pay a hefty fine if you get caught violating a DEC regulation. If you don’t want to have to deal with a permit system for a high use area, there are countless other areas in the Adirondacks to visit that do not even come close to amount of use the eastern High Peaks region gets.

        • Ann says:

          To get away from tv all one needs is to turn it off. Nature is around us if we’d only notice.

  5. Ed says:

    Ok order to limit the number if hikers you need to limit and fully patrol access points and the backcountry, both of which are unreasonable. So yeah, good luck with that.

    • Frank says:

      What makes you think that’s so hard? Many people would abide by the rules because that’s what alot of people do. Second obviously you can’t patrol all the trails. Random checks fine some people will deter others. Word travels fast. Trail stewards can just radio back numbers. Ticket illegally parked cars. It’s not just a use issue on the trails someone is going to get hurt on 73.

  6. Jeff Miller says:

    Great article! I went on a hike recently with a party of 8. So yes, I am one of the overcrowding problem causers. We all practice good stewardship and never leave anything behind. I was appalled when I was told that we would have to pay $10 for a shuttle ride from Marcy Field to the trailhead. And that was per person per way. Do the math. $160 just to go hiking. If they’re going to turn it into a toll system like they did for the highway then I no longer am interested in hiking. I like to hike because it’s cheap and fun but I will just go to the Catskills or New Jersey or the White Mountains or Vermont if it cost me more than $0 to go to the Adirondacks.

    • Jim S says:

      If you didn’t take the shuttle you could have hiked farther. You paid money to hike less.

    • CWillett says:

      I am sure that a lot of people are of the same mind regarding fees. Therefore, any fee (to park or access the trailheads in question) would likely be very effective in reducing the number of hikers.

    • Justin Farrell says:

      Jeff, not sure if you’re aware bro, but there are countless other rewarding areas to hike in the Adirondacks besides the overly crowded High Peaks region.

    • Joe Pete Wilson, Supervisor, Town of Keene says:


      You exaggerate the price of a ticket for the shuttle. It is $10 per person and that is a round trip ticket. That money goes toward operating the shuttle, maintaining the parking lots, providing portapotties, and managing the whole system. The last part of the road to the Garden and a small portion of the parking lot is on private property. The Town of Keene and the DEC work in partnership with the private landowners to keep this trailhead open to you. The shuttle runs to provide access and prevent parking on the residential streets leading to the Garden. The land is free, but access, roads, and amenities cost money. You bring to mind the type of hiker who believes everything is there to meet their needs so they park on the street and block someone’s driveway and throw their garbage in the portapotties because they can’t be bothered to pack it the rest of the way out. How do we manage that behavior?

      • Jeff Miller says:

        Joe… You never met me but you associate me with a littering, careless hiker. Not sure how you extrapolated that from my distaste of your excessive shuttle charges. Stick to facts and you’ll gain more favor to your way of thinking.

        • John Warren says:

          I think Joe Pete’s point was pretty clear. If you complain about paying $10 for a round-trip ride to the trailhead in order to prevent massive parking problems for residents, you obviously have little concern for the issues your use creates. It’s a logical step that you would also probably be one of those folks who applies your own criteria – “does this inconvenience me” – to the other important issues the Supervisor mentioned. You should recognize that your words and actions have meaning for others.

          • Jeff Miller says:

            Stick to issues and not to character bashing.

            • Joe Pete Wilson, Supervisor, Town of Keene says:


              I genuinely would like to hear your solutions. This is an issue the Town of Keene takes very seriously. How do we provide access and the roads, toilets, information centers, etc for the number of users we see every weekend? The state can’t foot the bill for everything. The taxpayers of Keene are paying for you to get to your hikes, park, and go to the bathroom. Charging $10 for a round trip shuttle ticket is one solution that takes the burden off the tax payers of Keene, doesn’t rely on state funds, and has a user paying for the service they need to do their hike. You are offended by my characterization of you and for that I apologize. However, when people make comments suggesting that the town is gouging them and preventing them from enjoying the wilderness, I am offended.

              Joe Pete Wilson
              Town of Keene

              • Jeff Miller says:

                Offense doesn’t get anyone anywhere.

                Hikers are your customers in many ways. They should be treated as such. Find ways to capitalize on them that provide more value than parking and you’ll have happy residents and happy hikers.

            • Jim S says:

              Some characters deserve a little bashing.

          • Joe Pete Wilson, Supervisor, Town of Keene says:

            Thank you John.

  7. Bill Obrien says:

    I love the Peaks and have not climbed one in 10 years because I want them left alone. I am avoiding the whole area because they are being destroyed by overuse. Permits and Parking fees are needed asap.

