Friday, May 6, 2022

Outdoor Conditions (5/6): Blowdown on hiking trails to be cleared as staff increases

outdoor conditions logoThe following are the most recent notices pertaining to public lands in the Adirondacks. Please check the Adirondack Backcountry Information webpages for comprehensive and up-to-date information on seasonal road statuses, rock climbing closures, specific trail conditions, and other pertinent information.


High Peaks Wilderness: Snow Conditions, 05/05: Snow depths remain significant at high elevations, with areas reaching 2-3 feet in depth. Snowshoes are required to be worn wherever snow accumulations are greater than 8 inches. Crampons and microspikes are still essential – many trails are still icy above 3,000 feet. Be prepared to encounter mud at lower elevations. Check summit weather forecasts for more accurate predictions at higher elevations. A mid-April snowstorm caused significant blowdown, making navigation more challenging. Carry a paper map and compass or GPS and know how to use them. Please avoid all trails above 2,500 feet while DEC’s muddy trails advisory is in effect.

Northville Placid Trail: DEC staff recently cleared blowdown on 16 miles of the Northville Placid Trail from Godfrey Rd to the Whitehouse trailhead (West River Road). The trail is clear and conditions are good.

Blowdown cleared from the Northville Placid Trail. DEC photo.

Moose River Plains Complex: The Cedar River Road, which accesses the Cedar River Flow/Wakley Dam area, is now open. The 10 roadside tent sites located at the Cedar River Headquarters are now open for public use. The entrance gates to the Moose River Plains Camping Area remain closed for mud season.

Black River Wild Forest:

  • Seasonal mud gates on all Forest Preserve Roads within the unit are now open for motor vehicles. Forest Rangers have removed fallen trees and limbs from the spring storm on April 19, 2022, however, visitors should still use caution as new blowdown may be encountered.
  • Blowdown can be expected on hiking trails within the forest due to the spring storm of April 19, 2022. Trails will be cleared as manpower allows.

Independence River Wild Forest:

  • Gates on Basket Factory and Smith Roads have been opened. McCarthy Road will be reopened when it is dry and firm enough to support motor vehicle traffic.
  • A significant amount of blowdown remains on most foot and horse trails in the unit. DEC crews will be working to clear trails throughout May.

Watson’s East Triangle Wild Forest: All roads on the Croghan and Oswegatchie Conservation Easement Tracts are open.


General Notices

Visit the main Adirondack Backcountry Information page for more trip-planning resources, including travel information, weather resources, and seasonally-specific information about Adirondack recreation.

Know Before You Go (05/05): Conditions vary dramatically by destination. Some areas are beginning to dry and harden. Others are still wet and muddy. At high elevations, winter conditions including snow and ice prevail. DEC’s Muddy Trails Advisory encourages visitors to avoid all trails above 2,500 feet, including all High Peaks, to help prevent trail damage and erosion. Temperatures will vary significantly depending on your location, the time of day, and your elevation. Dress in layers, bring extra, and bring appropriate gear for your chosen activity. Cool, wet weather poses a significant risk of hypothermia, so learn how to recognize and avoid it. Begin carrying summer staples in your pack, including sunscreen and bug spray.

Check the Weather: Check the forecast for your destination and pack and plan accordingly. Check the National Weather Service Northern Adirondacks and Southern Adirondacks Mountain Point Forecasts for select summit forecasts. Check both daytime and nighttime temperatures and remember that temperatures will drop as you gain elevation. Check wind chill temperatures and prepare for colder, windier summits.

Muddy Trails: Walk straight through mud instead rather than around it to prevent trail widening and vegetation damage. Opt for low elevation trails until high elevations have time to dry and harden. Follow the muddy trails advisory.

Seasonal Roads: Many seasonal access roads are still closed for spring mud season. Where seasonal access roads are open to public motor vehicles, the use of four-wheel drive vehicles is strongly recommended.

Fire Danger: Check the fire rating map.

Water Conditions: Water levels throughout the Adirondack region are mostly average for this time of year. Check the USGS Current Water Data for New York for stream flow of selected waters. Water temperatures will be very cold. Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs aka lifejackets) are strongly encouraged to be worn. Where bridges are not available, do not attempt stream crossings during periods of high, fast-moving water.

Ticks: Wear light-colored clothing with a tight weave to spot ticks easily. Wear enclosed shoes, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Tuck pant legs into socks or boots and shirt into pants. Check clothes and any exposed skin frequently for ticks while outdoors. Consider using insect repellent. Stay on cleared, well-traveled trails and walk in the center of trails. Avoid dense woods and bushy areas. Additional tips for tick prevention.

