Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Viewpoint: State Facilitating Unlimited Access to High Peaks

It seems pretty clear at this point that the state agencies that manage the High Peaks Wilderness Area, and adjacent Wilderness areas, are not interested in limiting public use.

The state is investing in new parking areas, new hiking trails, and a new hiker transportation system that are all designed to facilitate ever-higher levels of public use in the High Peaks, not limit it.

Consider the change underway at Cascade Mountain.

The new and improved hiking trails that are under construction to the summits of Cascade and Porter mountains and to Mt. Van Hoevenberg will begin at a new trailhead in the Mt. Van Hoevenberg Winter Sports Complex, managed by the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA). Most of this facility is being rebuilt, and a significant part of this upgrade is the construction of nine acres of new parking lots that will hold around 1,500 vehicles.

In summer months, in the hiking season, these parking lots will be readily available to provide easy trailhead parking for hikes to Cascade, Porter and Mt. Van Hoevenberg. The new ORDA parking lots will more than triple the number of parking spaces that currently exist during peak use times at the current Cascade Mountain trailhead, when the small parking lots on Route 73 are full and intensive roadside parking lines both sides of the highway, creating a real public safety hazard. The new hiking trails under construction are explicitly designed to withstand the heavy public use that will be funneled through the new ORDA trailhead.

When the new trailhead opens for Cascade Mountain, and the old hiking trail off Route 73 and the associated parking areas are closed in 2021 or 2022, the state will have designed a system to facilitate nearly unlimited access to Cascade, Porter, and Mt. Van Hoevenberg mountains. According to the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) trailhead registration data, Cascade Mountain saw around 13,000 people sign-in at the register in 1994, which grew to over 34,000 and 35,000 people in 2016 and 2017, before modest efforts to reduce use were implemented.

Through the last 25 years, according to DEC trailhead register data, Mt. Van Hoevenberg saw over 4,000 people sign-in to hike the mountain at the trailhead at South Meadows. The new ORDA trailhead, and splendid new trail to the summit of Mt. Van Hoevenberg, will be half the length to the summit as the South Meadows trail, so it’s highly likely that hiker numbers on this mountain will explode. 1,500 cars could easily bring more than 2,000 hikers a day to Cascade/Porter and Mt. Van Hoevenberg.

Through these new facilities, the state is building a system to facilitate unlimited use at Cascade Mountain, the single most heavily hiked mountain in the High Peaks. The new trailhead will be equipped with restrooms, a shop with food, and a public information center of some kind. While these efforts may better educate and prepare hikers, they will likely also serve as further attractions to draw ever higher numbers. Once this new system is operational, will Cascade Mountain see its highest number of hikers ever? I’d take that bet.

Let’s look at public access to the High Peaks from the Adirondack Loj Road. There too, it appears, facilitating unlimited public use is the principal management objective. The current system includes parking for a fee at Adirondak Loj, which is run by the Adirondack Mountain Club. There is also ad hoc parking up and down the South Meadows Road and nearly unlimited roadside parking on the east side of Adirondak Loj Road, starting a few feet outside of the Loj property and running for miles along the roadside.

The trailhead register data showed about 41,000 people signed in at the Loj in 1994 and rose to a high of over 59,000 people signing-in at the register in 2017. Nearby, a steady number of over 6,000 people signed-in at the register to hike into Indian Pass. The Marcy Dam Truck Trail at the end of the South Meadow Road has seen fluctuating sign-in levels over the years, from a high of over 8,000 to a low of around 4,000, likely driven by irregular restrictions on roadside parking on the Loj Road.

The Loj Road is the principal access to Mount Marcy, Phelps, Colden, the Algonquin Range, Tabletop, among other High Peaks. This level of use of around 70,000 people each year entering the hiking trail complex accessed from various points along the Adirondak Loj Road does not seem poised to change. The 1999 High Peaks Unit Management Plan (UMP) called for the construction of a new parking lot near the South Meadows Road, but it was never built. The Town of North Elba at one time policed parking on the Loj Road but has abandoned these efforts in recent years.

Let’s look at the trailheads accessed in the Town of Keene, such as The Garden, and those along Route 73, from Rooster Comb to Round Pond (Dix Mountain). The DEC and Town of Keene have clamped down on roadside parking that used to spill out of the trailhead parking lots and line Route 73 for miles at Chapel Pond and Roaring Brook. If the lots were full in 2019 at Rooster Comb, Adirondack Mountain Reserve (AMR), Roaring Brook, Chapel Pond, and Round Pond, hikers were basically out of luck (de facto permits through first-come-first-served parking spaces). “No Parking” signs and parking tickets were issued to curb spillover roadside parking, and it mostly worked.

AMR operates a public parking lot on the south side of Route 73 across from the DEC Roaring Brook parking lot and trailhead to Giant Mountain. AMR provides access, through a state-owned conservation easement, to the mountains of The Great Range, Dial, Nippletop, Colvin and Blake, the trails around the Au Sable Lakes, among other destinations. The data for the AMR trailhead is good. Use there has more than doubled, jumping from 10,000 or so people signing-in in the mid-1990s, to over 25,000 people in recent years. AMR staff police their parking lot and inform the public when the lot is full, which on most summer days happens early.

