Friday, June 28, 2024

DEC Reminds Visitors to Focus on Safety as Summer Hiking Season Begins

Gothics Mountain

Being Prepared Before Heading Out is the Best Way to Ensure Arriving Home Safely

On June 27, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Interim Commissioner Sean Mahar reminded visitors to New York’s outdoor spaces to focus on safety before heading out to outdoor adventures in the State’s wild and beautiful destinations. As this summer’s recreational season begins, DEC continues to advance actions to promote public safety and improve visitor experience.

Be Prepared

Wear proper gear and attire, including sturdy, comfortable boots and:

  • Moisture-wicking synthetic fabrics that keep your skin dry and help regulate your body temperature in both cold and warm weather – avoid cotton as it holds moisture;
  • Layered clothing is recommended even for summer hikes;
  • Light-colored clothing, which will make it easier to see ticks
  • Waterproof, sturdy, and comfortable shoes or boots (no flip-flops);
  • A watch or other time-keeping device;
  • Trekking poles will reduce leg fatigue and joint pain; and
  • Snowshoes and traction devices in the winter.

Hikers and others heading outdoors should always let someone know where they are going, when they plan to return, and should provide updates if there are any changes to the plan. Anyone heading out needs to be realistic about their fitness and skill level and not overestimate their abilities or underestimate the weather conditions.

Air Quality

Before heading out, Be Air Quality Aware! DEC and DOH issue Air Quality Health Advisories when DEC meteorologists predict levels of pollution, either ozone or fine particulate matter (PM2.5), are expected to exceed an Air Quality Index (AQI) value of 100. The AQI was created as an easy way to correlate levels of different pollutants to one scale, with a higher AQI value indicating a greater health concern.

Additional information on ozone and PM 2.5 is available on DEC’s website and on DOH’s website (PM 2.5) / DOH’s website (ozone). A new DEC fact sheet about the Air Quality Index is also available on DEC’s website or by PDF download.


Make a plan before heading out! DEC is sharing weekend parking and reservation status via @NYSDECAlerts on X and DEC’s website. In addition, the New York State Department of Transportation’s 511 traffic management system will note when certain parking locations on Route 73 reach capacity and provide information about the Adirondack Mountain Reserve’s parking reservation system. Visitors are encouraged to check these resources before and during travel to make adjustments if parking availability changes. First-come, first-served parking lots at popular trailheads and roadside destinations in both the Adirondacks and Catskills often fill quickly and early, leaving some visitors to find alternate parking or new destinations entirely.

10 Hiking Essentials

Carry these essentials in a day pack on all hikes for a safe and enjoyable experience.


  • Map
  • Compass
  • GPS system
  • Extra batteries

Insulation/Rain Gear

  • Waterproof/windproof jacket
  • Hat
  • Gloves
  • Thermal undergarments (pack extra)
  • Wool socks (pack extra)
  • Goggles – Winter
  • Face mask – Winter


  • Headlamp
  • Flashlight
  • Lanterns
  • Extra batteries

First Aid Supplies

  • Use a pre-made kit or build your own

Emergency Kit

  • Whistle
  • Signal mirror
  • Duct tape
  • Pocket knife/multi-tool, etc.
  • Bright colored cloth


  • Matches in waterproof container
  • Lighter
  • Fire starters


  • Choose high protein and high calorie items
  • Pack extra food


  • Pack at least 2 liters per person
  • Carry more than you think you will need
  • Water filtration or purifying system

Sun and Insect Protection

  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Hat
  • Bug Repellent
  • Bug Net

Emergency Shelter

  • Tent
  • Space Blanket
  • Tarp

Those planning a trip should consider going with at least one other person. Hiking alone can be dangerous. Also monitor trail conditions before arrival and during planned hikes. Trail condition resources include: Adirondacks areaCatskills areaFinger Lakes area. These and many more hiking safety tips are on the DEC’s Hike Smart website.

Visitation to State Forest Preserve lands is typically highest during the summer months. In partnership with State agencies, local municipalities, and private entities, DEC is working to protect public safety, improve the visitor experience, and safeguard sensitive ecosystems. Using recommendations outlined by the High Peaks Strategic Planning Advisory Group (HPAG) and Catskills Strategic Planning Advisory Group (CAG), as well as input from local and community partners and outdoors enthusiasts, New York State continues to implement new strategies and adaptively manage the ongoing safety and resource needs of both Forest Preserve regions. For more information, visit DEC Announces Suite of Actions to Protect Public Safety and Promote Sustainable use of State Lands on DEC’s website.

New Yorkers are encouraged to Love Our New York Lands all year by practicing Leave No TraceTM principles and by recreating safely, sustainably, and hiking in suitable conditions based on weather and experience level.

Photo at top: Hiking Gothics Mountain. Photo by Adirondack Explorer reporter Gwendolyn Craig.

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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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2 Responses

  1. Todd Eastman says:

    Hiking on rugged trails is a skill that takes practice and a degree of fitness. Learn these skills on gentler terrain and adventure into more demanding trails as seems within your comfort zone. Hike with precision and focus. The deeper you go into the woods, the more difficult it will be for you to get out should you get injured. Better to over prepare with the skills of hiking than be over your head and get hurt. Evacuations are incredibly time consuming and require a massive amount of energy by the rangers and other rescuers.

    The High Peaks trails are some of the most rugged trails in the US. Just because they are not towering mountains doesn’t mean they wont kick your ass.

    • Boreas says:

      Agree 100%

      The terrain in the HPW combined with old, poorly laid-out trails increases the effort levels and risk of injury. Listen to your body. Turn around if you feel sick, weak, or overwhelmed. The farther you get from the trailhead, the more serious these problems become.

      If traveling in a party, keep close track of the slowest hiker and make sure they are not feeling poorly. Some people just hike slower (myself included) but if they are struggling (flushed, sweating profusely, panting, clammy, out of water. etc.), the party needs to address the situation and make a rational decision regarding how or whether to proceed. The slow hiker should not be “cut loose” or allowed to return to the trailhead alone. They could collapse on the way back – a recipe for disaster. Dehydration sickness – especially in humid weather – can become heat stroke quite fast. Temperatures do not have to be oppressive for dehydration sickness to occur. Recognize the symptoms and have a plan for if it happens to a member.

      Some people seem to be more susceptible to dehydration sickness – especially if you tend to sweat a lot. It happened to me three times in my active, younger days. Once distance biking in hot weather, once at Times Square on Santanoni after a hot, God-awful struggle up Panther, and once at the Wright/Algonquin junction in January at -15F where we camped in preparation for the next day’s ascents. In every case I essentially collapsed on the trail from exhaustion. In every case, resting and rehydrating reversed the sickness in 30-60 minutes. It can be especially deceptive in winter in cold/dry weather becuse you really don’t sweat much. Warning signs are minimal and it comes on suddenly. You basically lose all energy and cannot go on or even stand. But in all cases, PUSHING WATER – even when not thirsty – is key to avoiding this uncommon malady.

      So WATER is key in the backcountry. In some areas in the HPW, there is little/no water available up high – even for filtering. The Seward Range is one such place. So keep your water bottles full and stay hydrated! As you become increasingly dehydrated, it becomes harder to reverse.

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