Friday, October 13, 2023

Outdoor Conditions (10/13): Ice/snow hits some peaks above 4,000 ft, hikers urged to use traction devices

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.


  • Elk Lake Lodge Road Closure – The Gate at Clear Pond will be closed to public vehicles from October 16, 2023 until late May 2024. From the evening of October 20 until the morning of December 4, no hikers may enter the Elk Lake Conservation Easement.
  • Reservations still Required at AMR – Parking reservations are required for the AMR hiker parking lot and entry through AMR trailheads from May 1 – October 31. Reservations can be made by visiting the AMR website. For more information, view a list of frequently asked questions (PDF).


Notice: Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) Spotted: Paul Smith’s College Adirondack Watershed Institute reported harmful algal blooms on Upper Saranac Lake, Follensby Clear, Whey Pond, and Floodwood Pond. For more information on HABs, visit the Harmful Algal Blooms webpage on DEC’s website.

  • Adirondack Rail Trail Still Under Construction – Despite some sections appearing complete, Phase 1 of construction is still ongoing and recreational use is leading to construction delays. Please, avoid the ART and use alternative trails this fall.
  • Spruce Mountain Fire Town Closed, Unsafe – Spruce Mountain Fire Tower is currently closed until a safety assessment can be performed on the structure. The Fire Tower on Hadley Mountain is a nearby alternative in the Wilcox Lake Wild Forest.

Know Before You Go:

Know Before You Go Graphic

Fire Danger (as of 10/12):

  • Adirondack Park – Low
  • Champlain Region – Low
  • Southern Tier – Low
  • Check the fire rating map for daily updates.

Temperatures: These are forecast temperatures for base elevations throughout the region.

Cloudy skies and moderate temperatures are expected throughout the weekend. Temperatures in the valleys are forecasted with highs in the low-50’s. Nighttime lows are expected to be in the low-40’s or even high-30’s. Reminder: These forecasts are for low elevations. Anticipate losing 5 degrees Fahrenheit for every 1,000 feet of elevation gain. There is already snow and ice on some peaks above 4,000 feet.

Even with sunny skies, inclement weather is always a possibility and can change very quickly. Remember – hypothermia is always a risk in wet conditions, even when it’s warm outside. Be prepared with extra dry layers and keep an eye on the weather.

Conditions: Trails are still very wet and muddy. Muddy conditions on steep slopes can be unstable and slippery. The consistent wet weather has made rocks, boulders, and roots extremely slippery. Hikers should use caution on wet trails.

Sunrise/Sunset: Sunrise = 7:06 a.m.; Sunset = 6:17 p.m. The days are getting shorter as we move into fall. Make a timeline and stick to it. Pack at least one headlamp (two headlamps recommended) even if you expect to finish your activity before sunset. Phone batteries drain quickly and are discouraged.

Mount Colden Trapdike: The trapdike is considered a technical climb and not a hike. Climbers should be prepared with helmets, ropes, and climbing gear to ascend this route. Hikers looking to summit Mount Colden should do so via the hiking routes. Attempting to climb the trapdike unprepared can result in a rescue operation, serious injury, or death.

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.

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.

General Notices

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

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.

No Overnight Camping at Trailheads: Overnight camping is not permitted at trailheads or other roadside locations where a camping disc is not present. This includes individuals sleeping in cars, vans, and campers. Campers should seek out designated roadside campsites marked with a “camp here” disc or campgrounds. When camping, always carry out what you carry in and dispose of trash properly. Use designated bathroom facilities, pack out human and pet waste, or dig a cat hole.

Hiker Information Stations: Environmental Educators will be stationed at the following locations this weekend to assist with planning, preparation, and answering questions.

Friday – October 137am-3pmMobile Education Station – Marcy Field, Keene Valley

Mount Van Hoevenberg Olympic Sports Complex

Saturday – October 147am-3pmMobile Education Station – Marcy Field, Keene Valley

Mount Van Hoevenberg Olympic Sports Complex

Sunday – October 157am-3pmMobile Education Station – Marcy Field, Keene Valley

Mount Van Hoevenberg Olympic Sports Complex

Monday – October 167am-3pmGiant Ridge Trail, Keene Valley

Mount Van Hoevenberg Olympic Sports Complex

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 recent notices for road closure announcements.

Water Crossings: Water levels are above average for this time of year in the Adirondack region. Expect water levels to rise with new rainfall. Check the USGS Current Water Data for New York for stream flow of selected waters. Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs aka lifejackets) are strongly recommended.

Ticks: We do have ticks in the Adirondacks! 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.

Safety & Education – Staying Stuck: Traction Devices for the Backcountry

Winter Hike Smart NY Poster

The seasons are changing and so is the weather. Peaks above 4,000 feet in the Adirondacks are already seeing frost, snow, and ice overnight. This makes hiking more difficult and even dangerous if you forget to bring the proper equipment.

Even if the forecast at low elevations is well above freezing, overnight lows and high elevations may experience wintery conditions. Don’t give up your chance of summiting because you didn’t think you’d need traction.

What traction device should you use?

Microspikes – For late fall and early winter hikes, microspikes offer convenient purchase on slick summits or icey rock steps. These will often have a rubber or elastic fastening system to easily stretch over your hiking boots as well as chains and durable spikes on the bottom to bite into the hard ice of the High Peaks. Be sure your microspikes properly fit the boots you’ll be wearing before you reach the trailhead.

Chain-style Devices – Cleat or Chain-style devices are great for late fall and early winter hiking, but not usually aggressive enough for the terrain in the backcountry. Save these for walking paths and less mountainous trail systems and for when the ground freezes but there isn’t enough snow to justify snowshoes.

Crampons – Full mountaineering-style crampons aren’t always necessary in the late fall, but are often needed when winter descends on the High Peaks. At that point, snow and ice will be too hard, leaving it impenetrabel to microspikes. When this happens, sharper, more aggressive aluminim or steel crampons can provide better purchase. Depending on their fastening system, crampons may require special boots. As with microspikes, practice putting these on before you need them.

Leave No Trace™ – Ring True

Leave No Trace Tech Tip logo: Use a Fire Ring

There’s nothing better than having a fire when the weather gets chilly, but fires aren’t allowed in every wilderness area. This decision is made by experienced land managers for the safety and wellbeing of each particular ecosystem.

Let’s be sure to protect the areas we all love!

Before having a fire, check to make sure they are allowed at the area you’re in. If fires are allowed, use only existing fire rings. This helps to keep fire contained and minimize the damage to the surrounding area.

Minimize your campfire impact by following Principle 5.

Follow the Seven Principles of Leave No TraceTM to maintain minimal impact on the environment and the natural resources of the Adirondacks.

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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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