  8. Tanner says:

    OK, let’s get this out in the open. The ADK holds significant responsibility in creating this situation by promoting the whole 46er concept. It is not uncommon to encounter “46ers” who are rude, focused on attaining a number and could not care less about environmental ethics. Add to this the number of bushwackers who give no thought to trampling sensitive vegetation in their thrill seeking trips, and the destruction will continue.

    • Boreas says:

      “The ADK holds significant responsibility in creating this situation by promoting the whole 46er concept.”

      I don’t feel ADK ‘promotes” the 46r concept, but instead backcountry access and education. Demonize ADK if you will, but they allow a LOT of access to trailheads from their private land – and the responsibility that entails. You would be hard-pressed to find a private enterprise that works as well with both DEC and 46rs. They could shut down JBL and Loj amenities and let the state figure out where everyone wanting to access the HPW from the NE will park and defecate. But I do agree that ADK will likely be integral to the solution.

      • Paul says:

        “I don’t feel ADK ‘promotes” the 46r concept”.

        Really? Try typing into google “ADK and 46”.

        Your first hit is an ad:

        Adirondack 46 – Hike the Adirondack 46 with ADK –

        I disagree.

        • Boreas says:

          Read again Paul. 46r “concept”. Peak bagging to become a member of a club. Two different organization with two different agendas.

          • Paul says:

            I did. He didn’t say anything about a club he said the concept of bagging 46 peaks over 4000. Something that ADK is clearly promoting in those ads.

            Also, their property and lodges are close to the peaks with the worst problems.

            • Boreas says:


              ADK properties were fine for nearly a century and now they are the source of the problem? I don’t buy it. Just because they are at ground zero doesn’t mean they are the source of the problem. Of course they are going to promote their own product – easy HPW access. Are you suggesting they move out and give it to the state? We know what happens then.

              What do you suggest they do? Are you saying ADK should limit access to the HPW from their property? I would say they already do – they only have parking for so many cars. I was disappointed decades ago when they tripled the parking area. Certainly parking fees aren’t limiting use. Should they begin closing some of their parking areas? I am assuming there is some sort of NYS easement to the trailheads that keeps them from regulating or limiting access to those trailheads.

              I would guess that many newer HPW hikers who access these trails have no clue who the ADK is and have never visited their website other than trying to figure out where to park. I would also guess ADK would support any state programs (permits, licensing, etc.) to begin to throttle access to the HPW. I maintain that ADK currently does more than than NYS to educate hikers and restrict HPW overuse due to the holding capacity of their property.

        • Boreas says:

          For instance, go to the 46r website and see how much space they use extolling the virtues of other areas or water-bodies within the park. Of course the HPW is a critical part of ADK (since that is where their property lies), but it is not the only aspect of it, and not the only area they promote. Yes, they have a link to the 46rs on their website, but it is a link – I have never felt the ADK encouraged peak bagging – but focus more on education and safety if you do so. And I think most of us agree that peak-bagging, whether to join the 46rs or not, is a big part of the problem. If we can’t get people to explore other regions of the ADK Park, Tug Hill, and Catskills, we most likely are going to need some sort of licensing/permitting.

  9. Paul says:

    This additional social media attention, even aimed at educating climbers about the issue, will probably only make the problem even worse – make even more people aware of the opportunities and draw in more climbers.

    Even what we have here and that was apparently on the Explorer. People read this they are like cool “summit beers” – let’s go check this out!

  10. tom says:

    Constant talk of “wilderness” is getting old, there is more wilderness at a county fair than in the Adirondacks. The ADK and the DEC are to blame for the crowded conditions. It’s all about the dollar

    • Boreas says:

      “…there is more wilderness at a county fair than in the Adirondacks.”
      I would like to visit that county…

      • Paul says:

        Me too. But keg parties on summits? Pretty close.

        • Taras says:

          One infamous instance of a keg party. Statistically insignificant; let it go.

          The only thing to blame for the increasing popularity of the High Peaks is their beauty. All the high-powered marketing and social media buzz in the world won’t get people to head in droves to a destination that offers little tangible reward for their efforts.

          A challenge consisting of hiking to the 46 butt-ugliest places in the Adirondacks would only attract people who like eccentricity. Most new hikers want high bang-for-the-buck like Cascade, Giant, Algonquin, etc.

  11. Lakechamplain says:

    I thank Adirondack Explorer and its website here for the article and hope it continues to hammer away at this topic because the very nature of a wilderness hike is at stake. I too, a hiker of many decades, have bemoaned the constant increase in the number of hikers in the last 10 years especially, and have personally experienced the same, even as I have avoided the heart of the high peaks. But what to do?
    Up front, I attest that I can offer no ‘solution’ as to how to reduce or limit the number of people coming to this beautiful part of our state to hike in the mountains. A permit system sounds good but I don’t see how it would be effective. The National Parks have limited access where they can monitor access to certain areas. The Adirondacks are wide open with multiple ways into the park, and usually multiple trails to hiking the peaks and other areas. In this huge area of public lands and private lands how on earth could access, which a permit system would seem to need to work, be controlled or limited? And how do you enforce it? It would seem each trailhead would need to be monitored, should that be 24/7? And if you set up rules of use, then you need a system to deal with those who don’t obey the rules.
    The DEC has seen the number of Rangers dwindle in recent years; they’re already overburdened(and as noted more hikers has produced more lost & injured hikers for the rangers to deal with). I just don’t see how that would work.

