By Gwendolyn Craig
Hiking some iconic Adirondack High Peaks trails will require a reservation for people looking to head out across the Adirondack Mountain Reserve this summer, reserve owners and state conservation officials announced.
Parking in AMR’s 70-spot lot near Keene Valley will require a reservation May 1 through Oct. 31. Hikers, whether parking a vehicle, getting dropped off or arriving on a bicycle, will need to make one of the reservations, according to a joint news release from the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the AMR. Walk-ins will not be permitted. Each of 70 available vehicle reservations is good for up to six hikers, a DEC official added.
The system affects popular routes to places such as Rainbow Falls, Indian Head, Noonmark Mountain and Round Mountain.
The DEC said there is no cost for making a reservation. The parking lot will be accessible between 5 a.m. and 7 p.m. daily, with the exception of overnight parking, according to a news release.
Reservations to hike on the property may be made two weeks in advance, and may include use for the day or overnight, including overnight parking. The AMR parking lot will have a bike rack, where all bicycles must be left. Bicycles are not allowed on the reserve.
A website, hikeamr.org, will take the reservations. It is not live yet, but DEC and AMR have said it will be online starting April 15. It was not immediately clear if there is a limit to the number of hikers who can reserve a hiking spot.
“Those arriving to Keene Valley via Greyhound or Trailways bus lines may access with a valid bus ticket from within 24 hours of arrival,” according to the news release. “Those arriving by bus must check in at the AMR hiker parking lot.” The nearest bus stop is at Noonmark Diner, according to DEC.
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The AMR is privately owned by a group of trustees who are also members of the Ausable Club. Through a conservation and foot traffic easement with the state, the trustees allow the public to access many popular Adirondack Park trailheads. The club was considering its own hiker limits to its property last year around Columbus Day weekend, but that ultimately did not happen.
Ausable Club President Roland Morris had told Adirondack Explorer that the club would pursue limits of some kind for 2021, regardless of whether the state was on board. The club said it keeps its own records of visitor use and has seen a significant increase in traffic. As a result “we are seriously degrading the resource,” Morris said. Ausable Club trail registers, for example, saw fewer than 5,000 hikers in 1978 but 25,000 in 2017.
There already were some parking limits enforced in 2020. The AMR lot reduced its vehicle capacity to 28, which DEC had attributed to the coronavirus pandemic and public safety. The pandemic appeared to drive even more hiker traffic last year, though, and the AMR lot would fill often before 6:30 a.m. The Roaring Brook Falls lot across the street and several pull-offs along Route 73 filled up shortly after.
“We’re trustees of that property,” Morris told Adirondack Explorer in September, “and we have an obligation to protect that property with the DEC. And it’s become clear, from our point of view, the AMR, that limits will have to be part of that program.”
Morris also said visitor numbers “would have been astronomical” if the Canadian border had been opened last year.
DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos has said in the past that a hiker permit system would be a “last resort,” and on Monday he reiterated that position. In an emailed statement, he said this new pilot reservation system is meant “to address concerns at this particular location,” while “DEC still considers a permit system to be the tool of last resort.”
“With the increasing number of visitors to trailhead accessed through AMR, exacerbated in 2020 by New Yorkers looking for a nature break as a respite from COVID-19, DEC and AMR are working together to promote sustainable recreation and protect public safety,” Seggos added, in a news release.
The reservation system is meant to address the growing traffic, parking and public safety problem on Route 73 in Keene. The state has already cracked down on illegal roadside parking, added state Department of Transportation message boards and increased law enforcement presence.
The pilot reservation system was also a suggestion in the recently released High Peaks Strategic Planning Advisory Group’s report. That state-appointed group convened over the last year to come up with solutions to the growing visitor use.
AMR has other rules as part of its easement with the state:
- Bicycles are not allowed past the parking area;
- Hikers must stay on marked hiking trails;
- Dogs are not allowed on the property;
- Hunting, trapping, and fishing are prohibited;
- The public is not allowed to enter on the shores, swim, or boat on any and all lakes, streams, or rivers, or cross the frozen lakes in winter;
- Entering buildings is prohibited.