Unfortunately, data for the Giant Mountain/Rocky Peak trail system, which includes four trailheads, is unreliable for historic purposes. In recent years, the combined trailhead sign-ins topped 24,000 people in 2016 and dropped to around 19,000 in 2018. About half of the access to Giant Mountain is through the Zander Scott Trailhead at Chapel Pond. Trailhead registration data for the Round Pond (Dix Mountain) and Rooster Comb is also incomplete with major gaps. The best guess is that Rooster Comb trail sees perhaps 4,000 to 6,000 hikers annually, and Round Pond sees 2,000 to 3,000 sign-ins.

For the last three years, the Town of Keene has operated a hiker shuttle to ferry hikers from Marcy Field to The Garden trailhead. This shuttle has been successful in its principal goal of alleviating problems caused by spillover roadside parking on local roads when The Garden parking lot was full. Trailhead registration data for The Garden is incomplete and has major gaps. Data from the 1990s seems intact, with use ranging from 14,000 to 18,000 registrations in those years. Recent data is unreliable but appears to show over 21,000 people signing-in in 2016 and dropping to the 16,000-17,000 level in the last few years. The unreliable status of The Garden data makes it difficult to assess the situation.

The Town of Keene counts shuttle riders. In 2017 and 2018 the Town of Keene ran a part-time shuttle, operating on weekends and holidays during the summer months. In 2017, the part-time shuttle ferried over 2,000 riders and in 2018 they counted over 1,600, but town officials say that number is low. In 2019, the shuttle expanded to seven days a week due to road construction that prevented public access to The Garden, and the shuttle ferried over 6,000 riders.

This year, Governor Cuomo has proposed $1.2 million in the new state budget for free shuttles that will operate 16 hours a day for seven days a week through the summer hiking season. These shuttles will complement the Town of Keene shuttle to The Garden and will ferry hikers from Marcy Field in Keene Valley, which has nearly unlimited parking, to trailheads all along Route 73.

The idea of the shuttles is that they will run for long hours to facilitate the high demand to hike in the High Peaks in Keene when all of the trailhead parking lots are full. Every hour, all summer long, a shuttle will drop hikers at trailheads, from Rooster Comb to Round Pond. Other shuttles may ferry hikers to Cascade/Porter.

Hikers who find the Route 73 parking lots full will experience some shuttle interruption in their hiking plans, but nevertheless will arrive at their desired trailhead after a delay of an hour or so. In this way, state plans will facilitate a higher level of public use on these hiking trails than was available last year.

The morning hiker rush will likely see the Route 73 parking lots filled, followed by hourly drops of additional hikers. The expanded shuttle system that is set to start this summer has the potential to boost hiker numbers at Rooster Comb, Giant Mountain, and AMR beyond anything recorded previously.

Nearby at Hurricane Mountain, historic data for trailhead registration is unreliable and has major gaps. The last few years appear more complete. Hurricane Mountain saw its main trail from Route 9N rebuilt in recent years. Spillover parking from the tiny parking lot on Route 9N appears to be tolerated by state and local officials as there are no “No Parking” signs near the trailhead. Recent years have seen 5,000 to 6,000 people signing-in at the trailhead, which appears to be a doubling of historic levels, but long-term trend data is suspect.

Like Hurricane Mountain, access points to other parts of the High Peaks Wilderness is facilitated by small parking lots and spillover roadside parking. This regularly happens at the trailheads to Ampersand Mountain, the Seward Range, and at Upper Works at Tahawus. Historic trailhead registration data for these trailheads are woeful. Data for Ampersand Mountain doesn’t really exist. The limited data from recent years shows 8,800 hikers signed-in in 2014, 9,900 in 2015, and 8,800 in 2018. Data for the Seward Range (Blueberry Trailhead parking area) is pretty poor too but shows 3,100 hikers signed-in in 2017 and 2,200 in 2018, but these numbers are questionable. Data for Upper Works are pretty good for the last 15 years, though 2017 is incomplete. Upper Works has seen registrations in the 5,000 to 6,000 range over the last several years. For all practical purposes, there are no limits to public access at any of these trailheads.

Only Elk Lake has real, hard limits to public access. The state conservation easement with the Elk Lake Reserve specifies public parking at three locations. Two parking lots facilitate access to the Dix Range, and one to Panther Gorge and Colvin and Blake mountains. When these parking areas are full, there is no other parking option. The dataset for the trailhead registrations at Elk Lake is poor, buts shows 3,700 sign-ins in 2015, 3,900 in 2016 and a drop to 2,700 in 2018. The Elk Lake parking lots are the only actual facilities that functionally place limits on public access currently in operation in the High Peaks Wilderness.

The DEC is in the process of managing a new public advisory committee for the High Peaks. Not since the High Peaks Advisory Committee of the 1980s and 1990s has there been a serious focus on High Peaks management. The 1999 UMP saw major reforms like banning campfires, bringing campsites into compliance with state rules, dog leash laws, and group size limits, which made additional measures for things like mandatory bear canisters possible. This new advisory body is Keene-centric, stocked mainly with Keene residents, as that community is on the front lines of management and public use conflicts for the High Peaks. The committee includes some vocal opponents of any form of a permit system, so it’s a good bet that any meaningful effort to manage public use through permits is effectively off the table.

Ironically, this committee was not involved in the initial planning for the new shuttle system set to go into operation this summer. The committee has not yet looked at the potential impacts from the new parking facilities that will provide unlimited access to Cascade Mountain and Mt. Van Hoevenberg. The committee has also not yet looked at any public access issues along the Adirondak Loj Road.

