Friday, January 26, 2024

Outdoor Conditions (1/26): Proper trail etiquette on Rail Trail, other multi-use trails

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 (1/24): The following report describes conditions as of Wednesday, 1/24. Changing weather may affect conditions. There is 80cm (31in) of snow at the Colden Caretaker Cabin. Snow levels vary at higher elevations. Conditions now require snowshoes to be worn. The lakes are in, but the ice is thin near the bridge and outlets/inlets. The ski trail is in very good condition.


  • Snow Report (1/18): The following report describes conditions as of Thursday, 1/18. Changing weather may affect conditions. There is 89cm (35in) 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, which as of 1/17 was beyond Marcy Dam. Microspikes/crampons are needed. The lakes are in.
  • Open Snowmobile Trails: As of 1/18, most snowmobile trails are now open; but 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.

Know Before You Go (as of 1/25):

Know Before You Go graphic

Fire Danger: Due to current and expected weather patterns, the fire rating map forecast has concluded for the 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 upper-30s and lows in the lower-20s. It will get progressively colder through the weekend, with Friday expected to be rainy/snowy but remaining above freezing all day/night, and Sunday expected to be below freezing for the most part but with less precipitation.

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 have 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: As of 1/25, conditions are extra slick and wet due to temperatures slightly rising. Snow and ice are present throughout the High Peaks Wilderness and surrounding areas, which can make steep slopes unstable and slippery. Hikers should bring microspikes or crampons when heading into the backcountry or above tree line.

Sunrise/Sunset: Sunrise = 7:18 a.m.; Sunset = 4:57 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.

Backcountry Food Storage: 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, Adirondack wildlife is active year-round. 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 and can help protect your food from all wildlife. 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: Motorists 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 open 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 average to a little 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.

Snowmobiles: As of 1/18, most snowmobile trails are now open; but 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. As always, snowmobile access is dependent on conditions and can change quickly.

Trailhead Parking: Remember, many Adirondack trailhead parking areas are not maintained or plowed in winter. Please be prepared to encounter unplowed, snowy and icy conditions at parking areas, and anticipate possible snow accumulation around your vehicle.

Summer Employment Opportunities:

Would you like to work in New York State’s beautiful High Peaks Region of the Adirondack Forest Preserve this summer?

Environmental Educators Needed!

Join our Region 5 Outreach Team and become an integral part of the High Peaks Information Station Program this summer. Educators will spend the summer educating on safe and sustainable recreation in the High Peaks. Your role as an educator is vital in protecting the Adirondack’s natural resources while enhancing the safety, experience, and wellbeing of our communities and visitors. Positions are based out of the Region 5 headquarters in Ray Brook, NY but educators will spend much of their time at their designated information station. The application period will open in April but you can send your resume anytime to

Environmental Educator station set-up.

Safety and Education – Trail Etiquette:

With the new release of 15 mph speed limit regulations on the Saranac Lake and Lake Clear sections of the Adirondack Rail Trail, now is a pertinent time to talk about other ways that everyone sharing a trail can ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for ALL users. This is especially important now that pedestrian and bicycle traffic is happening alongside winter use by skiers and snowmobilers.

Following proper trail etiquette on multi-use trails like the Rail Trail includes:

  • Fully stopping at road intersections
  • Maintaining right of way
  • Thru traffic moving on the right, passing on the left
  • Traveling single file if you’re a group
  • Keeping pets on leashes
  • Wearing reflective or bright clothing in the dark

Since the Rail Trail crosses and intersects with numerous roads and highways, DEC utilizes safety features along the trail such as stop, stop ahead, yield, bridge ahead, and blind corner signs. The use of these signs not only protects trail users, but also users of the road and highway system the trail crosses.

Knowing how to maintain trail etiquette on whichever trail you choose to set forth on is crucial for everyone’s safety. Etiquette on the trail will always prevail!

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.

Hike Smart graphic

Leave No Trace – Winter Wildlife:

A principle of Leave No Trace that may in some ways get overlooked in the winter is #6, “Respect Wildlife.”

Since bears are mostly in hibernation and canisters are no longer required this time of year, those in the backcountry may forget about keeping their food safe from the other animals who are active in the winter.

Winter is already a stressful time for lots of animals due to food being scarce. But your food won’t benefit them. Not only is human food itself often unhealthy for wildlife, but the behavior of seeking it is unhealthy for them, too. Eating and seeking human food leads to unnatural behavior and heightened aggression, both towards other wildlife and towards humans as they lose wariness. Unnatural behaviors, malnutrition, increased risk of disease spread, and overabundance are just some of the consequences of feeding wildlife.

So just remember, keeping your food safe keeps the wildlife safe!

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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