Visit the Adirondack Mountain Reserve Conservation Easement Tract page on DEC’s website for a full list of rules and regulations.
The Adirondack Council and Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve are two advocacy groups who have been in favor of some sort of permit system. Both praised the measure on Monday.
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Brian Riordan says
Hi, just a quick question. Is the permit just for the AMR parking or is it the whole adirondacks?
Melissa Hart says
Just for the AMR parking lot and the trails that lead from there.
Mike Wittich says
no swimming in any lakes?
Dave Manieri says
I do not care for the new parking regulations. The people at The ARM,keep making it harder ,for the average person to hike.They think they are better than everyone else.
Hear the Footsteps says
Maybe most will want to start as early as possible. It’ll be a sight to see the traffic jam in the morning.
I don’t believe you are allowed to leave their trails for any purpose.
Michael Welles says
This will require some real patrolling by ??? And I can see things getting ugly with cars parked where they shouldn’t be. But then, something has to happen because the woods are getting ugly with too many people.
Julie Moran says
I wish there were more of the underlying facts included with this story.
I believe move to add more access red tape for High Peaks hikers is the result of a recent big push by the handful of environmental “purist” groups to limit access to the High Peaks by the broader hiker community — whose rights are under-represented by government and unreported by the media.
The wealthy members of the Ausable Club leapt with glee onto this bandwagon, I believe.
True, it’s “private property” hikers use to access the SE side of the Great Range, the Colvin-Blake-Pinnacle Ridge, Bear Den-Dial-Nippletop ranges (the latter two are only accessible by the Ausable Club property) … and many other beautiful places in the High Peaks accessible only by the Ausable Club entrance.
But New York taxpayers purchased and the public owns an easement right to this property on behalf of the hiker public, costing about $3.2 million in today’s dollars. In my view, the club members and management have been looking for ways to renege on their access agreement for years. Finally they found a way … conspiring with the DEC and the local Keene Valley government (obviously mindful of the property taxes it takes in from the wealthy club).
This was the slippery slope I’ve been warning others on social media for a long time. Rest assured, this “pilot program” is NEVER going away!
I’ve never understood why hiking groups like the ADK and the 46ers seem so passionate in protecting private landowners’ rights even when hiker’ access rights are restricted in the process. There’s no group truly advocating for the access rights of the hiking public, I feel, why our access rights are slowly being eroded.
And we hikers aren’t the only ones paying a price. Who is asking local businesses about what they think of the government’s new red tape for High Peaks trail access? Pushing us hikers into more welcoming Vermont and New Hampshire hurts them too.
I really think this subject deserves more careful coverage than the media has given it thus far. This truly is a slippery slope — hikers, wake up! Our voices need to be heard and heeded too.
Great move by AMR and DEC. Thank you for working to protect this fragile ecosystem.
Yes, absolutely the right move. I would welcome a permit system on all the popular trails in ADK even if it means I would have to plan ahead or might not be able to hike there as often as I would like. The protection of this valuable resource is worth the small sacrifice.
Mike S. says
So parking lot is open till 7 PM. If you get a pass for a day but it takes you longer to get back to your car, say 9 PM. Can you leave the lot? Is it going to be gated?
By the way, I support it. Already getting over run. Trash, or worse on the trails.
And thanks for guaranteeing me a parking spot.
ROXANNE COULOMBE says
Extreme measures for extreme times……With the pandemic, there is an overflow of hikers everywhere! If it is any consolation, Canadian trails are overpopulated as well.
Expect a huge decrease in numbers when other activities become accessible, again.