I certainly support an intensive focus on improving the management of the High Peaks Wilderness and associated Forest Preserve units. Yet, the profound disconnect between the committee’s work and major state construction projects and new programs designed to enhance public access that are already underway, should ring alarm bells. These new projects, some publicly vetted, some not, will shape long-term planning options for the High Peaks Wilderness for years to come.

Photo: 2020 High Peaks Shuttle.

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Peter Bauer is the Executive Director of Protect the Adirondacks. He has been working in various capacities on Adirondack Park environmental issues since the mid-1980s, including stints as the Executive Director of the Residents' Committee to Protect the Adirondacks and FUND for Lake George as well as on the staff of the Commission on the Adirondacks in the Twenty-First Century. He was the co-founder of the Adirondack Lake Assessment Program (ALAP) in 1998, which has collected long-term water quality data on more than 75 Adirondack lakes and ponds. He has testified before the State Legislature, successfully advocated to pass legislation and budget items, authored numerous articles, op-eds, and reports such as "20% in 2023: An Assessment of the New York State 30 by 30 Act" (2023), "The Adirondack Park and Rural America: Economic and Population Trends 1970-2010" (2019), "The Myth of Quiet, Motor-free Waters in the Adirondack Park" (2013), and "Rutted and Ruined: ATV Damage on the Adirondack Forest Preserve" (2003) and "Growth in the Adirondack Park: Analysis of Rates and Patterns of Development" (2001). He also worked at Adirondack Life Magazine. He served as Chair of the Town of Lake George Zoning Board of Appeals and has served on numerous advisory boards for management of the Adirondack Park and Forest Preserve. Peter lives in Blue Mountain Lake with his wife, has two grown children out in the world, and enjoys a wide variety of outdoor recreational activities throughout the Adirondacks, and is a member of the Blue Mountain Lake volunteer fire department.Follow Protect the Adirondacks on Facebook and Threads.

70 Responses

  1. Eric says:

    To most hikers there is not an “overuse” problem. There is a “parking” problem. The way you solve a parking problem is to add more parking. So I don’t see the problem here.

    • Boreas says:


      That is the crux of the problem and discussion – no one sees a problem with a convenient, crowded wilderness except a very few of us old farts who are getting in the way of paving the backcountry. I would venture many hikers today are unaware how and why the Adirondack Park came to be plopped in their lap for their enjoyment. It has “always” been there. Forever Wild? What is that?

      • Eric says:

        I’m often called an “old fart” myself. The woods look a lot better today than they did in the 70s and 80s. No more garbage pits at the lean tos and tent sites. In the 90s I used to carry a larger pack than I needed just to carry out other people’s trash. Today you can do a 20 mile loop through the HPs and not find so much as a snickers wrapper. My first couple of “rounds” through the 46 I did solo. The last couple I’ve done with friends and new acquaintances. To me, it’s a lot more enjoyable with friends and other people. If you want solitude there are plenty of places you can go. Some weekends I want solitude also. But I have never at any time expected to find it in the HPs on a gorgeous late summer Saturday. Maybe back in the 1940s it was like that? During the war? That I can’t tell you.

  2. Zephyr says:

    Local people and politicians do not want to limit access to the HPW–they are mainly worried about parking and traffic issues along Rt. 73. The governor and state officials listen first and foremost to local politicians, so the current emphasis on expanded parking and better access is understandable. This is a economic engine for the region. As pointed out, permits are not popular with either hikers or locals, and instead are being promoted by various environmental groups in order to limit use and raise revenue that some believe could be used to support trail maintenance. How about making it paid parking with the revenue dedicated to trail maintenance? No need for permits, just collect a parking fee during the busy periods.

  3. Boreas says:


    That pretty much says it all. The HPW is now a resource to be exploited, not conserved and protected. If an interstate highway here, a few ski centers there, and a network of snowmobile trails throughout the Park are considered acceptable exceptions to Article XIV for the sake of commerce, then why should we place any restrictions on the HPW? Change its classification to Intensive Use and manage it as such. Exploit the peaks as if they were timber. Let some other state or nation attempt to create and preserve some wilderness and solitude. We no longer have the backbone here to do it. We are too busy waging war on plastic bags. Wait and see – Article XIV and the Forever Wild clause will be next. “Forever Wild” – a quaint idea lost on New Yorkers today.

    • William G Ott says:

      My solution would be to level and pave all the peaks, with roads circling around and around to the top. Then we could drive all the way up and wave to our friends on the other peaks. If time allowed, we could peruse the photos in the kiosk to see how the mountains used to look before McDonald and Taco Bell split up the mountaintop franchises.

      • Eric says:

        This is the best example of the slippery slope logical fallacy that I have ever come across.

      • Boreas says:

        I think a zip-line between Colden and Algonquin would be cool. No trail erosion when you are zipping along at 30 mph 1000 feet in the air!

        We already have a drive-up peak. It works well and even has an elevator! I don’t even have an elevator in my house. But a stair lift isn’t far away….

  4. James Bullard says:

    Minor point but the new trail up VanHoevenburg isn’t shorter than the South Meadow approach unless they are planning a new new trail in addition to the new one opened a couple of Columbus days ago. That one is over a half-mile longer than the South Meadow approach.