    What I suggest not as a remedy but as one way to address the problems of overuse is to hire more trail crews to build more and better trails. Build and encourage the use of trails on the ‘non-high peaks’. The trails that the professional and volunteer crews of the DEC, the ADK Mt. Club and the 46ers sponsor have done great work making and modifying trails to better sustain the heavy usage they get, but they’re simply overwhelmed. No, this doesn’t solve the problem of overcrowding but perhaps distributes the masses of hikers over a bigger area. And most importantly this might deal with what, to me, is one of the biggest problems caused by the increase in hikers, the awful erosive effects of far too many ‘boots on the ground’. Simply put, the current trail system has reached and passed the saturation point of absorbing heavy traffic and ‘recovering’ in the off season(there is no off season any more).

    Hikers of the Adirondacks will probably always concentrate on the high peaks, but can this be lessened perhaps? Here’s where the 46ers can help. If they want to.
    This old 46er has observed the dramatic increase in new 46ers the last 5 years, and though their glossy magazine High Peeks had a good article on this issue this year, it still concluded that aside from trail stewards and ‘education’ there didn’t seem there was much that could be done. The 46ers are not going to be disbanded, but in a way they might rebrand. My first suggestion for them(I am a dues-paying member), is to abandon the fantasy of the so-called ‘trail-less peaks’ that are being heavily eroded by a plethora of herd paths, and ask the DEC to move to the top of their list for the trail crews to build modern new trails up these peaks to minimize the damage. Maybe a band aid, a drop in the bucket, but at least a signal that the 46ers acknowledge that they are part of the problem.

    Sorry for the long rant, but we’re at a critical tipping point in trying to maintain what we want the Adirondack Mts. to be for current and future hikers.

    • Taras says:

      I agree with 95% of what you said except for this:

      “… abandon the fantasy of the so-called ‘trail-less peaks’ that are being heavily eroded by a plethora of herd paths …”

      There’s no “plethora of herd-paths”. Based on dozens of trips over the past 7 years, the unmarked trails have continued to erode (as would be expected), with some more than others, but have *not* transformed into the plethora of braided herd-paths of the 90’s.

      I hike about 30 times a year (in all months) and believe the direct threat to trails is more nuanced than just sheer numbers. It’s how those increased numbers *misuse* the trail (out of ignorance).

      Uninformed hikers bypass mud, water, and anything beyond their skill-level. They walk along the trail’s edges, scouring them away and causing the trail to be needlessly widened. Trail crews, and volunteers like myself, brush-in the bypasses (using nearby dead and down wood) to discourage their use. Yes, exceptionally misguided individuals remove the brush so they can continue to use the bypasses and keep their footwear tidy.

      The behavior doesn’t stem from maliciousness but ignorance. When I meet hikers using bypasses I explain why it’s detrimental to the trail’s health. The vast majority are completely unaware of it and all have appreciated learning this finer point of being a responsible hiker. That’s why I support efforts to educate new hikers.

  12. Charlie S says:

    Isn’t it peculiar how the state spends all that money on advertising on tv and in the daily rags on Long Island and elsewhere’s to get people to ‘hike the Adirondack High Peaks’ and now because there’s too many people and damage there’s suggestions of the public now having to get permits and possibly pay while putting restrictions on what should be unlimited and free. As is often the case the five-hundred-pound gorilla in the room is the very entity that gets us in this mess in the first place…at least to some large degree anyway!

  13. adirondackjoe says:

    I don’t understand. If I want to hunt in the adk I need a hunting license and the course that goes with it. Fishing? I need a license. So why not a hiking Licence? Who would in in force it? The same people that check my hunting and fishing license every year.

    • Boreas says:

      Makes sense to me. It also can require a modicum of backcountry education of licensees.

    • John Warren says:

      The difference is that hunting and fishing is taking publicly owned property – the state’s wildlife. Hiking is not a taking.

      • Justin Farrell says:

        No not taking, but definitely a significant hunan impact on public resources.

      • Boreas says:

        Those were just the two examples given. “Taking” of fish & game is allowed with a license, but not a requirement – however a license is required for the activity. There are plenty of other NYS professional licenses to show a person has the minimum educational requirements do something that could potentially cause harm. Minimizing harm to the most sensitive areas of the park seems like a worthy reason for certification, as well as a potential source of revenue for enforcement, parking upgrades, and trail maintenance. .

