Sunday, December 15, 2019

Improvements On Tap For Popular High Peaks Trailhead

parking attendant at Heart Lake Program CenterADK (Adirondack Mountain Club) has been awarded a $66,000 Smart Growth grant by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to use towards improving parking and interpretive signage at one of the busiest trailheads in the Adirondacks.

Although it has always been a popular site for hikers, visitor numbers have skyrocketed over the last decade at the Heart Lake/Adirondac Loj trailheads, to over 100,000 annually.  ADK said the project will not expand beyond the current car capacity of the parking area.

The Heart Lake Program Center recently underwent multi-year development starting in 2018 that included a renovation of the High Peaks Information Center, the construction of an education yurt facility, and upgrades to the Wilderness Campground. ADK leaders say further infrastructure is needed to provide visitors with an experience that encourages education and stewardship while meeting the needs of increased visitor use.

The next step in this process is expected to involve redesigning the hiker parking lot complex and property signage to improve accessibility and the educational experience. The specifics of these changes are planned to follow a consultation phase.

The property is managed according to the Heart Lake Property Master Plan, an ADK document developed in 1993.

The improvements at Heart Lake compliment other major efforts to manage increased visitorship, including new facilities at Mount Van Hoevenberg and increased trail stewards at some of the most popular trailheads along the Route 73 corridor.

In the Southern High Peaks, the Open Space Institute recently announced improvements at Tahawus and the Upper Works Trailhead which provides access to the High Peaks from Newcomb.

Plans there include expanding the Upper Works Trailhead parking area; renovating the now stabilized MacNaughton Cottage, built in 1845; providing space for guide equipment; adding additional interpretive signage, and continuing preservation efforts at the blast furnace.  You can read more about OSI’s effort to increase High Peaks access from Newcomb at Adirondack Explorer.

Read about the history of the area here at Adirondack Almanack and learn what’s been happening over the last few years here.

More information about ADK is available on their website.

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13 Responses

  1. Eric Avery says:

    What’s the point if they aren’t adding more parking spaces?

    • William G Ott says:

      Well, I guess Eric, that $66,000 will buy a lot of no parking signs.

    • Boreas says:

      “What’s the point if they aren’t adding more parking spaces?”

      An improved visitor experience? Maybe they feel they have plenty of parking for the numbers of visitors they want to host. Looks like they made a lot of nice changes to the property according to their website.

      • Eric Avery says:

        We never asked for a hamburger counter. That thing is closed at 5am when everyone starts hiking. And it’s closed again at 6pm when everyone gets back to their car. All I see is space that could have been used to park seven or eight more cars taken up by a building that we never see open. We need more parking.

        • Balian the Cat says:

          “We” don’t need more parking, Eric. If seven or eight more spaces were added, they would be taken up and seven or eight more cars would park along a road or on the grass or somewhere else they didn’t belong. “We” the hiking community need to start behaving in a less selfish more resource protection based way. If there isn’t anywhere to park, there are probably more than enough people clogging up that area / trail for the day and “we” should do something else – even if it inconveniences “us.”

          • Eric Avery says:

            If you are concerned about environmental impact, just close the place during mud season. When the trails are dry it doesn’t matter if there are 100 hikers or 1,000. The only thing that limiting parking does is forces people to hack their way through the woods or create informal herd paths. Might as well give people a place to park and keep them on designated trails.

            • Balian the Cat says:

              I agree 100% with your mud season suggestion. I don’t disagree entirely with your other thoughts either – I am just not ready to default to the whole “people suck and will always make harmful choices so let them have whatever they want” position yet. I also think there are other wildland values to consider such as opportunities for solitude, etc.

              • Eric Avery says:

                If you want solitude you can go hike the NPT or the other 85% of the Adirondacks. The High Peaks haven’t offered solitude since WWII.

                • Balian the Cat says:

                  I have spent days without seeing other folks in the Dix Range, near Panther Gorge, along the Cold River…

                  I think it interesting that you dismiss one persons desired objective but claim absolute right to “more parking.” Last I looked, the HPW was a designated Wilderness area. The provision for opportunities for solitude is pretty plain in NYS Wilderness legislation. Harder to find the part where it says such lands will be managed for the maximum numbers we can cram into them.

          • Boreas says:


            I agree. And this huge parking lot is on private land. I imagine they could close it if they want – just like Ausable Club. ADK has a business that involves both lodging and camping. They aren’t solely in the parking business. There likely comes a point where too many people on the trails may detract from their lodgers’ and campers’ experience, and that is their bread and butter.

  2. Eric Avery says:

    All true but this is public money they are taking. It should be used to accommodate the general public and not just their lodgers (who have their own separate parking area).

    • Boreas says:


      It isn’t that we don’t understand your frustration, but private landowners have little obligation to the general public other than keeping them safe and happy when on their property. These landowners are responsible for the wise stewardship of their property and proper management of their business matters.

      My suggestion would be to contact via letter or in person both the ADK and Ausable Club and get their official stance and plans to address the crowded parking situation WRT their property. These institutions are as old as the Park and usually quite approachable if done so respectfully. Then pass on the information and let us all know!

      • Zephyr says:

        Limited parking is part of the solution to overcrowding in certain parts of the High Peaks. The State and ADK have no interest in exacerbating problems of overuse by expanding parking.

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