    I’m one of the “old farts” who is concerned about the increased usage. Being a retired old fart I get around it by hiking early in the day mid-week but I realize that isn’t an option for most younger people. I’m also exploring a lot of the lesser peaks which are jsut a satisfying for less effort and I frequently have summits to myself.

    • Eric says:

      The new trail may not be shorter but it is certainly easier. On the new trail I kept waiting for the “up” but before it ever came I was on the summit. The old trail from south meadow was a lot of flat followed by one very abrupt “up”. You knew you were climbing on that one.

  5. Michael R Kennedy says:

    Be responsible and hike lesser used areas.

  6. Steve B. says:

    The article essentially states what has become obvious in that the State of NY does not want to limit visitor access in any wilderness (or any area for that matter). With that criteria, a permit system to limit access will not be instituted, no real point.

    The State then needs to step up to the plate and provide the funding and manpower to harden trails. Begs the question what kind of hardening is counter to the very idea of “Wilderness” and is there leeway in the existing definitions and requirements to install the type of hardening required to support the passage of thousands of hikers.

    And it still a wilderness when there are 1,000 people enjoying the view from Cascade on a nice October afternoon ?.

    Can a place be loved to death ?, looks like we will find out.

    • Boreas says:

      Steve B,

      It won’t be loved to “death”. Instead, it looks like it will be placed in a state of ongoing life-support by selecting for users that don’t mind crowded trails. Albany is essentially choosing the future users of the HPW by spoiling the wild aspect of the area in favor of encouraging the social aspect of it.

      For many, it has not been a destination for years because of the crowds during peak usage. The reason there are these peaks is because that is when people have free time and the weather is typically good. So people who are looking for solitude on their day(s) off (that they typically cannot change) either change their destination or change their hobby.

      • TheRick says:

        I can’t wait for all the boomers on here to just die already so we can stop hearing about “solitude”. GenX and Millenials get all the solitude they need at home playing video games and at work staring at a computer screen all day in a cube without interacting with anyone. The trail is our escape FROM solitude, not an escape to it. Often when I open my mouth to say hi to my friends at the trailhead it is the first words I’ve uttered to another human since leaving the trailhead the previous week. The woods are where we go to socialize and meet people. We already have too much solitude in town.

        • Suzanne says:

          Really? You go to the woods to socialize and meet people? There are lots of bars in town–check them out.

          • TheRick says:

            Walking into a busy bar is more scary to me than being bluff charged by a bear. I’ve done both. I’ll take the bear.

  7. Donald Sage says:

    the state needs to reopen the 300 plus roads it closed and disperse these visitors. Open all the roads, etc. to horse, motorized, and other uses. Restrict all forest preserve to the lands above 3,000 feet elevation and actively manage all 3,000 feet and below for wildlife habitat and all types of outdoor, year-round recreation.

  8. Glenn says:

    The Adirondack High Peak area is no
    longer a place to escape into the wilderness
    and enjoy the peace and solitude of the woods and mountains. It’s now overrun and over use is ruining it. It’s becoming just another theme park for people to party. It’s a shame that it is being allowed and from what I’ve read encouraged. So much for preservation. True nothing last forever.

    • Grace says:

      Its a shame other people are allowed to hike the high peaks that aren’t you?
      Why don’t you stay out and let other people enjoy it?

  9. Zephyr says:

    Too much gloom and doom in the comments. At the exact moment there is a crowd on Cascade you can be on the summit of another peak all by yourself, even in the High Peaks. In recent years my party have been the only ones at the top of Hurricane, Giant, and some of the lesser peaks like Lyon. On perfect summer days too! Certain trails at certain times are overused. Most of the HPW is in far better shape, especially the trails, than they were decades ago.

    • Boreas says:

      Yes, we have heard that a thousand times before. But you are talking about the past. The shuttles have yet to start. Think unlimited access during peak season will not change anything? Some of us are simply concerned for the future.

      • Eric says:

        Unlimited Access is what makes the Adirondacks a special place. The nightmare scenario is a Katahdin-style permit system, not more hikers.

        • Boreas says:

          Well, we will soon find out. Access has always supposedly been “limited” by DEC-determined parking lot size, but DEC has ignored the dramatic increase in usage until now. It has been a tool by DEC that largely has never been used. They apparently hoped the problem would go away. That plan didn’t work and parking just now is starting to be enforced and addressed with shuttles.

          Unlimited access via shuttles at most of these trailheads has never been tried here before. It remains to be seen how it will effect the trails and hiking experience when access limits are effectively removed. It will also remain to be seen how property owners that own trailhead easements view the shuttles that will pile even more users onto their property easements. If I was a private club, I wouldn’t be happy to see the increase making for crowded trails for my members. Will this entail easement/access changes on private property? Something to think about.

        • Steve Bailey says:

          Baxter is significantly different in that those rules were set in place as a condition for the land being deeded to the state by Percival Baxter. It could be argued that the park managers have been overzealous in interpreting those stipulations. OTOH, it’s likely more pristine that much of the ADK HPW, though I was surprised that while they don’t require permits for day hiking, (they do for camping at registration) and require AT thru hikers to have a permit. Not sure why the AT folks and not day hikers, possibly they limit access to day hikers (easy to do) when they feel there’s overcrowding. Not sure. Very strict rules for winter use but likely saves them a lot of time and trouble (and associated danger) rescuing ill prepared users.