  14. Paul says:

    That is true about hunting and fishing if you are successful. But you need a permit/license to camp at a campsite on the saranac islands (one of many examples)- not really taking anything but a spot for the night. I don’t think we need a license but a permit would control numbers.

  15. Lakechamplain says:

    I’m enjoying the exchange of ideas here about possible solutions to the problem that’s not going away–our loving the Adks., especially the high peaks area. to death–and admitted in my previous post that I can’t think of an effective solution.

    Could some people offer their thoughts on how a permit system would/could work effectively? It’s the simple facts of easy and for now, unlimited access to these mountains and their trails, lakes, camping areas etc. that seem to make a permit system unworkable within some budgetary constraints. As one poster noted, the state has promoted tourism in this area while at the same time cutting the budgets relative to its care and usage.

    Think of all the different people and groups accessing the trails, vacationers from a good distance away, day trippers(like myself), people starting at a trailhead but ending at another and so on. How would the numbers of hikers for any certain trails or peaks be determined, much less monitored? Think of the Great Range Trail and all the different ways hikers access it. How are the areas the ADK Mt. Club and the AuSable Club ‘control’ going to fit into this mix? And again, if you establish rules of use and access then you have to have some kind of system in place to enforce those rules. Where does the money come from? Do you think the Rangers want to add this to their list of job requirements?

    Again, I don’t see how the current system can be sustained and how the trails themselves can withstand the increasing usage. Ideas are needed to be debated and to come up with hopeful solutions.

    • Taras says:

      Compared to the distant past, there’s far less litter on trails and treading on alpine vegetation. It wasn’t solved by culling the number of hikers through a permit system but by education.

      Similarly, other bad practices (unburied waste, treading on a trail’s edges, etc) ought to be remedied via education. Most of these actions stem from old-fashioned ignorance that responds well to a strong dose of learning.

      I’m pleased to see that efforts are already going in that direction. I wish the trail stewards success!

  16. Geogymn says:

    I hate giving the State more fee money that goes to the general fund but….
    Maybe have a one time hiking course, ala the hunting course, that grants you a lower cost annual hiking license, if you don’t take the course you pay more. Pointing your gun in a safe direction is vital, so is back country ethics.

    • Boreas says:

      “I hate giving the State more fee money that goes to the general fund but….”

      I would oppose that. It would make no sense – especially if it were limited to the HPW or even the ADK Park. This is a location-specific problem, so why should it go to the general fund?

      Another thought is to use licensing/permitting as an incentive, not a penalty. Perhaps NYS should restrict all use of the HPW so that it requires the hiker/party to be with a licensed guide leading perhaps a total of 6 hikers or campers/group. But if you go through a modest backcountry course and get a long-term license with a minimal annual charge to maintain the license, then you can hike without a guide in the HPW. You wouldn’t be a licensed guide, but could at least hike on your own or with a small group (6). But everyone in your group would need to be certified as well.

      Another option for the HPW would be a general license/permit for camping vs. day hiking, but I don’t think that would have much effect. The bulk of the problem are day-hikers with limited knowledge of the backcountry.

      • Paul says:

        I think he mentions the general fund because that is often how it works with the state. Money is allocated by the legislature they like that control. Also, I think the working concept here is that everybody in NYS should be paying for management and maintenance of things that we all own, not just those who are using it. But you can try and set up a dedicated fund. The NYS thruway is a good example – we were told that the tolls were to pay for the road and when it was paid for there would no longer be any tolls. We can see how that worked out. What is it, like the most expensive road system per mile in the US?

      • Geogymn says:

        Paul is correct in my intent. Fee collection always starts as a remedy to a specific cause but usually ends up as a contribution to the general fund. Hey, the politician’s cousin, I mean aide, has to eat too.

    • lakechamplain says:

      Just playing devil’s advocate here. What about vacationers who are coming for a visit? Does everyone in their family/group need this class to get ‘permitted’? I live in Clinton County and perhaps have more of a sense of this but a glance at license plates at trail heads will suffice; I’d estimate at least one quarter of Adirondack hikers are Canadiens; are they going to go through a process of getting permits that you envision? Perhaps an internet-type class? Will it be bi-lingual?
      Will the permits be for a one-time usage or a duration of time? The questions keep coming. Doesn’t mean it’s impossible or won’t work, just that it’s often more complicated than it seems.

      • Boreas says:

        Why should it matter where you are from or what language you speak? If it becomes a requirement, it is required. What I have always espoused is an internet-based system as you mention. Can be done on a smartphone in a parking lot if that’s all the more planning people want to put in to a trip to the HPW. Or just pay the fine if you get caught. Annual, 10 years – doesn’t really matter. It’s not like the minimal education requirements are going to change much.