I am really looking forward to that day! 🙂
Shane Holmes says
It is awesome that we are beginning to see some type of restrictions, however, I don’t think a scheduling system will work. A percentage of people will NOT show up after they schedule and some will show up very late. This takes away the opportunity for someone else to take that parking spot. I believe a permit system (with first come first serve) works better. In Lake Tahoe, if you want to hike a trail, you can purchase a $25.00 sticker for your car window from just about any business in the area. This allows you to hike any of the trails for the season. You put it on your car window. It doesn’t guarantee you a spot, but it legally allows you to use the trail if a spot is available. The mere fact that you have to purchase a sticker and/or take the time to go buy one will limit the number of people using the trails. The others will go find a trail that is free to hike.
Good to try reduce the pressure, but this won’t work. All they need to do is ticket ticket ticket and tow tow tow the illegally parked cars on the road and people will get the message. Once the lot fills up, you’re out of business and have to go home. Why over complicate it when they’ve never been out there stopping people from parking on the road. That should be the first step before some convoluted system.
Rocco P. says
Uh, what? The problem is parking on the main highway. Anyone who shows up without a reservation and is turned away from the AMR parking is still going to park on the street and just go up Giant instead. So you’re relieving pressure on the MULTIPLE trails that you can access via AMR, but increasing the pressure on the far FEWER trails up the Giant… What they need to do is enforce the parking rule on the road with all day towing and put the fines to get your car back into a stewardship fund for the woods and to pay for the added enforcement. Parking stays first come first served and when the lot is full, people who try to park on the road get towed. Anyone EVER seen them towing cars there? Never. Maybe a reservation for overnighters only so they don’t hold the spaces for too long, but why all the hoop jumping for day hikers when it’s really unnecessary and is not addressing the real issue.
I used to comment on these stories during the pandemic when I had a lot of extra time; but then lost interest when I went back to work. Now that they are doing the permits I’m fired up again. I was not in favor of most of the measures they were planning on and some that they had implemented, such as the parking tickets. I remember hearing that the parking tickets were somewhere around 250 dollars.
If you add in the exorbitant NYS court fees, they were probably totaling around 400 dollars…for a PARKING TICKET! Which is just outrageous. Why is a ticket there 10 times the amount of a normal parking ticket? How is that even possible? I just listened to the 46 of 46 podcast and I agree with the author’s thoughts and ideas 100 percent on this issue. He is the only one (except some commenters) I’ve heard talk about this that makes any sense. We have a problem and there is a right solution and a wrong solution. Everything I’ve seen, heard and read about being proposed and/or implemented is a wrong solution, except for the shuttle buses and trailhead stewards. I also don’t quite understand the whole AMR situation, and how they are actually legally able to do something like this. The taxpayers of the state of New York (basically all New York citizens) own this land that we are trying to access. Not only do we own the land, but we pay for the upkeep. Our taxes pay the salaries of all of the state governmental employees that are supposed to be taking care of the land. So how can we have this situation where a private club like the AMR owns the land on the perimeter of the trails that we need to access to get to our hiking destination? And how can they decide to make up new rules like permitted / reservation hiking? The whole
thing smells rotten, in the same way that we have to pay to park at ADK Loj, and our fees don’t go to the state, but instead go to the Adirondack Mountain Club, a private organization. The only real solution to all of these problems is to go big and go “ALL IN”. What I mean by that is they/we (government, volunteers, donations, etc) should invest huge amounts of money and totally re-build the entire trail system with new sustainable trails that don’t erode much, build more infrastructure in and around the trails, and most importantly, build more
parking lots…big parking lots that can handle the amount of traffic that they are getting. For example, if the AMR wants to go totally private, that’s fine…lets find another place to get access, or buy some land back from them and build lots that are 5 times bigger than the existing. Anyone with half a brain knows that the ideas and solutions they have come up with are useless and will not work, it may take them another ten years to realize it, but eventually they will. It always takes them an incredibly long time to do anything.