Bear Canisters Required: NYSDEC requires the use of bear-resistant canisters by overnight users in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness between April 1 and November 30. NYSDEC encourages campers to use bear-resistant canisters throughout the Adirondack backcountry. Bear canisters should be used to store all food, food garbage, toiletries, and other items with a scent. Canisters should be stored a minimum of 100ft from tents, lean-tos and cooking sites and kept closed whenever they are not being accessed. Learn more about bear canisters and avoiding human-bear conflicts.

Adirondack Rock Climbing Closures: DEC closes certain rock climbing routes in the Adirondacks to protect nesting peregrine falcons. For a full list of closures, visit Adirondack Rock Climbing Route Closures. Once peregrine nest sites are determined, climbing routes that will not disturb nesting will be reopened. Routes that remain closed will reopen after the young have fledged. Thank you for your cooperation. For more information please contact the Bureau of Wildlife at (518) 623-1240.

Adirondack Mountain Reserve: Parking reservations will be required May 1 through Oct. 31 for single-day and overnight access to the parking lot, trailheads, and trails located on the privately owned, 7,000-acre AMR property in the town of Keene in the High Peaks region. For a list of frequently asked questions and to register, visit AMR’s website.

Safety & Education

Spring is in full swing. Whether you’re going for a hike, a bike, a paddle, or fishing, Hike Smart NY can help you prepare with a list of 10 essentials, guidance on what to wear, and tips for planning your trip with safety and sustainability in mind.

Enjoy the Sun Without the Burn

Risk from sun exposure is a year-round concern, but as temperatures warm we tend to expose more skin, increasing our risk. Sunburns can be painful and irritating, but they can also be a serious health risk. In the long term, repeated sunburns and excessive sun exposure can increase your risk of skin cancers. In the short term, sunburns can increase your risk of dehydration and be a symptom of heat-related illnesses. Avoid sunburns by wearing sunscreen, hats that cover your head, face, and neck, and light, loose layers that cover your skin. Protect your eyes by wearing hats or polarized sunglasses. Last but not least, remember that you can still get a sunburn on a cloudy day.

Emergency Situations: If you get lost or injured; keep calm and stay put. If you have cell service, call 911 or the DEC Forest Ranger Emergency Dispatch, 833-NYS-RANGERS.

Related Stories

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

13 Responses

  1. Pete says:

    Blowdown on snowmobile trails in the fall and winter is generally cleared by snowmobile club volunteers. On top of which, snowmobilers are required to pay into a dedicate trail maintenance fund. How about the other trail users (who pay nothing) helping with trail clearing?

    • Dana says:

      1. Downed trees are not obstacles to foot traffic.

      2. Hiking clubs and volunteers have been doing trail work since before snowmobiles were invented.

    • Bill Ott says:

      A Fiskars 18 inch pruning saw makes trail clearing very easy. I can pull it from my pack like a mediaeval swordsman and attack deadfall with hardly a pause. It is very sharp and cuts on the pull stroke. When it is dull, I just buy another one as the aggressive angle of the teeth make them too hard for me to sharpen.

    • Bill Keller says:

      Must be joking. Expecting hikers to pay a fee for their sport. Most entitled group of park users yet. Constant complaints about trail conditions/ lack of maintenance, the need for more rangers to haul them out of the woods when their cell phone dies, lack of parking so more overuse can occur. I hope the “High Peaker” never finds the central Adirondacks.

      • Boreas says:

        Part of the reason DEC exists is to patrol, maintain, and serve the trail system in NYS. ALL NYS taxpayers pay to maintain these trails for hiking/skiing, and some local clubs help as well. It is the DEC’s past and current job to perform both routine and advanced trailwork. Now if these tax dollars are being squandered elsewhere, don’t blame people who are encouraged by NYS to come and hike here FREE. Free hiking is a NYS/DEC issue, not a cheap hiker issue.

        Let’s turn this around – if snowmobile trail maintenance and grooming were guaranteed to be paid for with taxpayer dollars, would snowmobilers continue to pay above and beyond? Probably about the same percentage that donate time and money as today’s hikers. People are people.

        If we want hikers to pay their “fair” share, give them a way to equitably do so. But IMO, taxpayers should pay less than non-residents to be equitable. Good luck on getting anything passed though. Don’t blame hikers for something beyond their control.

  2. Pete says:

    1. Downed trees may not be obstacles to foot traffic to the degree that they are to snowmobiles, but I doubt any hiker likes to climb over or go around a bunch of them.

    2. Yes, there are hiking clubs and individuals who volunteer to do trail work, but is the volunteer proportion of trail work as much as the snowmobile clubs put in per mile of trail? Is the percentage of hiking trail maintenance done by volunteers more or less compared to snowmobile clubs?

