Advice for Adirondack High Peaks trail users
By Mike Lynch
It’s mud season in the Adirondack Park, when temperatures range from below freezing to the 80s. Many trails are often too wet for use and waters are dangerously cold.
During this period, the state Department of Environmental Conservation recommends that hikers avoid going above 2.500 feet until those trails have dried and use caution when crossing streams or rivers.
In the following interview transcript edited for space and clarity, Henry Liebers, visitor information manager for the Adirondack Mountain Club, answers some basic questions about exploring the woods during this transitional time.
EXPLORER: Does mud season occur at the same time throughout the Adirondacks? When does it start and end and what are general conditions on trails?
LIEBERS: Mud season starts around the same time throughout the park, but it lasts longer at higher elevations because of the prolonged snowmelt. Trails in the Adirondacks are notoriously muddy outside of mud season, but during April and early to mid-May sections of trails above 2,500 feet in elevation can have consistently knee-deep mud for very long stretches. Stream crossings can also be treacherous.
EXPLORER: Why are hikers instructed to avoid high-elevation trails during mud season and what are the environmental impacts of hiking in the High Peaks during this time of the year?
LIEBERS: When trails become more and more muddy for long stretches, they erode and deteriorate much more easily. Walking on trails such as these during mud season can compound erosion, making trails less safe and enjoyable for hikers later in the season. Repairing such damage is extremely difficult, even for professional trail builders.
EXPLORER: If the High Peaks trails aren’t a good place to hike, where can you go?
LIEBERS: Since High Peaks trails all go above 2,500 feet, most are off the table until they dry out. The good news is that there are plenty of trails below 2,500 feet in the Adirondack Park. Consider hiking on some of the lower trail systems in the area or hiking to a pond or lake. There are plenty of scenic views to be found off of the higher summits in the Adirondacks.
Six short, spring Adirondack hikes, compiled from our archives.
EXPLORER: Once the trails dry out and it’s deemed okay to explore the High Peaks, what are the conditions like in late spring/early summer?
LIEBERS: Late spring/early summer conditions are never exactly the same every year. It depends heavily on how much rain we receive and how warm the days are. Generally speaking, one can expect trails to be somewhat muddy but hardened. Stream crossings have usually receded to a normal level by the first week of June and most trails are passable.
EXPLORER: What advice would you give to a novice day hiker visiting the High Peaks in the weeks after mud season?
LIEBERS: Novice hikers coming to the area after mud season should be advised that trails in the Adirondack High Peaks are very strenuous and steep. Be prepared to s climb 1,000 feet in elevation over the course of one mile or less, and be prepared to get your feet wet! Even in early summer, summits can reach very cold temperatures during the day. Always bring extra layers, a first aid kit, navigation tools (map and compass), a headlamp, food, and extra water.