  17. Paul says:

    People from Canada (or anywhere) that want to climb Katahdin in Maine need a permit. I waited several years to get one. Anyone who camps at a campsite at a Saranac Islands campsite needs a permit. You can get to those campsite from hundreds of different “trail heads” (basically from anywhere you have a boat) and it still works. Hundreds of sites and just a few guys patrolling it. Most people tend to follow the rules. Folks here who think you can’t control numbers via permits are ignoring all of the other examples that exist all over the place.

    • Taras says:

      The two examples aren’t comparable to the High Peaks.

      Baxter State Park is remote, well away from public roads, has two entry points, does more trail-hardening, has more staff, provides educational material upon entry, and even vets winter hikers. High Peaks can be accessed from over a dozen trailheads and any nearby public road, has limited staff, limited educational information, and vets no one.

      Saranac islands campsites is a campground reservation system. You’re getting a permit for a *fixed location*, not entry into a large area (the lake). It makes policing (comparatively speaking) easier than hikers who are in motion in a large area.

      To make the Saranac Islands comparable to the High Peaks, your camping permit would be checked by someone stationed at every official boat-launch on the lake and by someone checking boats on the lake who put-in from somewhere along the shore. That’s the magnitude of the policing proposition.

      • Boreas says:

        “The two examples aren’t comparable to the High Peaks.”

        What is?? It doesn’t mean it is impossible to implement. The situation is not going to be corrected by an easy solution, or it would have been done by now.

        • Taras says:

          It’s not an impossible solution but an improbable one owing to the extent of the infrastructure and policing needed to ensure effectiveness. In others, it’ll cost a lot of money and that’s something NYS has never showered on the High Peaks.

          It’s also an overreaction to the perceived problem(s). In response to the real problems of backcountry littering and treading on alpine vegetation, the solution was *not* to impose a permit system (or quotas or licenses) but to educate hikers. The results have been very positive. Change behavior through education, not through more bureaucracy.

          • Boreas says:

            So how do you force people to get an education? A simple certification or license that requires education. Permits and quotas are different from licenses, but you seem to lump them all together. Ultimately licenses should not be viewed as an attempt to reduce numbers or even generate profits, but rather to improve the education and ethics of those using the HPW – whether hiking, skiing, or paddling. It is a unique area requiring more than one unique solution. Licensing would only be one part of the solution.
            As I have said before, permitting and quotas require much more manpower to enforce. Licensing often relies more on people’s sense of honor and respect and fear of being caught without one (if required). Only occasional spot-checks of hunting and fishing licenses are enough to keep the vast majority of sportspeople buying them. But at this point in time, it is hard to say if the vast majority of HPW users have the preparedness and backcountry skills to hike safely. It would be an interesting study!

            • Taras says:


              I’m not opposed to the idea of a hiking license but I feel it’s an onerous solution.

              I frequently hike in the High Peaks and would have no issue getting a license. I imagine I’d have to read some educational material and possibly answer a few questions correctly before I qualified (otherwise, what’s the point of the license).

              On the other hand, a licensing system might be perceived as heavy-handed to a visiting family of hikers. “Sorry, you can’t hike to Marcy Dam until y’all get licenses. You should’ve applied in advance.”

              I can see how some may say this is an advantage because it acts as a filter. People who are willing to put a little time and effort into getting a license demonstrate they are conscientious and responsible. If you can’t be bothered to get a license, maybe the High Peaks are better off without you.

              Still seems like a burdensome requirement for walking in the woods but if it were to come true I’d also suggest a camping license. There’s far more to know about responsible backcountry camping than hiking.

              • Boreas says:


                I agree with camping being a big issue as well. Hunting licenses come in various forms with “add-ons” for different game. Some states have small game and big game licenses. Then there are waterfowl stamps. Trapping and fishing are yet other licenses. There could be a general hiking license with add-ons for HPW and HPW camping. Another could be for paddling, etc.

                Obviously the introduction of a license would require a learning curve and time for the public to be aware. The state could advertise it in various media as being protective of the environment. I would think within a year the word would be out. During that year other than egregious and/or multiple offenses, fines would be replaced with a warning.

                And again, accentuate the positives and make licensing an incentive – a “Gold” licensee could receive reduced parking fees, preferred parking, etc.. An incentive system could be implemented NYS decides licensing isn’t required, but only recommended. It would be a good way to ease the public into the program. Make it simply an incentive for 5 years then make it a requirement.

