ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) urged hikers on March 31 to postpone hikes on trails above 2,500 feet until high elevation trails have dried and hardened. They say that as snow and ice continue to melt at high elevations, steep trails can become dangerous to hikers due to thick ice and deep, rotten snow.
Despite recent warm weather, DEC says high elevation trails are still covered in slowly melting ice and snow. These steep trails feature thin soils that become a mix of ice and mud as winter conditions melt and frost leaves the ground. The remaining compacted ice and snow on trails is “rotten, slippery, and will not reliably support weight.” These conditions, known as “monorails,” are difficult to hike and the rotten snow is prone to postholing – when the hiker’s leg inserts into deep snow and runs the risk of getting stuck.
Hikers are advised to take extreme caution on low elevation trails. Hikers will encounter different conditions, such as thick mud, flooded areas, and deep slushy snow. Backcountry streams are particularly susceptible to high waters and flooding due to melting snow from high elevations mixing with rainfall. DEC says hikers should not attempt stream crossings during periods of high, fast moving water. This is because the stream water is very cold and hikers who fall in can become immediately hypothermic.
DEC says avoiding high elevation trails during the Muddy Trail Advisory helps to reduce impacts to the trail tread from erosion and it also helps protect alpine vegetation. When encountering mud on low elevation trails, hikers should walk through the mud instead of around it to help prevent trail widening and minimize damage to vegetation on the side of the trails.
DEC says to avoid the following trails until trail conditions improve:
- High Peaks Wilderness – specifically Algonquin, Colden, Feldspar, Gothics, Indian Pass, Lake Arnold Cross-Over, Marcy, Marcy Dam – Avalanche – 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 – specifically Whiteface, Esther, Moose and McKenzie mountains
- Sentinel Range Wilderness – specifically Pitchoff Mountain
Visit the DEC website for a list of hikes in the Adirondacks below 2,500 feet.