Friday, November 25, 2022

Outdoor Conditions (11/25): Snowshoes or skis required for high summits, trails messy with thin snow/ice coverage

outdoor conditions logoThe following are only the most recent notices pertaining to public lands in the Adirondacks. Please check the Adirondack Backcountry webpages for a full list of notices, including seasonal road statuses, rock climbing closures, specific trail conditions, and other pertinent information


High Peaks Wilderness Snow Report (11/23): 13cm at the Colden Caretaker Cabin. High summits have enough accumulation for snowshoes or skis to be required. Low elevation ski trails do not have adequate coverage for skiing. In general, trails are messy with thin snow and ice coverage. Avalanche and Colden lakes have some ice present but coverage is not complete or consistent. 

Lake George Wild Forest: The Cat Mountain Red Trail from Edgecomb Pond Road to the summit is currently undermarked due to hikers taking trail markers as souvenirs. The trail is difficult to follow in winter conditions without proper marking. Please, leave trail markers where you find them for the safety of other hikers. The Blue Trail offers a well-marked alternate route to the summit.

Bog River Complex: The Lows Lower Dam maintenance project has begun, and public access will be closed at Lows Lower Dam starting December 6, 2022. No public launching of boats at Lows Lower Dam will be allowed during construction, which is expected to last through late fall 2023. Access to Hitchens Pond and Lows Lake during construction will require extensive portages, and users are advised to seek other areas to visit while the construction project is in progress. More information can be found in the full press release.


Boreas Ponds Tract: Gulf Brook Road is closed to motor vehicle traffic for the winter season starting at the Blue Ridge Parking Area. The Blue Ridge Parking Area will remain open – plowing of the lot is subject to the Town’s plowing schedule.

Pharaoh Lake Wilderness: A bridge on the Pharaoh Lake Trail is out. Crossing may not be possible during high water – users should be prepared to turn back if conditions are unsafe. The bridge is at a curve in the trail, with steep approaches from both directions. Winter users should be prepared to stop completely at this location to assess conditions before crossing.

Lake George Wild Forest:

  • The first bridge on the Shelving Rock Brook Trail (closest to the road) is unsafe for equestrian use. Equestrian users should ford the stream at this location.
  • The Longway Trail in Shelving Rock is impassable due to extensive blowdown.

General Notices

Know Before You Go Graphic

Visit the main Adirondack Backcountry page for more trip-planning resources.

Know Before You Go (11/23):

  • Temperatures: Temperatures in the region call for highs fluctuating between low-30s to mid-40s. Nighttime lows are estimated to hover around 30 degrees. These temperatures are estimates for base elevations. Always anticipate more extreme conditions at high elevations. Scattered showers are expected throughout the weekend with possible snow. Weather changes quickly in the mountains. Carry extra layers, cold weather gear, and be prepared to adapt to changing conditions. Microspikes or crampons are recommended for anyone planning on hiking this weekend and are necessary at high elevations. As snow continues to fall, snowshoes may be necessary on some high elevation trails.
  • Water crossings: Never attempt to cross high, fast-moving water, especially following rain or storms. If there is rain forecast during the day, be mindful of how water crossings might swell between your first crossing and your return trip.
  • Sunrise/Sunset: Sunrise = 7:05 a.m.; Sunset = 4:19 p.m. Make a timeline and stick to it. Pack a headlamp even if you expect to finish your activity before sunset.
  • Travel: Plan on arriving at your destination early and have several back-up plans in place in case parking at your desired location is full.

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.

Seasonal Roads: Due to recent snow, some seasonal access roads are beginning to close. Check the Recent Notices for closure announcements and be prepared to turn around and take an alternate route.

Water Conditions: Water levels throughout the Adirondack region range from average to slightly below average for this time of year. Check the USGS Current Water Data for New York for stream flow of selected waters. Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs aka lifejackets) are strongly recommended.

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.

Safety & Education

Winter Hike Smart NY Poster

Whether you’re going for a hike, a ski, or out 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.

How to Choose a Traction Device

Having the proper gear is essential for travelling safely in the backcountry. Changing conditions this season can make it difficult to know which equipment you need and when/where to use it.

Types of traction devices

Cleats and chains – These less aggressive options provide grip on slippery surfaces through small points or chains underfoot. These devices are best for front country adventures, walking paths, and less technical trails.

Microspikes – Microspikes are more aggressive and will provide better bite on snow, ice, and frozen technical terrain, making them essential for backcountry trails. They are able to slip over most hiking boots and are good for low-incline trails and thin ice. These are often not suitable for more extreme conditions found on high elevation trails and summits.

Crampons – Crampons should be used on the thick ice that forms at elevation and on the summits of many Adirondack peaks. They are also most effective on steep, icy inclines. Before renting or purchasing crampons, make sure they are compatible with your hiking boots. Guides and gear shops can help you find the right fit.

Snowshoes/skis – Snowshoes or skis should be worn when there is greater than six inches of snow on the trail. They are required in the High Peaks Wilderness when there is eight or more inches of snow. Check the specific snow regulations for the area you plan to visit before you leave the house. Snowshoes and skis provide loft and prevent postholing. They are not a replacement for traction devices and will not provide adequate grip on thick snow or ice.

Leave No Trace

Leave No Trace 2021 Partner Logo

Follow the Seven Principles of Leave No Trace to maintain minimal impact on the environment and the natural resources of the Adirondacks. Use proper trail etiquette to ensure an enjoyable experience for yourself and others and tread lightly!

What Makes a Durable Surface?

The second principle of Leave No Trace reminds us to travel on durable surfaces. But how do you know if a surface is durable? Identifying which trail surfaces are more durable than others is tricky, especially when the trails become scattered with snow, mud, and leaves.

Durable surfaces, like rocks, are able to be walked on regularly without damage or alteration. Plants and other soft surfaces don’t hold up to being stepped on, so it’s important to assess where we’re stepping and have the gear we need to stay on the trail in variable conditions.

To travel on durable surfaces this shoulder season:

  • Stick to the trail – If you’re ever in doubt about where to take your next step, stick to the designated path. No matter the surface, it’s better to stay on the trail than to widen our impact.
  • Float on the snow – Snow that is six inches or deeper is considered durable. At this depth it’s unlikely that you’ll affect the forest floor beneath. Use skis or snowshoes to float on the surface of the snow and avoid postholing.
  • Brave the mud – If there is mud on the trail, get those boots dirty and walk right through. Use caution in cold weather. Mud puddles may freeze, causing them to become slippery without proper traction devices.
  • Have the right gear – Having the appropriate gear is crucial to travelling safely and sustainably in the backcountry. From waterproof boots to snowshoes, skis, and traction devices, the correct equipment will allow you to travel safely on durable surfaces.


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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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