                There are numerous ways of implementing something like this. The first step is getting Albany to realize there is a problem up here. Perhaps the problem will ease when gas prices hit $5+/gallon again…

  18. Charlie S says:

    Geogymn says: “Maybe have a one time hiking course, ala the hunting course, that grants you a lower cost annual hiking license, if you don’t take the course you pay more. ”

    It seems to me this would be a penalty for those of us who are responsible hikers and who don’t need ‘Hiking 101’ to know what comes natural to them. It’s an absurd idea! Also it would go against the whole idea of “public” use which is free for all to utilize. When we start charging fees to hike on public lands we must know that something has gone terribly wrong. We may as well privatize the park!

    • JohnL says:

      Public use of highways requires a drivers license, a car registration, annual car inspections, gas taxes etc. Too, most prospective hunters have been taught by their parents and know how to handle firearms and hunt safely, but still have to take the ‘course’. Calling someone’s idea ‘absurd’ is not what this forum is about Charlie. Not that he needs me to stand up for him, but I think you owe Geogymn an apology,

    • Paul says:

      I agree with you on “hiking 101” – but it isn’t an absurd idea. No more than it is an absurd idea that someone doing some rock climbing maybe should get some help (and god forbid pay for it). Obviously, given the problems described here, not everyone is a natural like yourself. Maybe the folks that should be teaching them for free are not?

      Charlie is it always necessary to push it to the point where you insult people? Last week it was calling a guy narrow minded (like you could judge him from one comment!). You can disagree with someone – why do you have to insult them? Why do you think we can’t get anything done politically these days? Because people so quickly have to get personal, and usually not in a good way.

      Now for charging a fee. Is it alright to charge a fee for camping like we do in many places? Is it alright to charge for parking like ADK does at several trail heads? Should all that be free? Should a hikers boots be free? Using the air is free but I would like to see someone fly somewhere for free. When we fly somewhere the reason we all don’t crash into each other or crash all the time (rather than very rarely) is that we have to pay for everything it takes to make the system work. There is a problem here in the mountains and it is going to cost money to fix.

  19. Charlie S says:

    An apology? Insult? Please! You all are over-reacting guys, and you Paul……never mind. Absurd is most certainly the word for proposing that if I decide on a whim to go into the Adirondack woods and amble along a lonely quiet trail I am not allowed to do so unless I have a license. I am very much aware that society is changing and that things are never going to be what they used to be but a license to go into the Adirondack woods? It’s beyond absurd!

    “Calling someone’s idea ‘absurd’ is not what this forum is about Charlie.”
    So if I don’t agree I don’t belong here is what you’re saying?

    • JohnL says:

      I can’t recall saying you don’t belong Charlie. I thought I just said you were rude.

    • Boreas says:

      “… if I decide on a whim to go into the Adirondack woods and amble along a lonely quiet trail I am not allowed to do so unless I have a license.”

      Charlie, that isn’t what many of us are saying. Some of us are saying the licensing/permitting would be for the HPW only. General licensing/permitting on a statewide basis may not make as much sense. If you are never going to hike in the HPW, why would you need education on fragile alpine summits and safe waste disposal? Not all of the ideas presented necessarily involve all state lands.

      • Charlie S says:

        Okay so maybe we’re not talking about the whole Adirondacks as free reign for enacting permit usage but think about it…. If a family of three or four, or whatever, decides for the first time to drive to the Adirondack high peaks to experience a walk in that wilderness and they start on a trail what is going to happen? Is a ranger going to be there ready to turn this family away if they don’t have a permit? How are they going to enforce this and is it fair? I see there’s a problem here with over-usage and I’m as concerned as everyone else and I’m not sure of the correct way to go about this. I do know that the state spent a lot of money on advertising to get people to the High Peaks and now look what we have. All because a source of revenue is more important than preservation. It’s always this way because we’re not futuristic we’re near-sighted.Not that the state is totally to blame it’s a mix of things, it’s changing behavior, it’s technology….

        I can see where limited use would be necessary to protect fragile alpine plants and i’m all for eliminating crowds to protect species and it’s good there’s dialogue taking place and I hope the state works it out in a way that makes sense and is futuristic even if there’s inconvenience for humans who surely are pro at stepping on every thing that gets in their way!

        • Geogymn says:

          Reminds me of the time in 1977 when I hitchhiked from NY to the Grand Canyon with full pack. I wanted to spend a couple days exploring the canyon. Walked up to the trail head, Blue Angel if memory serves, and got denied a permit. I explained that I just hitched from NY to no avail. I was naive, I was bummed.

          I walked down and then back up with full pack, and it was heavy, because I didn’t have a permit to spend the night. That was in 1977!

          Yeah, so I am not a big fan of permits but I am willing to discuss it.

        • Boreas says:


          Signage entering Essex county on most major roads stating either licenses/permits or guides are required for hiking in the HPW. Similar information on every website dealing with the HPW. Businesses dealing with the hiking public could have signage. Word gets out. Perhaps stewards at the trailheads would be able to issue them or point the people to the proper place or website to get them. It isn’t like it would be implemented overnight without telling anyone.