  10. Ray Mainer says:

    There is a maintenance problem not an overuse problem. If you want to be alone there are plenty of places to go in the Adirondacks to go. In this age of Trump we need all the hikers we can get.

  11. Mal Provost says:

    Peter’s comments are thorough and intelligent as usual. They are also interminable, as usual. Does anyone talk to him about writing concisely?

    • Matthew says:

      I’ll admit I scrolled to the bottom to see if he offered a solution. He didn’t, unless you count NIMBY access limits a solution.

      Once more for the choir of landed gentry of the NY-73 corridor: we don’t have an overuse problem, we have an under management problem. There is plenty of wilderness out west that has higher usage rates than the Adirondacks. The difference is that they don’t require 18th century trail building methods and as a result, they can put down more than one mile of sustainable trail a year. Meanwhile, we’re still hiking straight up the fall line, but at least we’re doing it the same way the Marshall brothers did.

    • Tim-Brunswick says:


      You are on the money!….I use to be a reporter for a Capital District newspaper and all I could think of “trying” to read through his rambling article is…”will there be a point here?”

      Unbelievable baloney!

  12. Sherry says:

    Agree with Peter completely.

  13. Tony Goodwin says:

    It’s easy to complain about the obvious problems, but neither Peter Bauer nor any of the 21 comments that precede this one had any viable solutions. If you haven’t read it, check out the article about the talk this past Monday in Keene Valley by Pete Petengill, an individual with extensive experience managing increased use levels in Grand Canyon, Zion, and Acadia National Parks.

    If the new trail to Cascade is completed as planned, it will more than double the distance of the current trail while also adding over 400 feet of additional vertical climb – 200 of it on the return. We’ll see whether it retains it’s current popularity or whether the use just shifts somewhere else.
    The “prime” trailhead parking at Elk Lake is small, but there are lots near Clear Pond that only add two miles of easy walking to a hike. Access therefore isn’t really limited at that trailhead.
    And the new trail to Mt. Van Hoevenberg will be nearly as long as the current trail from Meadows Lane that is 2.2 mi. The new trail is 1.7 mi from the end of the outrun of the old bob run, but the actual start of hiking will be several 10ths of a mile further back.

    • Boreas says:

      Many solutions have been offered, but NONE will keep everyone happy. One solution is, and always has been, for DEC to do their appointed job and FIRST determine the holding capacity of each trail and size trailhead parking areas appropriately for that capacity – and enforce those parking limits. No need for permits, no need for shuttles, no need to change to classification to Intensive Use. Eliminating limits and encouraging usage BEFORE any capacity study is the exact opposite of DEC’s conservation responsibility and has no upside that I can see other than kicking a big can of worms down the road.

      Ultimately, if intensive use is the plan, then obviously the HPW ULMP will need to be changed accordingly to Intensive Use in order to harden and maintain the “trails” appropriately and allow quicker and safer S&R by Rangers. This wouldn’t be my first choice, but I prefer it to the idea of intense usage in a Wilderness Area with only non-motorized maintenance and patrolling to keep the trails safe and in good shape. Talk about hamstringing DEC.

      • TheRick says:

        Jesus dude “holding capacity”? You’re treating hikers as if they are deer or bears? Hikers are human beings man, there isn’t a “holding capacity”. What kind of babble is that? Are you going to rate each hiker’s style and grade them from A to F as far as how much impact they have? Are you going to let only a certain number of grade F hikers on trail until they improve their skills? Who determines the “holding capacity” at different times of year? Is it different during mud season than in the fall? Is it different on a rainy day than during a dry stretch? Who is the annointed one who will decide what the capacity is every day? When I see talk like this it scares the living crap out of me. Holding Capacity. Shaking my head.

    • Jack Drury says:

      I was at the Pete Petengill presentation. My takeaways are:
      1. Transportation isn’t going to solve your problems if you don’t deal with visitor capacity. We have a legislative responsibility to maintain a wild/wilderness character. Managers’ jobs is not to worry about visitor satisfaction but to manage as Wilderness.
      2. Having good data is essential. Adirondack Park data is woefully inadequate as Peter points out)
      3. We MUST educate regarding Wilderness ethics/values.
      4. There are some good opportunities to use technology and social media to be a positive force rather than contributing to the problem as it currently does.

  14. adkDreamer says:

    Ridiculous, just more fear mongering. Based upon the plethora of articles that appear in this forum, there is no plausible reason to worry about crowds, because the crowds simply won’t come on account of: Tick infestations carrying lyme and other diseases are going to explode, climate change is going to make the Adirondacks unattractive what with all those palm trees and palmettos to trip over, the Acid Rain redux coupled with road salt runoff will certainly make the lakes very unpopular for sport (no fish), oh and that darned sea level rise will certainly create a new archipelago of the 46 peaks so access will be quite restricted anyways. Well really none of that matters much because according to AOC we only have the balance of 12 years left on the planet anyways.

    • Bob Meyer says:

      Stop wasting our time with your idiotic political nonsense.

      • adkDreamer says:

        Who does ‘our time’ belong to anyways? Just you and your friends? Please tell everyone how you were elected entertainment blog spox for for this forum, I bet it is a great story filled with hyperbole. None of what I typed is in my imagination, you can find support for it in any number of news media outlets, and much of it here. None of it is political in any sense, just media.

        It is more than likely of little use to you that I painfully explain that my comment was meant to entertain, hence humor, sarcasm, etc, of which you are apparently in short supply.

