Friday, December 22, 2023

Outdoor Conditions (12/22): Extensive trail washouts, high water throughout ADKs

outdoor conditions graphicThe 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.


  • Snow Report (12/21/23): The following report describes conditions as of Thursday, 12/21. Changing weather may affect conditions. There is 28cm (11in) of snow at the Colden Caretaker Cabin. Snow levels vary at higher elevations. Conditions now require snowshoes to be worn where snow depths exceed 8 inches. Microspikes and crampons are needed. Due to heavy rains, there is no ice coverage on the lakes.
  • Wet and Dangerous Conditions Advisory: The Adirondacks are experiencing extensive trail washouts and dangerous high water. Washouts occurred even in front country areas; all recreationists should plan ahead, avoid water crossings, and anticipate dynamic trail conditions including washouts and icy trails. See DEC’s Wet and Dangerous Conditions Advisory for more info.
  • Seasonal Road Closures: Additional seasonal closures are now posted. See DEC’s Adirondack Backcountry Information page for specific road conditions and information.
  • Snowmobile Trails Remain Closed: With recent heavy rains and the lack of snowpack in most areas, snowmobile trails remain closed.


  • Bridge Closure: The bridge over Herbert Brook on the Calamity Brook Trail is out and will be out all winter. Please use caution; always assess conditions before considering a crossing.
  • Moose River Plains: Now that there is adequate snowpack, the Moose River Plains gates are open for snowmobile season. Beware of a couple of wet spots and some low hanging trees due to the last storm.

Know Before You Go (as of 12/21):

Know Before You Go graphic

Fire Danger: Due to current and expected weather patterns, the fire rating map forecast has concluded for the 2023 season. Unless conditions change, forecasting will resume in spring 2024.

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

Weekend temperatures in the region are expected to produce highs in the lower-40’s and lows in the upper-teens. Friday is predicted to be the coldest, remaining below freezing all day. It will get progressively warmer throughout the weekend, with Sunday predicted to be the warmest. We are not expecting much precipitation, other than a 50% chance of snow Saturday night. Check the National Weather Service’s Mountain Point Forecast for more accurate forecasts at elevation on or near your intended route.

Reminder: These forecasts are for low elevations. Anticipate losing 5 degrees Fahrenheit for every 1,000 feet of elevation gain. Snow and ice has accumulated throughout the High Peaks, and will likely remain throughout the weekend.

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 feels warm outside. Be prepared with extra dry layers and keep an eye on the weather.

Conditions: Due to the extensive rain and warmer weather earlier in the week, much of the existing snowpack melted causing swelling waterways and dangerously high water crossings throughout trails in the Adirondacks. Now that temperatures are dropping again, there will be re-freezing along trails, resulting in potentially extra dangerous and icy conditions for outdoor recreators this weekend. These conditions on steep slopes can be unstable and slippery. Hikers should bring microspikes or crampons when heading into the backcountry or above tree line.

Sunrise/Sunset: Sunrise = 7:27 a.m.; Sunset = 4:20 p.m. With shorter days this time of year, it’s crucial to pick 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.

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. Even though canisters are not required right now, bears can be active at any time of year. Therefore, appropriate storage and management of food is always encouraged by NYSDEC for your safety in the Adirondack backcountry. Bear canisters are 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.

Watch for Moose: Motorist should be aware that moose are rutting at this time of year. Moose will be wandering around looking for mates and walking into roads without paying attention to vehicles. Take precautions to avoid colliding with moose.

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.

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 strongly above average for this time of year in the Adirondack region, following the flooding we experienced this past week. 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.

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.


Safety and Education – Emergency Shelters:

Weather forecasting has come a long way, but weather in the mountains can always be unpredictable.

Even if the forecast doesn’t show poor weather in the near future, it’s important to have an emergency shelter whenever you venture into the backcountry this winter.

An unexpected storm or minor injury could quickly develop into something more severe if you’re unable to stay warm.

Bivy bags, space blankets, and emergency group shelters work well to cut wind, trap body heat, and protect you from the elements while you wait out the storm.

Whether you’re going for a snowshoe, ski, or out on the ice, 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.

10 Hiking Essentials Graphic

Leave No Trace – The Dangers of Postholes: 

Snowshoes and skis are often required when recreating in the backcountry during the winter season. In the Adirondacks, they are required anywhere that there is more than eight inches of snow, but why?

Snowshoes and skis help to disperse your weight across the snow’s surface, preventing your feet from sinking in. Those holes left by your feet without snowshoes or skis are called postholes.

Postholes may seem like innocent accidents, but they’re more dangerous than they appear. Travelling in deep snow without the proper equipment has led to countless rescues in the Adirondacks. Injuries from postholes, in combination with exposure to cold weather, are a dangerous combination.

Postholes aren’t only dangerous to the person making them. They’re also uncourteous and potentially dangerous to those that travel thereafter. Frozen postholes are a long lasting hinderance to others that would otherwise be able to travel down the trail smoothly, and they can cause further harm if other recreators were to fall into them.

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

Person wearing hiking gear to hike through snow-covered 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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