By PHIL BROWN
The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) no longer includes maps in the back of its hiking guidebooks. It partners with National Geographic to produce “Trails Illustrated” maps, which are sold separately (or bundled with the books).
Nevertheless, ADK continues to publish a “High Peaks: Adirondack Trail Map.” In fact, it just came out with a new edition.
Tony Goodwin, editor of ADK’s High Peaks trail guidebook, edited the map. It’s designed to be used with the book. Then again, so is National Geographic’s “Lake Placid/High Peaks” map. So which to buy?
Don’t get me wrong: I like the National Geographic maps. They’re full-color, user-friendly, and informative. I own the full set of five, which covers the whole Adirondack Park. Still, when I hike in the High Peaks, I prefer the ADK map.
One reason is that ADK’s map folds up to a size that easily fits into your back pocket or pack. The National Geographic maps have the dimensions of a leaflet.
Another reason is that ADK’s map scale is larger. One inch equals a mile. On the “Trails Illustrated” maps, an inch represents 1.2 miles. This means water bodies and other features appear a bit bigger on the club’s map.
Finally, ADK’s map has more contour lines. Each line represents an increase in elevation of 20 feet. On National Geographic’s maps, the contour interval is 50 feet. As a result, the topography on the ADK’s map is more defined, making it easier to distinguish steep from gentle slopes.
The big advantage of the National Geographic map is that it covers a broader area. One side extends all the way to Lake Champlain. The ADK map focuses on the High Peaks.
Since ADK’s last edition, the High Peaks Wilderness has grown to 274,000 acres, absorbing the Dix Mountain Wilderness, Boreas Ponds, and other adjacent lands. The new map reflects those additions. One criticism is that it does not show the boundaries of the wilderness area, so it’s hard to tell where the High Peaks Wilderness ends and the Vanderwhacker Wild Forest begins. This omission is not likely to matter to most users.
The state bought Boreas Ponds in 2016. Given the fabulous mountain views, Boreas Ponds naturally has attracted paddlers, hikers, and cross-country skiers. Those visiting the ponds also might want to visit secondary destinations such as White Lily Pond and the headwaters of the Boreas River. Old logging roads lead most of the way to White Lily and all the way to the headwaters. Unfortunately, these roads are not shown on the map. Perhaps in a future edition? In the meantime, you can find a description of the hike to the Boreas headwaters in the Adirondack Explorer guidebook “12 Adventures on New State Lands.”
When the Adirondack Park Agency expanded the High Peaks Wilderness in 2018, it also approved a management plan that will divide the region into three sectors: the Central High Peaks Zone, the Outer High Peaks Zone, and the Adirondack Canoe Route. This is a modification of the existing plan that divides the wilderness area into an eastern zone, a western zone, and the canoe route.
The rub is that the change won’t take place until 2020, so ADK was forced to show and describe the boundaries of both the existing sectors and the future sectors—not an easy task, but it was done well. Since regulations differ somewhat from sector to sector, this was a necessity. Fortunately, the next edition of the map presumably will be rid of this complication.
The map does a good job explaining the general regulations for the forest preserve and the specific regulations for the High Peaks Wilderness and its sectors. For example, dogs must be leashed only in the busier eastern zone. Likewise, campfires are banned only in the eastern zone. Starting next year, both regulations will apply only to the central zone (which corresponds roughly to today’s eastern zone).
The map adds trails built recently or being built. These include the Heaven Hill trails outside Lake Placid, the trail to Wolf Pond off the Blue Ridge Road, and the trail to Cascade Mountain that is expected to open this fall.
Another change: two large inset maps were added to show the tent sites and lean-tos in the vicinity of Marcy Dam and Lake Colden. Given the popularity of these camping areas, this is useful information.
Both “High Peaks: Adirondack Trail Map” ($9.95) and National Geographic’s “Lake Placid/High Peaks” ($11.95) can be purchased in stores or directly from ADK. Both are waterproof and tear-resistant.