Friday, May 29, 2020

DEC: Avoid the high-elevation trails

Adirondack High Peaks Trail Mud SeasonDEC Issues Late Season Muddy Trails Advisory 
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) urged hikers to be cautious and postpone hikes on trails above 2,500 feet until high elevation trails have dried and hardened. North-facing trails have retained snow and ice late into the season this year. As snow and ice continue to melt at high elevations, steep trails pose a danger to hikers, thin soils are susceptible to erosion, and sensitive alpine vegetation is easily damaged.

Despite recent warm weather, high-elevation backcountry trails are still covered in slowly melting ice and snow. These steep trails feature thin soils that become a mix of ice and mud as winter conditions melt and frost leaves the ground. The remaining compacted ice and snow on trails is rotten, slippery, and will not reliably support weight.

These conditions, known as “monorails,” are difficult to hike and adjacent rotten snow is particularly prone to postholing. Hikers can severely damage trail treads as they struggle to gain traction on loose, saturated soils. Hiking off the compacted snow impacts vulnerable trailside soils and easily damages sensitive alpine vegetation. Avoiding high-elevation trails during the Muddy Trail Advisory helps to alleviate impacts to the trail tread and adjacent areas and minimizes trail widening.

DEC encourages hikers to help minimize damage to hiking trails and alpine vegetation by avoiding trails above 2,500 feet, particularly high elevation trails in the Giant and High Peaks Wilderness areas, including the former Dix Mountain Area in the northern Adirondacks. Please avoid the following trails until trail conditions improve:

  • High Peaks Wilderness – all trails above 2,500 feet where wet, muddy, snow conditions still prevail, specifically: Algonquin, Colden, Feldspar, Gothics, Indian Pass, Lake Arnold Cross-Over, Marcy, Marcy Dam – Avalanche – Lake Colden, which is extremely wet, Phelps Trail above Johns Brook Lodge, Range Trail, Skylight, Wright, all “trail-less” peaks, and all trails above Elk Lake and Round Pond in the former Dix Mountain Area.
  • Giant Mountain Wilderness – all trails above Giant’s Washbowl, “the Cobbles,” and Owl Head Lookout.
  • McKenzie Mountain Wilderness – all trails above 2,500 feet where wet, muddy, and snowy conditions still prevail, specifically Whiteface, Esther, Moose and McKenzie Mountains.
  • Sentinel Range Wilderness – all trails above 2,500 feet where wet, muddy, snowy conditions still prevail, specifically Pitchoff Mountain.

DEC urges hikers to postpone higher elevation hikes until further notice to protect our Adirondack trail system. Until conditions improve, hikers are encouraged to explore lower elevation trails close to home and enjoy other forms of recreation such as paddling and fishing. If hikers do encounter mud on trails, they should hike through mud instead of around it to help reduce trail widening and minimize damage to trailside vegetation.

Check the Adirondack Backcountry Information webpages for weekly updates on backcountry conditions and seasonal recreation information for the Adirondacks.

DEC encourages people to engage in responsible recreation during the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis.

Peter Bauer photo/Almanack archive

Click here for the Adirondack Explorer’s list of lesser-known hikes:

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Information attributed to NYSDEC is taken from press releases and news announcements from New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation.


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