The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation would like to remind hikers, and all who enjoy outdoor recreation to follow the “common sense rules of the outdoors,” such as preparing for arduous conditions, avoiding sensitive ecology, picking up your trash, and respecting your fellow visitors and those working to protect our wilderness.
We are currently experiencing a boom in outdoor recreation, with areas of the Adirondack park and the Catskill Parks reaching record numbers of visitors. Issues of littering, trash, and unprepared hikers affecting natural resources have increased in proportion to these record numbers, and it is essential to reinforce these common sense rules in order to protect both the safety of the public and the integrity of the sensitive plants and wildlife.
The DEC keeps these measures in place in order to promote a shared respect for these resources, along with respect for other tourists, volunteers, and workers who dedicate their time and effort to protecting the Adirondacks, the Catskills, and the many forests, trails, lakes, and rivers that run throughout New York State.
The DEC recognizes the importance of promoting sustainable recreation in the Adirondack and Catskill parks and is working with local partners and stakeholders to make both long- and short-term improvements towards that end, especially within the High Peaks.
For example, the High Peaks Strategic Advisory Group meets monthly in order to issue interim report recommendations, working with the DOT, state police and the towns to reduce congestion in areas around the High Peaks, and promote sustainable use with partners through Leave No Trace principles, to help visitors learn the impact they have on the environment.
Some of the DEC’s rules and regulations in the High Peaks Wilderness are as follows:
- No campfires in the Eastern Zone of the High Peaks Wilderness
- Group Size Maximums: Day trip maximums are 15 people. Overnight maximums are 8 people. Permits for oversized groups are not available in the High Peaks Wilderness.
- No camping on summits
- No camping above 3,500 feet (except at lean-to)
- No camping in areas with “No Camping” signs present
- Whenever possible, camp in designated sites. If necessary, at-large camping is permitted as long as campsites are at least 150 feet from any road, trail, water body, or waterway. Place your tent on a durable surface, such as hardened soil, leaf litter, or pine duff. Do not place your tent on vegetation.
- Bear canisters are required for all overnight campers in the Eastern Zone of the High Peaks Wilderness
- Carry out what you carry in. Properly dispose of waste and pack out all gear and garbage. Do not leave waste at trailheads.
- Dogs must be leashed at all times in the Eastern Zone of the High Peaks Wilderness and at trailheads, campsites and above 4,000 feet everywhere else. If accessing the High Peaks from the Adirondack Mountain Reserve (AMR) trailheads, dogs are not allowed on AMR property.
- Bikes are prohibited
- Drones are prohibited
- ATVs are prohibited
- No fixed anchors for climbing on Forest Preserve at this time
- Adirondack Mountain Reserve-specific rules for this property include no camping, no dogs, no drones, and no off-trail travel.
Leave No Trace:
- Carry out what you carry in. Don’t leave trash, food, gear, or any other personal belongings behind.
- Trash your trash. Use designated receptacles when available or carry your trash in a small bag so you can throw it out at home. Never put trash in outhouses or porta-potties.
- Use designated bathroom facilities when available. If traveling, use the rest areas closest to your destination before you arrive. Learn how to dig a cat hole (leaves DEC website) and properly dispose of your human waste for the times when nature calls and a bathroom is not available.
- During the COVID-19 public health crisis, take extra precautions when picking up trash you find on the trail. Wear gloves and make sure to use hand sanitizer when you are done.
“Common sense” assumes a lot. Many of these principals that may have been common sense at one time seem to be receding from the general population over time. Hands-on outdoor skills promoted in Scouting, hunting, fishing, and patrolling Rangers during the last century are being replaced by the internet, social media, and volunteer Stewards. Or are they? My father taught me a lot. Scouting taught me a lot. And all of this was before I ever set foot on an Adirondack trail. How many hikers today have this knowledge before they set out for Marcy, Seward Range, or the Trap Dike? Not all areas of the HPW have Stewards in attendance to educate and protect.
