The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation on Thursday issued a muddy trails advisory for Adirondack hiking trails above 2,500 feet in elevation, urging hikers to postpone treks on high-elevation trails until surfaces have dried and hardened.
The DEC reports most north-facing trails have retained snow and ice late into the season, despite recent warm weather, and thin soils, especially on high, steep trails, become a mix of ice and mud as winter conditions give way to melts, which poses a danger to hikers, increases erosion susceptibility and more easily damages sensitive alpine vegetation.
Remaining compacted ice and snow at higher elevations is extremely slippery and “will not reliably support weight,” according to the DEC. The transitioning and slippery conditions of trails, called monorails, are difficult to hike, and hikers can damage trailheads as they struggle to gain traction on loose, saturated soils. And moving off trails of compacted snow and ice can impact vulnerable trailside soils and vegetation and contribute to trail widening.
To minimize safety risks and damage to trails and vegetation, the DEC encourages hikers to avoid all trails above 2,500 feet, particularly high-elevation trails in the Giant Mountain Wilderness near Elizabethtown and Keene, and High Peaks Wilderness areas, including the former Dix Mountain Area in the northern Adirondacks.
Additional trails to avoid include:
High Peaks Wilderness areas: Algonquin, Colden, Feldspar, Gothics, Indian Pass, Lake Arnold Crossover, Marcy and the Marcy Dam Avalanche pass to Lake Colden (which is extremely wet), Phelps Trail above Johns Brook Lodge, Range Trail, Skylight, Wright, all “trail-less” peaks, and all trails above Elk Lake and Round Pond in the former Dix Mountain Area.
Giant Mountain Wilderness: all trails above Giant’s Washbowl, “the Cobbles,” and Owl Head Lookout.
McKenzie Mountain Wilderness: all trails above 2,500 feet where wet, muddy and snowy conditions still prevail, specifically Whiteface, Esther, Moose and McKenzie Mountains.
Sentinel Range Wilderness: Pitchoff Mountain.
Until conditions improve, hikers are encouraged to explore lower elevation trails close to home and enjoy other forms of recreation, such as paddling and fishing, to protect the Adirondack trail system. If hikers do encounter mud on trails, they should hike through mud instead of around it to help reduce trail widening and minimize damage to trailside vegetation.