Totally agree we need to invest in trails and parking to accommodate the demand. Anyone who thinks public access should be restricted should join a private club or private property and paste it with No Trespassing signs. I get that AMR can have its way with No Dogs Allowed, but AMR cannot exclude the public based upon its private land claim since they granted public access to the State, and DEC’s blessing cannot sustain AMR’s violation of the terms of the public easement. Hopefully through litigation the courts will force AMR and DEC to stand down. This should sound the alarm that public access is under seige and must be protected, and investments must be made to improve and sustain the trails, and provide parking and facilities that the public deserve under any reasonable notion of public lands and public access. You get the government you deserve. Time to stand up and be counted; if not, special interests and vested powers will fill the void and take away our public access rights. Count me in. No need to bow or curtsy to the AMR folks.
Bob Loblaw says
This is all drummed up BS.
While there are larger numbers of hikers, in the 35 years I have been hiking, I can bear witness to:
NO egregious trail damage,
NO egregious garbage(if any)
NO hikers have been hit walking the roads by parking on the highway
NO automobile accidents as a result of parking on the highway.
Hurricane Irene did more trail damage in three hours on a Saturday afternoon than ALL THE HIKING BOOTS, MOUNTAIN BIKES, HORSES, AND SNOWMOBILES HAVE FOR THE PAST 40 YEARS.
IT’S ALL ABOUT CONTROL.
You guys own that property and can manage it as you see fit, but if the state decides to control use of the forest preserve in similar fashion, and CONTROL the taxpayers use of property that TAXPAYERS own, you’re going to get some severe push back.
WE OWN THAT PROPERTY AS TAXPAYERS.
WE PAY YOUR SALARIES (DEC), which are pretty exorbitant, I might add. You’d be making half that in the private sector.
Watch your step, you’ve already overstepped your bounds a bit with road closures, campsite and lean-to removal, and a few other Leftist environmental policies.
This all boils down to you just don’t like SEEING cars parked along the road. That’s it. That’s all it is. You don’t care if cars park on the side of the road for an event in Lake Placid though do ‘ya ? That’s Ok.
People who have lived in the Adk’s can take care of the Adk’s. We don’t need Albany bureaucrats parlaying the Covid 19 plandemic into a “let’s control the taxpayers” hobby.
Go control something in NYC. Stop fixing things that aren’t broke.
STOP spending so much taxpayer money-your $15 billion in debt and THIS is your answer to that ?!!!???
This is a blue state all right…
herman valente says
Let’s not throw conspiracy “control” theories into this issue. Please! I’ve had a lifetime of this lately. Being a taxpayer doesn’t mean we have ownership of what our taxes support. It is a civic duty. Not a license. We want to make sure it is spent wisely, of course. And sometimes it is not. But it’s impossible to make everyone happy.
Instead of criticizing, why can’t we just wait and see how things work out. Then, if it doesn’t, revisit the issue with new ideas. In the long run, it’s better to try out things, and help “make” it work instead of starting a dump fire because you don’t agree. If in the end it doesn’t work, then you can have your “see I told you so” moment. But it the meantime, be optimistic. Even if in the end it fails.
Annoyed by elitists says
For years the “planners” have used, as a justification of limiting parking along RT73, that “someone is going to get killed” due to the traffic.
Why not reduce the speed limit through that area? Call it a “Recreational and Scenic Highway” and reduce the speed limits in specific areas.
There should be some “high intensity use” areas conceded to the average hiker. Make MORE parking available along RT73, but in a safe way.
Trying to keep people from enjoying the outdoors and out of the High Peaks area is not the way to go. Its elitist attitude. It has been “My way or nothing.”
There are plenty of places in the Adirondacks to go is you want a wilderness experience. Let a few of them be used by more, not less people.
Marc Edwards says
I am mostly interested in the simple math of the new permit system.
Perusing the DEC report that appears to be the legal source, https://www.dec.ny.gov/images/lands_forests_images/hpacfinalreport.pdf, there is not much information, especially on the motivating factors. Additional information comes from the Adirondack Explorer May-June 2021 issue article by Gwendolyn Craig, and the accompanying Yes and No columns by Julia Goren and Bob Meyer.
