Friday, December 29, 2023

Outdoor Conditions (12/29): Stay Dry with Shell Layers

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.
  • Snowmobile Trails Remain Closed: With recent heavy rains and the lack of snowpack in most areas, snowmobile trails remain closed.

Know Before You Go (as of 12/28):

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 mid-40’s and lows in the upper-teens. It will get progressively colder throughout the weekend, as Friday is predicted to remain above freezing all day/night with some rain, and Sunday below freezing all day/night with only a small chance of precipitation. Saturday’s forecast calls for snow, so Sunday will be extra icy as temperatures plummet and snow melts. 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 flooding last week causing waterways to swell and water crossings to become impassable, many trails are still recovering. Expect trails to be wetter than usual and bridges to be potentially damaged. If you are unsure about the safety or integrity of a section of a trail, turn around. As elevation increases and temperatures drop, all of the water on the trails has/will continue to freeze giving way to unstable and slippery conditions, especially on steep slopes. Hikers should bring microspikes or crampons when heading into the backcountry or above tree line.

Sunrise/Sunset: Sunrise = 7:30 a.m.; Sunset = 4:25 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 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.

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: Stay Dry with Shell Layers:

Even though temperatures are uncharacteristically high this week for winter, cool WET weather is just as dangerous as extremely cold weather! And with trails still recovering from the flooding last week, they are definitely wetter than usual. In other words, hypothermia is a major risk right now if you are not prepared.

Be prepared by following the layering system for your tops and bottoms (at least a base layer, a mid layer, and a water-resistant shell layer). When your clothes get wet, it makes you colder as the moisture evaporates, so your shell layers are going to be your best friend. You should put them on right once you see the clouds rolling in, before there’s even a chance of your inner layers getting wet.

And last but not least, don’t forget a hat, gloves, and an extra pair of wool socks for under your water-resistant boots! With being mindful of warm, water-resistant clothing and insulating layers, you can get out there and enjoy the above-freezing temps before the weather inevitably changes on us again.

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 – Channel Your Inner Onion:

The unpredictable weather as of late makes for even more unpredictable trail conditions. Dressing like an onion using the layering system from the previous section is an important part of the 1st Principle of Leave No Trace: Plan Ahead and Prepare.

By not being prepared with the proper layers of clothing to keep you warm and dry, you put yourself in a position where not only are you less safe but you also may cause more impact than necessary by unexpectedly changing plans, such as camping out or starting a fire somewhere you’re not supposed to, or having to call for search and rescue. Ultimately, your safety is the #1 priority, but being prepared can help keep both you AND the natural resources of the area you’re exploring safe.

So don’t cut onions and make yourself cry, just dress like them and have an enjoyable time outside!

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

Channel Your Inner-Onion Drawing


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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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