    • Charlie S says:

      Though sarcasm may be your objective here adkDreamer there is much truism to what you say regardless!

  15. Scotty says:

    I think the right idea is to beef up the most popular trails and parking. Keep the crowds is a small area. Make them happy there. Manage it for crowds. The rest can be left alone. Don’t spread crowds everywhere.

    So that means shuttles and the rest. Keene Valley will get used to it.

    Yes, this may mean fussing with state land classifications.

  16. Steve says:

    As a downstater who enjoys the Adirondacks several times a year, I have to say that the mountains are lovely and people are eager to hike their trails (especially my teenage kid). Why make that difficult? First, as a keen environmentalist I want people to enjoy the outdoors and feel attached to and protect them. Second, I know it is an important source of economic activity, and rightly so. The whole parking situation up there is a terrible mess, with limited options and unsafe conditions. NYS is right to work to sort it out by adding facilities. I’d like to see adequate trailheads on the South and West of the HPs to complement the Keene area and ADK Loj centers. There remains plenty of solitude for those seeking it: I just spent a week skiing Siamese Ponds Wilderness and rarely saw anyone.

    • Steve says:

      You can access the South side of the peaks from the Tahawus trail head. The current parking lot can hold around 30 vehicles. If there is no room left in the parking lot, you can still park along the 2 lane road that dead ends at the parking lot.

  17. So if we just don’t allow people to use the High Peaks everything will be good. Or if we just limit how many people can use the Forest Preserve everything will be good. As long as Protect gets to say who the users are? Come on, the Preserve was purchased for use by the public. Public use will self regulate as those who seek solitude or smaller crowds will come to the High Peaks during less popular days or seasons and go else where when the holidays hit. Designing parking lots, trails and other infrastructure for peak use periods just makes sense and protects the environment as well as the safety of visitors. With declining communities and support services we need to be encouraging more people to use and take advantage of this wonderful park and the Forest Preserve. Controlling who goes where or how many people can use the publicly owned Forest Preserve just seems selfish and so, so very wrong.

    • Steve B. says:

      Problem is and as the statistics are showing, usage is up 50% or so in the past 20 years. We’ve been concerned about over-use since the 70’s, when I was a very active hiker using this area. They were discussing permits 45 year ago for the same reasons – overuse and that’s significantly more a problem now. So I’m not seeing the “self regulation” you talk about. If that was going to happen, it would have by now. The future seems to be a thousand people on Cascade on nice October Sunday. On a nicely hardened trail. Possibly the “old timers” will know better and head elsewhere, but likely those places will be overcrowded as well.

      • William G Ott says:

        It was in the early 80’s that we went up Marcy in the evening so we could catch the sunrise, camping overnight just short of the top. We awoke in the morning to people heading up the hill. That was my last time in the High Peaks. Now with the info we get online, I realize I missed a lot of opportunities in times past. While the cyber media has greatly enhanced my knowledge and understanding of the Adirondacks, it has also brought many visitors. Is my cup half empty or half full?

  18. Wayno says:

    Its great that so many New Yorker’s have taken to outdoor activity. Its also encouraging for the Forever Wild status of the State Land within the park that so many people seem to be discovering a value to them in having protected public land. The Adirondacks were established by the people of New York as a special place but it was always intended to be enjoyed for recreation, in harmony with nature. As more people come to appreciate and want to experience the park we should embrace it and be supportive of their recognizing the benefits of hiking and enjoying the outdoors. If that means more crowding in certain places at certain times then so be it. IMO, Restrictions and limiting use are draconian steps that are not necessary at this time. Plan around the crowds. If you really want to escape into the wilderness it can still easily be done but just not at Porter or Cascade. Times change, we can’t get stuck in some idealized version of what things used to be like.

  19. Charlie S says:

    “We are too busy waging war on plastic bags.”

    Do you imply that plastic bags are not an issue Boreas?

    • Boreas says:

      Not implying that at all. Non-biodegradable plastics in all forms are ultimately problematic for the environment when it comes to their creation and disposal.

  20. Charlie S says:

    “The committee includes some vocal opponents of any form of a permit system, so it’s a good bet that any meaningful effort to manage public use through permits is effectively off the table.”

    > A permit system is not a good idea! It would be unfair to those of us who, on a whim, wish to have an Adirondack experience. If we can just trim the population….because that’s wherein the problem lies. We’ve talked about this in the past. Or better…how about creating more wilderness areas in the state, planting trees instead of concrete. More places for thrill-seeking outdoor enthusiasts to let loose their adventurous, but discontented, spirits. Of course there’s no place else like the Adirondacks,but what if there were more wild places to set free our souls if but for one day!

    “These new projects, some publicly vetted, some not, will shape long-term planning options for the High Peaks Wilderness for years to come.”

    > The way things are going with these kooks in power now surely there will be more dire issues than this over-population issue in the Dacks in the years to come. Surely this is going to be small fries compared to the more vexing problems we face not just locally but globally too. And of course if the thermometers keep rising like they are doing….there’s another issue. We’ve got more to be concerned about than over-use of trails in the Adirondacks which soon or late we’re going to have to deal with…..unless of course ‘late’ comes first. It’s all relative!

    • Boreas says:

      “Surely this is going to be small fries compared to the more vexing problems we face not just locally but globally too.”