          Yes, change is scary, but the only way to change a problem situation is to change something. Talking about the problem for 30 years hasn’t accomplished much.

  20. charles says:

    Doesn’t anyone else think that the “problem” could be solved by a parking ban on Route 73 and a toll gate on Adirondack Loj Road? Everyone is hiking Marcy, Cascade, Algonquin and Giant! The “problem” is limited to a handful of trails. The other 40 high peaks provide as much solitude as anyone could want.

  21. Geogymn says:

    I don’t need an apology, thanks for the suggestion though. I, like others, was just trying to have a civil discussion on how we might find a solution to the problem at hand.
    One who is on the extreme side of the spectrum might be a bit more visceral and spew forth nastiness but I like the passion about our common concern regarding the “woods”.
    What if one were to “decide on a whim to go into the Adirondack woods and amble along a lonely quiet trail”, and hunt a rabbit, “I am not allowed to do so unless I have a license”. That is correct.

    Yes you belong, we all belong. We are a brotherhood of the woods.

    • Charlie s says:

      That’s the spirit! A brotherhood! If we could only plant this seed into the minds that are in control of things, who have the power to sway in a generally good direction.

  22. adirondackjoe says:

    Well.put JohnL. And Charlie remember all the hunters and fishermen in the state who gladly pay for there licenses WITHOUT complaint (also into a general fund ) do zero damage to the environment compared to the damage done by ” high peaks hikers”.

    • Taras says:

      “compared to the damage done by high peaks hikers”

      Is this an opinion derived from firsthand observation?

      Comparing hunting to hiking requires a level playing field. First, introduce 50000 hunters annually into the same square mileage as the High Peaks, then let’s compare environmental impacts.

      • adirondackjoe says:

        That’s my point Taras. You would never get 5 hunters anywere near each other let alone 50000.

        • John Warren says:

          Hunters have killed-off several important species and disrupted many others, and anglers destroyed many pristine lakes and ponds with non-native and invasive species.

          It’s also ridiculous to pretend that hikers are not hunters and anglers.

          Everyone plays a part in environmental destruction – even your holiness.

  23. Charlie S says:

    We all do damage Joe and I wouldn’t go so far and say that hunters do zero damage, but I know what you mean by zero damage as I fit that category in the way you mean it…. I go out of my way to walk lightly in the woods. I go further. Evidently the ”high peaks hikers” are a nuisance and I’m all for eliminating that menace. We’re on the same page.

  24. adirondackjoe says:

    We agree. Thanks Charlie I hope we can find a solution. We all love the adirondacks. On a different subject, what’s going on with that giant mess of over development in Tupper Lake? I was shocked
    to learn that they bought the land. I thought it was bankrupt. Kind of off topic I know but I didn’t know who to ask and haven’t heard anything.

    • Paul says:

      Sounds like they paid their taxes and bought the land. I guess the rumors spreading around about them being bankrupt were just that a bunch of hooey. I am sure that everybody is happy about that.

    • Charlie S says:

      I assume you put a question to me on Tupper Lake. I don’t follow up on these matters I only come across them through the news or on this site.The latest thing I have heard on Tupper Lake was through a thread on this site July 4 where it mentions 650 homes are going to be built in Tupper Lake. I was quite surprised to read this as I did not know the project was approved. Nobody seems to be talking about it!

  25. Boreas says:

    These conversations regarding overuse and damage typically always split into three forks:
    1. People suggesting limitations like licensing or permitting in the HPW specifically to help preserve this area.
    2. People suggesting fees such as general state land-usage fees similar to hunting/fishing/trapping licenses. These are not specific to the HPW, but can support improved patrolling and maintenance of the HPW as well as other areas.
    3. People suggesting out-of-state usage fees to supplement revenue to help address the above problems.

    When the discussion comes up, these three options, and perhaps others, tend to weave in and out of the conversation making for an overwhelming amount of information, circular logic, and confusion. This confusion tends to dilute the ideas, making every idea seem unreasonable to someone else. But most of us seem to agree that some type of bold move needs to be done in the HPW.

    It would appear the only way to come up with a concrete plan is for a coalition consisting of private, public, and state concerns to be put together to address the problem and come up with both short-term and long-term solutions. One would think Mr. Seggos would be the person to put together this coalition and begin the process of hammering out a solution. Are you listening Mr. Seggos? Let’s put the yurts on hold for now and save the heart of the Adirondacks first.