    The main hiking club (Adirondack Mountain Club) gets paid from taxpayer funds to field a professional trail crew. This does not happen with any snowmobile club. All snowmobilers pay into a dedicated trail fund that is used to reimburse clubs for expenses. The fund is administered by the state but the money does not come from taxpayers.

    My guess is that the majority of hikers are just trail users. This is in fact the case with snowmobilers, they all pay in to the trail fund.

    Is the focus of most hiking club meetings on doing trail maintenance? It is with most snowmobile clubs.

    I hike all the time. On popular heavily-trafficked trails, I regularly encounter blowdown that could easily be moved by hand. I encounter clogged drainage that could easily be fixed in a few minutes with no special tools. I do this all the time but I rarely see evidence of any simple maintenance by other hikers. So I conclude that most just leave it up to the DEC or Someone Else.

    • Boreas says:

      IMO, if you want to ride in vehicles over backcountry trails, be prepared to keep them clear. Snowmobiles on backcountry trails is an entitlement based on money and politics, not backcountry ethics – so I feel the comparison with hiking is poor. Motor vehicles and taxpayers pay for roadways, and pedestrians may use them. NYS taxpayers pay for backcountry trails to be built and maintained by DEC – one of their reasons for being. Out of state visitors – not so much.

      Don’t get me wrong, I have ALWAYS been a supporter of hikers paying in some way for trail maintenance and construction. But a quick search of articles here will show a great deal of resistance to that idea, because NYS residents feel their taxes are going to that maintenance already.

      I do not know if I am in the minority or majority, but I do believe hikers would be willing to defray some of these costs – IF GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY! NYS has the Trail Supporter Patch (link below) that can be purchased online (buy as many as you want!), but few know about it. Personally, I would rather see everyone (including non-residents) pay a little because it boosts a feeling of “stewardship” of our hiking trails. I have suggested various methods over the years, but all are met with resistance – usually by the same group of readers. So be it…

      • Bill Ott says:

        If I were on an Adirondack trail that did not have blowdown or other insurmountable obstacles, I would just go back to the Smokey Mountains baby wilderless.

  3. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Bill Ott says: “A Fiskars 18 inch pruning saw makes trail clearing very easy. I can pull it from my pack like a mediaeval swordsman and attack deadfall with hardly a pause…”

    I used to carry with me, in my pack, what was then called a Sawvivor, which was an aluminum saw that came as a fold-up contraption…. two 6″ (?) arms which folded out from an arm, and which the blade was fastened to. The blade was stored inside the hollowed-out arm. I got so much use out of that saw, which I still have, back then, which would be back in the early 90’s I believe. I recall once I was headed into the woods on the trail leading back to the Cascade Pond lean-to I believe it was. I came upon a downed tree over the trail which made it very difficult to continue on. I took out my Sawvivor and went to work on the limbs which jutted out from a thick trunk so that the trail was much easier to navigate….just a little hop over the downed trunk, which eventually was sectioned off with a chainsaw by others.

    Another time I was on a rural dirt road in a forest in Rensselaer County when I came upon a downed immature tree over the road. Again…I whipped out my Sawvivor and went to work on that tree and made a passage. These little saws come in handy I must say. When it comes to a thick trunk though, they’re useless, but the limbs….easy game.

  4. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Pete says: “Downed trees may not be obstacles to foot traffic to the degree that they are to snowmobiles, but I doubt any hiker likes to climb over or go around a bunch of them.”

    This is so true! This has been my experience! In thinking about such (downed trees as obstacles on a trail), one would think, “what’s the big deal?” The big deal is….if you happen to have a heavy, or even a medium-weight, backpack over your shoulders, then you will understand. The Adirondack forest floor is generally an uneven surface, with earthen and fallen tree debris underfoot. Add to that the thickness of the woods, the tangles, etc…. I’ve had experience I know!

    • Boreas says:


      This is true – no one likes blowdowns! But when hiking, and you come to a downed tree, whose responsibility is it to remove it? The hiker, or the DEC? I have always been taught to remove anything I safely can without tools, but if it is too big, report it to DEC. Has this changed?

      • Bill Ott says:

        When in the woods, one does what what one can do, and does not do what one cannot do.

  5. Pete says:

    No one expects trail users to remove big trees, but there is a lot that one person or a group can move with no tools or with only a folding hand saw. The other thing that can really help trail conditions is to clean out drainage to reduce mud, and also to create makeshift water bars to minimize erosion using branches and rocks. I can’t count how many hours I have done this and even coming back years later I see the results..

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