      Absolutely! But if we can’t make the right decisions in our own back yard, will we be able to make the right decisions globally? People can’t (or won’t) even agree on what the “right” decisions are – meanwhile the world population keeps increasing. As long as the “right” course of action keeps reversing direction with every political change around the world, it is going to be difficult to make progress in any direction.

  21. Charlie S says:

    William G Ott says: “My solution would be to level and pave all the peaks, with roads circling around and around to the top. Then we could drive all the way up and wave to our friends on the other peaks. If time allowed, we could peruse the photos in the kiosk to see how the mountains used to look before McDonald and Taco Bell split up the mountaintop franchises.”

    If any one thing will help us retain our sanity….humor will be it. Thank you William!

  22. Charlie S says:

    Glenn says: “True nothing last forever.”

    Love at first sight last forever!

  23. Charlie S says:

    “In this age of Trump we need all the hikers we can get.”

    We need an arsenal of anti-toxin agents to put an end to there evil Ray Mainer!

  24. toofargone says:

    If more people were in the woods and mountains hiking, snowshoeing, skiing and enjoying nature, perhaps they’d have a different perspective on so-called overuse. Smiling, happy people are preferable to the know-it all control freaks, like Boreas, who incessantly preach doom and gloom, and that we need to be saved from ourselves. A map will reveal a vast wilderness mostly untrodden. Public lands should be accessible to the public without ridiculous restrictions. Forever wild was not meant to keep the public out. Public improvements are the answer, not artificial limitations and restrictions. Learn to share and play nice.

    • Boreas says:


      I don’t “preach” gloom and doom – I (and many others) warn of potential poor choices to a complex problem. If you want to ignore the issue, that is your right. It is also your right to attack me for stating my opinions. I have offered several possible solutions to different aspects of the problem – you and others offer personal attacks and hyperbole. People who use personal attacks in a discussion use that tactic because they have nothing real to offer. Spell out your plan for keeping towns, hikers, DEC, easement holders, and the environment happy – we would all like to see your ideas rather than attacks on others with ideas. Take the high road.

      There are choices and changes that WILL be made in the HPW by NYS and DEC, with long-term ramifications. If you can’t get your head around the fact that there WILL be changes, don’t blame me – I didn’t create the problem. Apathy did.

  25. Charlie S says:

    Matthew says: “I’ll admit I scrolled to the bottom to see if he offered a solution. He didn’t,…”

    Tony Goodwin says: “It’s easy to complain about the obvious problems, but neither Peter Bauer nor any of the 21 comments that precede this one had any viable solutions.”

    > Peter put it out Matt & Tony! For us to ponder over. To discuss and maybe come up with a solution……if it even matters what we say.

    • Eric says:

      More parking. That’s the solution. It’s not the best solution it’s the ONlY solution. Why do we need committees and secret meetings. I saw recently there were only 951 parking spaces in the entire HPs corridor. That is absolutely appalling. Go to NH to the Presidential range and count how many thousands of spaces they have.

      • Charlie S says:

        “Go to NH to the Presidential range and count how many thousands of spaces they have.”

        I’ve been there. I had never seen so many cars in my life at the foot of a trailhead. They were in every space available, off the road, in lots, on the grass, in places that were not designated parking spots…hundreds of cars at the least. I suppose they give them slack in New Hampshire. Never have I seen anything like it. A very popular place to hike evidently.

  26. Jim T. says:

    As a deer hunter and fisherman, I need to purchase a license for these activities.
    I am also a hiker and would not mind purchasing a permit, as long as I know the fees are paying for trail maintenance activities.

    • Boreas says:

      Jim T.,

      You are not alone in your responsible approach. But until there is something more concrete that even people from out of the state will contribute to, you can still contribute via the Trail Supporter program where you buy your licenses. There is no limit on how many patches you can buy – they cost about as much as a premium cup of coffee. My two complaints are that the buyer cannot direct their contributions to a particular region, nor are non-residents given much of an opportunity to contribute to the program.

  27. Eric says:

    It’s not about the money (assuming the fee is nominal). The issue most folks have is having to reserve a spot ahead of time for a specific hike on a specific day. That’s not how hiking in the Adirondacks works.

    • JohnL says:

      Bingo. Maybe I haven’t been following closely enough, but Eric makes a great point about hiking that I haven’t heard here before. A lot of it is spontaneous, or when the weather is good, or any number of other personal reasons. Hard to do if you have to ‘lock in’ on a certain date and time.

      • Boreas says:

        Hiking in the Eastern HPW and hiking in the “Adirondacks” are two entirely different things. The vast majority of trails within the Park are easily accessed on the spur of the moment. However, this has obviously become increasingly problematic in the EHPW and therefore intense visitation is the crux of the discussion. Perhaps planning and forethought SHOULD be a consideration and part of the solution for the EHPW. Trying to spread out usage throughout the week vs allowing unlimited usage during peak periods (weekends and holidays) can hardly be viewed as oppressive management. Areas that are intensively being used may need to be managed differently than lesser used areas of the Park. We need a little common sense here.

  28. Charlie S says:

    “The issue most folks have is having to reserve a spot ahead of time for a specific hike on a specific day. That’s not how hiking in the Adirondacks works.”


  29. Boreas says:

    Excerpts from the 20 year-old Impact Statement on HPW. From DEC website, so I assume this is the most recent document.

