Friday, March 17, 2023

Outdoor Conditions (3/17): High Peaks hikers should prepare to break trail, especially in the Colden area

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 (03/16): The following report describes conditions as of Thursday, 03/16. Changing weather may affect conditions. There is 56.7 inches (4.7 feet) of snow at the Colden Caretaker Cabin and as much as 7 feet at higher elevations. There is considerable unconsolidated snow, especially off trail in wind deposited areas. Snowshoes or skis are required to be worn throughout the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness, beginning immediately at trailheads. Snowshoes are recommended everywhere in the High Peaks region for safe and efficient travel. Many trails, especially in the Colden area, are not broken out – be prepared to break trail and account for the additional time and energy that will require. Bring microspikes and crampons for traction on ice. Avalanche Lake and Lake Colden are frozen but use caution in areas of moving water such as inlets, outlets, and streams. Be prepared to turn around if conditions prove too difficult to complete your hike.

Lake George Wild Forest: Shelving Rock Road is closed for spring mud season. On 3/17 the Town of Fort Ann will close the mud gate on Shelving Rock Road, just North of the Hogtown Road intersection.


Town of Long Lake: Ice conditions in the Town of Long Lake (Long Lake, Forked Lake) continue to be variable and unreliable. Snowmobilers are advised to stay off the ice. More snowmobiles have broken through the ice in recent days and weeks.

General Notices

Know Before You Go Graphic

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

Know Before You Go (03/16):

  • Temperatures & Conditions: In true spring fashion, the forecast is calling for widely variable weather this weekend. Friday calls for a mix of rain and snow with highs in the low 40s and lows in the mid-20s. Saturday is expected to be partly sunny with highs in the mid-30s and lows in the teens. Sunday calls for partly sunny but breezy, with highs in the 20s and lows dropping again into the teens. These are forecast temperatures for base elevations – conditions will be more severe (colder, windier) on summits and at higher elevations. Carry extra layers, cold weather gear, and be prepared to adapt to changing conditions. Bring microspikes or crampons and snowshoes. If you find yourself unprepared for the conditions, or weather worsens, turn back to the trailhead.
  • Water & Ice Crossings: Never attempt to cross high, fast-moving water, especially following rain or significant snowmelt. If there is precipitation forecast during the day, be mindful of how water crossings might swell between your first crossing and your return trip. While many bodies of water are frozen over, not all are safe to travel on. Use extreme caution in areas of moving water, such as inlets, outlets, and streams. Follow ice safety guidelines.
  • Sunrise/Sunset: Sunrise = 7:00 a.m.; Sunset = 7:05 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. Some seasonal roads may be closed for the winter season and not all parking areas are plowed. Check recent notices for road closure announcements.

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.

Be Safe in Avalanche Terrain: Backcountry downhill skiers, snowboarders, and all outdoor adventurers who may traverse slides or steep, open terrain should be aware of and prepared for avalanche conditions. If you are planning a trip to avalanche-prone territory, research the route ahead of time and contact a local DEC Forest Ranger for specific safety and conditions information, or contact a local guide. Before going into the backcountry, be equipped with avalanche safety tools and knowledge, such as participation in an avalanche safety course. Learn more about avalanche danger, preparedness, and safety precautions.

Seasonal Roads: Many seasonal access roads are closed for the winter. Check the Recent Notices for specific closure announcements and be prepared to turn around and take an alternate route.

Snowmobiles: Visitors are advised to plan ahead and check local club, county, and State webpages and resources, including the NYSSA Snowmobile web map, for up-to-date snowmobile trail information.

Water Conditions: Water levels range from average to above average for this time of year in the eastern and central portions of the Adirondack region and below average in the western part of the region. Check the USGS Current Water Data for New York for stream flow of selected waters. Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs aka lifejackets) are strongly recommended.

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.

Account for Conditions When Planning Your Time

A timeline should always be part of your hiking plans. In winter, it’s important to pad your timeline to account for difficult conditions and frequent gear changes.

Your timeline should be based on the mileage and difficulty of the trail as well as your average speed. Your timeline should include a start time, turnaround time, and estimated end time. If there are significant milestones along your route, include the time you expect to reach those spots as well. Stick to your turnaround time whether you have reached your final destination or not.

Hiking through snow and over ice takes more time and energy than walking on bare trails and requires frequent stops to change gear and adjust clothing layers. Account for this additional time and effort when creating your timeline and keep track of your progress as you go. If you find yourself moving slower than expected, adjust your expectations and your turnaround time to ensure you make it back to the trailhead by your end time.

Last but not least, share your timeline with a trusted friend or family member who can alert the appropriate authorities of a potential emergency if you are overdue returning from your hike.

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!

Don’t Be Tricked by Packed Trails

If you’re hiking on a snow-covered trail, it can sometimes be confusing as to why snowshoes or skis are needed. Snow on trails can feel like a hard, stable surface, especially in the spring when months of compaction have created a packed surface. You might not find yourself sinking as you would in fresh snow. However, it’s still important to wear snowshoes or skis for the moments when you step off that hardened surface.

Trailside snow in the spring can take many forms. It might be fluffy and deep after fresh snowfall, or it might be rotten and wet as temperatures warm. Either way, it is rarely as compact as the snow on the trail itself. Even a small step off trail could lead to your foot dropping inches or even feet into the snow creating a posthole. Postholing is dangerous for you and other visitors. These sudden drops can lead to falling and injury. They also create hazards for those who come after you. Wearing snowshoes or skis on trails with more than 8 inches of snow – even when that snow has been packed down – ensures that you will stay afloat even when you step off trail.


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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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