Providing usage statistics, such as the number of people who visit per day, or which day of the week, is important, but not sufficient to move towards cause and effect.
Most importantly, the permit system focuses on number of groups, not numbers of hikers. It seems that last year’s number of hikers, 35,000, has arbitrarily been chosen as an upper limit. Divide 35,000 by the number of days from May 1 – October, six months, about 180, gives you around 200 hikers per day. Peak days, especially summer weekends peaked around 400. Thus there seems to be a comforable margin between supply of permit system slots (touted as 400), and demand, 200. And from the numbers provided, there are relatively few days when there were more than 400 hikers going through the AMR gate.
But the real focus should be on hikers, not groups of hikers. How many people were in groups, and how large were those groups? And why is this question pertinent? If the group size was small, say one person per group, then the new system allows in 70 hikers. If the group size was large, say six hikers, then the new system limits the access to the first 400 hikers, which is reached mathematically, after the first 50 permits are assigned.
Realistically, how large are the parties that cross the AMR gate? AMR has this data, but it is not revealed in articles I have cited above. Based on my subjective experience of hiking many of these trails in recent years, the group size probably averages between two and three hikers. This translates to 140 to 210 hikers, way below the apparent maximum tolerable quantity of 400. Thus, the curious preoccupation with number of groups versus number of hikers. Yes, it limits the numbers of hikers who can gain entry.
From my distant, narrow perspective, this preoccupation allows DEC and AMR to take cover in each other’s shadow. AMR obviously wants to keep the number of interlopers as low as possible, to preserve the exclusivity of their enclave, and DEC wants to be seen doing something to deal with this “crisis”. This is just speculation on my part.
More complicating is the role of the “High Peaks Advisory Group”, and the authors of the report, who are called MEMBERS OF THE HIGH PEAKS STRATEGIC PLANNING ADVISORY GROUP, a rather motley crew. It seems to have been determined that the optimal setting for experimenting with a reservation system was a private property access point, with a motivated owner. How convenient!
However, as Bob Meyers pointed out, there is no visible environmental deterioration to be seen on these trails, or on the AMR property, except where they cause it themselves, as they maintain it. Therefore it will be impossible to test the effectiveness of the new system in this way. As far as parking is concerned, hikers, will simply find other nearby places to have their experience. Problem solved.
What then is the new system testing? I believe it is testing the capacity for the hiking public to tolerate being manipulated by promoting the concept of a “system” that is being presented to them as accomplishing some kind of worthy long term goal that requires some individual sacrifice.
I, for one, do not like being a guinea pig for someone else’s experiment. It is clear to me, that New York State has gotten itself into a pickle by setting aside the area to begin with. Here in Texas, most of the public land is Federal, and not state. Texas state parks are tiny and far apart. They do not come close to providing a viable natural resource to the public. Again, problem solved, no parks, no problem.
It is good that folks are upset about this situation. It is a crucially important issue. Far more education, monitoring via live rangers, and enforcement are needed. Not a contrived filtering mechanism based on unsound principles. New York State needs to reflect the will of the residents and provide these human resources.
In June, I will make my 2,000 miles pilgrimage to upstate New York, and occupy the modest accommodation I have reserved. At 74, it is hard to know what my energy will be like tomorrow, let alone next week. But I want you to know that last year, on my first hike to Nippletop, I had the summit to myself for a half hour, and met about eight others on the trail, via Dial, all day. A busy day hiking to Pyramid via Rainbow Falls, is encountering a dozen. The Beaver Meadow Falls route to Gothics is almost empty.
Why not focus our attention on where the problem is? Maybe someone should go over the math with the advisory group?
I was astonished by my friends from PA as to how I could access trails. Been paying taxes in ADK (Essex County) for decades.
I am a resident of New York State, and we the people of the state will not be paying to park and designated areas or to hike in the high pitch region. We will hike when we want to and talk and designated areas for me want to.
This is ridiculous and stupidity.