ELIZABETHTOWN, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Overused trails and backwoods destinations in the Adirondacks should require hikers to apply for permits or make reservations, according to a report from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics on Wilderness. Overcrowding has caused problems ranging from parking issues, to littering and even the destruction of forested areas and wildlife.

The Adirondack Council have reported an increase in use of the trails this year, despite the closure of the Canadian Border due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In previous years, Canadian visitors had accounted for around 30% of footfall in the Adirondacks.

The increase in footfall is having a detrimental effect on the trails, with several points of the popular Cascade trail in the high peaks measuring 1,150% wider than the federal design standard of two feet wide.

Off the trails, vegetation and wildlife are being damaged by hikers looking for alternative routes, and the environment is being polluted by inexperienced hikers answering the call of nature.

“Visitor limits based on capacity combined with robust education and outreach are the best way to ensure that the places people are flooding the Adirondacks to see will survive and be available to future visitors and future generations of visitors.

The state has been authorized to use permits or parking reservations in the High Peaks Wilderness Area since the first management plan was approved in 1999. It has resisted taking that step here. The time has come to stop resisting.”

William C. Janeway
Executive Director of the Adirondack Council

The environment isn’t the only thing at risk. The number of search and rescues in the High Peaks District has increased by over 45% when compared to the same point in 2019. This issue is reflected statewide, 299 search and rescue missions have been conducted so far compared to 223 in 2019.

The idea of using a permit system to reduce strain on trails isn’t unprecedented. Determinations for carrying capacity in the High Peaks region were made more than 20-years ago, but are not being enforced and as a result, the resource is being damaged and visitor’s safety compromised.

A permit system is already in place to reduce overuse in the popular Blue Hole camping area in the Catskill Park. In Adirondack Park, permits, user fees and capacity limits are already in use in campgrounds, day-use areas and special-use areas.

Parking restrictions have already been implemented, along certain areas of Route 73 roadside parking was banned in the summer of 2019, but the Adirondack Council says this has not effectively prevented illegal parking.