This is why I have long been a proponent of requiring a basic online or hands-on course on DEC regulations and backcountry preparedness before hiking in the HPW or Park in general – what I would call licensing or certification. Call it what you will. Signage is too easily ignored. The Park is a somewhat unique environment that needs to be protected in unique ways. Assuming every hiker today has the “common sense” required to visit our unique backcountry safely is folly.
I am impressed with your comment.
Not every hiking area would need a permit system. The Nat’l Park method is permits for heavily used trails at certain parks require permits AND charge a fee. There are also limits for how many hikers cab use an area at a time. Most parks have no permit requirement. This method could certainly be adopted for the EHPW and allows a method of initial education via the permit requirements. Things like flashlights and spare batteries, rain gear and spare clothing, etc…..
I think we are past the point where such a system is needed, witness the blogs of the trail stewards and posts from Rangers, as well as the repeating rescues for the same reasons – unprepared hikers. It’s gotten out of hand at this point and some action is required.
For years I’ve been against the idea of a “hiker permit” or “hiking license” but after all I’ve seen and read this summer, I’m beginning to rethink my position. Hopefully the DEC can speak with the Feds who oversee the Boundary Waters in MN to see how they do it. It will be a difficult transition but maybe the time has come. For what it’s worth, after reading what appears to be an increase in Ranger rescues for people who are totally unprepared, I’m also rethinking my position about not charging a fee for back country rescues. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve encountered this summer who wander off in the woods with nothing but a 16 oz, bottle of water and a high level of enthusiasm. It’s amazing that more people aren’t finding themselves in difficult situations.
People who leave trash,poop and are destructive outdoors are not going to benefit by signs and LNT literature. It’s who they are not a lack of education. However common sense and regulations on being prepared outdoors and what not to do may have value at trailheads but may not deter people at that point to turn back. It may always be an issue that people don’t plan properly or take time to educate themselves before they venture out for a “good time” outdoors.
Trail stewards are an invaluable resource and are doing their best to alleviate the evergrowing negative impact from the uneducated and sometimes don’t care people.
“For years I’ve been against the idea of a “hiker permit” or “hiking license” but after all I’ve seen and read this summer, I’m beginning to rethink my position. ”
It wouldn’t be fair and it would go against much of what New York’s public spaces are all about, or have been all about. Sure…things are ever changing, but if we have to pay first to go into the woods we may as well hang up our hiking gear.
We don’t disagree on much, but I believe it is unfair that hikers DON’T have any financial responsibility to support maintenance and building of the trails and infrastructure (shuttles, parking) they use. I would argue it is decades overdue. Hunting, fishing, boating, snowmobiling, etc., are recreations that I would argue produce less harm to the outdoors – yet are pay ti play in some form. No one is saying permitting or licensing MUST result in fees, yet it continues to be the most common objection. But to me, some kind of contribution by the hiking public beyond Trail Supporter patches would have very positive effects in remediating maintenance and S&R costs – currently borne by all taxpayers – many of whom have never seen the ADKs. But I feel the most positive effects licensing would be on hiker preparedness and LNT principles.
Yes Charlie – things are ever-changing. When 10 people climbed Marcy per day, and parking lots were empty, it was hardly necessary to get hikers to ante-up. But today? I don’t understand why not.
All NYS hikers are paying for the use with the high taxes in this State. Hikers volunteer to do a tremendous amount of trail work, small bridge work, lean-to building, ect. (46ers). Hikers (ADK members) are solicited constantly by the club for donations, all the while still paying to park at ADK loj, (even with the yearly membership) and the fee just went up. Hikers are being pushed out with less and less parking, and have to pay mind boggling parking fines if they park illegally. Hikers are being pushed out of more parking areas in Keene Valley, Cascade area, and even the remote backroad-side parking near the Loj. Hikers are being blamed for the incompetence of the State to control usage of the High Peaks. Hikers are what drives the local economy and could be a lot, lot more if the state knew how to do things right. Rangers are being used to hand out traffic tickets, instead of doing what their normal job is. Hikers don’t accidentally shoot each other (or themselves) while out hiking, like hunters do almost predictably every year. Hikers don’t poach game while out hiking. Hikers would be willing to pay for a yearly permit just like hunters and snowmobilers.