    Wilderness Management
    for the High Peaks
    of the Adirondack Park
    Department of Environmental Conservation
    Office of Natural Resources – Region 5
    May 1999
    New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
    George E. Pataki, Governor John P. Cahill, Commissioner


    [Page 47]
    The APSLMP, 1987 requires that DEC provide opportunities to experience
    wilderness solitude. Increases in visitation are seen to be contrary to this mandate.
    The final plan identifies numerous actions to enhance opportunities for solitude
    through zoning, reducing party size, spacing and designating campsites, creating
    advance reservation systems and distributing permits. Visitors who prefer unlimited
    access may be impacted. However, since the final plan does not limit day use it is
    predicted there will be significantly reduced opportunities to experience solitude
    unless visitors change zones to the more remote parts of the wilderness, such as the
    western High Peaks.

    [Page 74]
    Management will be oriented to sustaining and enhancing the natural
    environment. There will be frequent opportunity for visitor contact with
    management personnel. Necessary rules and regulations will be
    communicated to visitors before they enter the area as much as possible.
    Emphasis will be on pre-trip planning and minimum impact hiking and
    camping once in the wilderness. Formal and informal education
    programs will be initiated to inform visitors about what to expect and
    how to use the area safely with minimal impact on the environment and
    themselves. Additional rules and regulations maybe necessary to achieve
    wilderness management objectives may be considered only when less
    restrictive measures have failed to achieve desired goals and objectives.
    Signs in the interior will be minimally placed to aid in dispersing use and
    for resource protection purposes. Trails will normally be constructed,
    maintained and managed to accommodate heavy traffic for the majority
    of the use season. Some heavily used trails may be closed during wet
    weather. Trails will be designed and maintained to blend in with the
    natural features of the area. Facilities and improvements will be limited
    to those necessary for resource protection, and user safety.

    • TheRick says:

      1987. Most hikers today were in elementary school or not even born yet. This was written by boomers. No one hiking today thinks like this anymore.

      • Boreas says:

        No kidding!! That is certainly part of the problem. Change the laws by legal process instead of ignoring them.

      • Dana says:

        So put on your big-boy pants and get involved with changing legislation to reflect your values. Previous generations did the heavy lifting to enable you to even have a Park to hike in. Do your part to direct the Park into the future.

      • Suzanne says:

        You appear to feel contempt toward “boomers,” who are most likely your grandparents. Try having a little respect toward your forbears, who worked to preserve this land for your enjoyment. As for “no one hiking thinks like this anymore,” speak for yourself and not everyone else who may have opinions differing from yours. You do not know that “most hikers today were in elementary school”–that is simply not true. Grow up!

  30. Boreas says:

    Amendment to the 1999 High Peaks Wilderness Complex Unit Management Plan
    and 2004 Dix Mountain Wilderness Area Unit Management Plan
    July 2018

    Page 43

    III. Recreational Resources and Human Uses

    This Unit Management Plan Amendment proposes the development of wildland
    recreational facilities in the High Peaks Wilderness Complex, working in concert with the Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest UMP Amendment. Each section below builds on the planning process as well as the recreational experience of the user. In addition to official documents, which inform the UMP process, the planning team applied principles and strategies that are currently considered norms in the field of wildland recreation management.

    There are six best management practices that are identified as essential in successful wildland management. Essentials for wildlands management include:

    1. Planning- Includes the UMP process (with public participation), work planning,
    development of guidelines and other supportive materials and process and
    building partnerships with stakeholders.
    2. Education and Outreach- Includes providing effective education and outreach for visitors, local government and communities and partners. Utilizing all mediums
    available and covering topics from preparedness to stewardship.
    3. Front country infrastructure- Includes roadside access points, human waste
    facilities, visitor information and other support facilities.
    4. Backcountry infrastructure- Includes trails, campsites and support facilities
    appropriate to educate and protect the natural resource.
    5. Limits on use when all else fails- When education and outreach along with
    appropriate infrastructure improvements cannot support the carrying capacity,
    different methods of permits, limits on use or fees should be utilized.
    6. Resources both personnel and funding- Includes staff to facilitate management,
    maintenance and safety concerns and appropriate funds to maintain and educate
    and expand opportunities for partnerships.

    As part of the comprehensive process of managing the High Peaks Wilderness
    Complex and adjacent units, many of the proposals in this amendment will follow a
    process of conditional implementation, which is done though a data-based phasing
    process. Where these conditional management actions are listed, the Department will evaluate current conditions as part of considering the implementation of these

    Page 52
    In outline, the Department’s approach applies four factors in identifying potential management actions for an area:
    1. The identification of acceptable conditions as defined by measurable indicators;
    2. An analysis of the relationship between existing conditions and those desired;
    3. Determinations of the necessary management actions needed to achieve desired conditions; and
    4. A monitoring program to see if objectives are being met.

    Page 57
    · The Department is committed to implementing a carrying capacity based phased approach through this UMP Amendment. To ensure the success of the proposed process, the Department will devote the necessary staffing resources to make sure all six of the BMPs for wildland management are given the resources needed. Quality data derived through this process will lead the Department in making the best decisions available to protect the resource and user experience.

  31. Eric says:

    This document pre-dates the internet, hand held GPS, and Uber and its conclusions are no longer valid. Limiting parking will no longer protect the environment it will destroy it. All it takes is one person to lay down some GPS tracks and share it on AllTrails and within a year there will be a new four foot wide herd path to the summit. Make the existing trails better and add more parking if you want to protect the environment.

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