    • Paul says:

      Seems like the comments here (and the story) had a number 4. Educate hikers on other places to go and hike in the Adirondacks and on how to do less damage than they are doing now. Personally I think we are way beyond that at this point. Look at the story Scott has here on ranger numbers. There is nobody to do the education. Even at a place like Katahdin that I mentioned yesterday they have strict limitations there, something that folks here think is a bad idea, and they still have issues. The issues are probably much less than they would have if it was a free-for-all like we allow in the HPW. I hope the folks that support the ideas of educate and try and convince people to spread are right and that is all we need since that is what it looks like all we are going to do but I am not optimistic. A bunch of people probably saw this story this week and are heading to the HPW to check it out this weekend. They will probably try that Cascade that was mentioned earlier that seems like a pretty easy one with a good view…

      • Taras says:

        “nobody to do the education”

        Summit stewards, and now trail stewards, are filling the ‘education void’ created by the paucity of AFRs and rangers. The stewards are sponsored by the same organizations who are purportedly responsible for the current alleged “overcrowding” situation.

        Once upon a time, it was considered a good thing to attract people to the great outdoors and appreciate the beauty of the natural world. Well, mission accomplished … and in a big way.

        Now is the time to step up educational efforts (and it’s happening). Teaching people to be responsible hikers is far from a new thing. When I began hiking in the late 70’s my first exposure to being a responsible hiker was the ADK Mtn Club’s “Mountain Manners” pamphlet (wonderfully illustrated by Trudy Healey). I learned what to wear, where to camp, how not to pollute land and water, how to bearproof my food, to avoid treading on alpine vegetation, and much more.

        Today we have the means to spread the word farther and faster than with a mere pamphlet. Social media is a double-edged sword. Nevertheless it can be a very effective tool for disseminating information.

        • Boreas says:


          I certainly agree with you on this point. I am likely aging myself here, but I received a lot of my education from Goofus & Gallant… Rather than strictly text-related signage at trailheads, perhaps Goofus and Gallant-like illustrated signage along the first 100 yds of trail would drive the point home better.

  26. Todd Eastman says:

    What actual behavior changes are expected to be gained from extensive education efforts and more signage?

    Are the crowds a real problem from an erosion and habitat disturbance perspective?

    As crowds are common in places like Japan, Nepal, Europe, might the issue be the American obsession with going to the woods to be alone, rather than the increased numbers?

    Could the shared experience of outdoor recreation provide enough positive social impacts that it outweighs the impacts from increased crowding?

    Is the crowding issue more of a parking management issue than a trail capacity problem?

    Do proponents of directing crowds from the already popular areas to the less crowded sections of the Park consider the impacts to those places?

    • Taras says:

      The increased volume of people (the co-called “crowds”) includes many who are new to hiking. They are unfamiliar with the extent, and duration, of their impacts.

      They only see “self-healing wilderness” and believe there’s little they can do to negatively affect it. They fail to realize they are but one of many thousands whose misdeeds whittle away at the backcountry.

      If they encounter mud, water, or a steep slab, they bypass it along the trail’s edges. Here’s a textbook example along the Weld Trail. There’s not a blessed thing wrong with walking on the durable rock surface but the uneducated have chosen to tread along the edge (which will erode away and needlessly expand the trail’s width).

      If they need to poop, they walk a few feet off-trail and leave a pile, decorated with TP. After all, it’s just one pile and will magically disappear ASAP, right? Or they walk a few feet off the summit and make a contribution to the many other piles found on Big Slide, Esther, Upper Wolf Jaw, Adams, Nippletop, etc.


      You’d think it was self-evident that one shouldn’t leave unburied waste or “drive on the soft shoulders” of trails. However, the backcountry has plenty of evidence showing it’s not apparent to all and so they ought to be taught how to behave responsibly.

      FWIW, I witnessed an example of this uninformed behavior. Last year, after hiking Cascade, I walked the short spur-trail to use the new outhouses located at the trail-head. I encountered a young child squatting and urinating a foot from the outhouse. I heard the mother speak to the child. Her voice wasn’t coming from inside the outhouse but from several yards away, off-trail, deeper in the woods.

  27. Paul Fekete says:

    It is great to see them manage the crowds at the Cascade Trailhead this past weekend. However, the Giant/Chapel Pond trailhead is just as busy. I was there this Sunday and there were over 200 cars on both sides of route 73. Cars were traveling at speeds as high as 60 mph as hikers and families with kids were trying to cross the road to hike Giant, Nubble, or visit Chapel Pond.
    There are more people crossing route 73 near Chapel Pond on any given day then in the entire village of Keene Valley and the speed limit is 55 mph. At the very least, the speed limit should be reduced to 45 mph from the Dix mountain trailhead to the roaring brook falls trailhead. The road is narrow with blind hills and curves so why does the speed limit need to be 55 mph through one if not the most scenic areas in the Adirondacks? Especially with pedestrians frequently walking alongside and crossing the road. Hopefully this will be addressed soon.

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