How to Hike During Mud Season in the 'Daks

The valleys and lower elevation mountains are starting to thaw, the grass is starting to appear again, and things are starting to warm up. All tell-tale signs that mud season is here.

In the Adirondacks, we know this also means that trails will soon be a lot more crowded. In the last few years, the number of people who want to get outside in the Adirondacks has steadily increased, and for good reason: It’s beautiful! Total visitors in the Adirondack Park has risen from 10 million in 2001 to more than 12.4 million in 2018. Of that, 88 percent of visitors come to the Adirondacks to hike, so we may see a record number of hikers this year.

But right now, just as hikers are awakening from winter hoping to get out and enjoy the trails, the trails are at the height of their vulnerability. Between mid-April and early June when the snow melts and the spring rain begins, the ground is still semi-frozen and it causes muddy conditions that cause irreparable damage to trails as people trek across them.

The good news is that there are a few things that you can do to stay on the trails this spring without damaging them.

EMS-Burlington-0820

Follow Leave No Trace

The best way you can help protect your public lands is to Leave No Trace. Following the first principle—Plan Ahead and Prepare—will help you follow the other six, keep you safe, and protect the wild place you’re visiting:

  • Research your trip ahead of time, overestimate the difficulty of a hike, consider the needs of everyone in your group
  • Know the rules and regulations of the land you are visiting. Lots of public lands and specific trails are seasonally closed to hikers to prevent damage.
  • Check the weather and trail conditions before you go so you can pack and dress accordingly.

Walk Through, Not Around Mud

Wearing waterproof shoes will make sure that you’re always comfortably able to walk through, not around mud, preventing trail damage.

When hikers step through flat areas with insufficient drainage, it makes a mud pit. Then hikers tend to step around a mud pit, making the mud pit even larger, and larger. Then hikers will step around the mud pit, and trample vegetation around the trail, creating “herd paths”. Then these herd paths become muddy themselves and the cycle continues. Make sure to stay on the trail to prevent trails from widening needlessly.

Credit: Ryan Wichelns
Credit: Ryan Wichelns

Choose Your Hikes Carefully

Steep trails with thin soils are the most at risk for damage during this time of year, so picking a trail at lower elevation is the best thing you can do to help reduce your impact. A south-facing trail is generally a good pick because the trails are drier.

Near the High Peaks Region, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation suggests a few alternatives that will give you a great experience, without compromising the trails. These other hikes would also make great springtime alternatives. Or, for a different, less crowded experience, try one of the many low elevation loop trails in the Pharaoh Lake Wilderness, Cranberry Lake Wild Forest, or West Canada Lake Wilderness.

 

In the Adirondacks, we generally use this time of year to let the trails rest and plan our adventures for the next season. But if you must itch the hiking scratch and enjoy the Adirondacks, please do so responsibly.  


6 Ways to Support Public Lands This Holiday Season

Every decision we make with our purchasing power, big or small, has an amplified impact. So, this year, leverage your holiday shopping for a good cause. While we can’t protect every wild place or solve every environmental problem by shopping, we can all make small positive impacts. If you need to upgrade your gear, or buy gifts for family and friends, consider some of the tips below to help the environment and support organizations that work to protect our public and wild lands. 

1. Shop gifts that give back

Your favorite outdoor gear and apparel brands are likely already giving back to protect our wild places and planet. Columbia, Keen, Klean Kanteen, Marmot, and hundreds of other outdoor gear brands commit to donating at least $100,000 to The Conservation Alliance to support programs that protect open spaces and the environment. Similarly, brands like ENO are part of the 1% For the Planet program, in which businesses donate a share of their profits to vetted organizations that work to preserve our natural resources. Check out the lists of brands giving back, so your purchase can make a positive impact.

2. Visit your public lands

Introduce your family and friends to the outdoors. Doing something outside together shows them why it’s important to protect our natural places. Visit a local nature preserve, take on a challenging hike, go cross-country skiing, bird watch, take your dog for a walk, or just get out and experience the solitude wild places provide. Studies show that children who grow up spending time in nature are more empowered to fight to protect it as adults. Find a family-friendly hike in the Adirondack Park in Upstate New York, State Parks in Vermont, or on hiking trails in New Hampshire, or learn about winter hiking in the Catskills to find an adventure that best suits your group.

EMS-Burlington-0826-2

3. Donate directly

We all have that friend or family member who’s always sharing photos from their latest adventure. They love nothing more than a week in the woods, their prized days paddling remote rivers, or climbing the most extreme mountains in the Northeast. Rather than adding to their ever-expanding gear stash, support the wild places that call to them. Make a donation in their name to an organization that works to protect the locations they love most.

This time of year, many nonprofit organizations have matching opportunities to encourage new supporters to make a donation before the New Year. If there is a time to donate, it’s now! Look to see which organizations that support the public lands near you have a match opportunity, so your donation can pack twice the punch.

4. Shop eco-friendly brands

Whether it’s toys, kitchen gadgets, or hiking gear, buying from eco-friendly brands helps reduce your environmental impact. Support companies that aim to lower their carbon footprint, lessen waste in landfills, and reduce air and water pollution. Do your own research before shopping, and beware of “green washing” or other vague, empty eco-friendly claims. Look for brands like prAna and Oboz that clearly outline sustainability programs on their websites.

5. Get your hands dirty

Sign up to volunteer on a trail crew. This time of year, there are a lot of downed branches and trees on the trails. Help get the trails snowshoe-ready, and organize a group of friends to volunteer on a project. You can find such opportunities in New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Or, simply organize a trail cleanup, and visit high-traffic wild places to pack out any trash you find.

6. Speak up

Write a letter, make a phone call, and get conversations started on social media. While November and December are commonly known as the holiday season, it’s also when state officials are drafting their budgets for the next fiscal year. This is a critical period to get state leaders thinking about allocating resources to protect our wild places and public lands. Not sure what to say? Simply explain why protecting our environment is important to you.

EMS-Burlington-0930

 


7 Tips for Hiking With Your Dog in the Adirondacks

There is nothing like packing your backpack, grabbing a leash, and heading out into the great outdoors with your best friend. There is so much to sniff and see, and it’s fun and good exercise for both of you. However, before you hit the trails with your pup, think about how to lessen your impact on places you’re visiting, and to have a safe and fun experience.

You know your dog best. If your dog is nervous, anxious, or aggressive, or does not behave well in new situations, consider these factors when bringing them on adventures. The hike should be enjoyable for everyone: you, your pup, the people and pets sharing the spaces around you…and the wildlife that live here!

Credit: Mary Godnick
Credit: Mary Godnick

1. Follow Leave No Trace Tips for Dogs

It’s safe to say no hiker enjoys coming across a pile of dog poop when they step into the Adirondack backcountry. So, make sure to bring bags to collect and carry out your pet waste. As well, don’t allow your animal to chase wildlife, keep them on the trail and off vegetation, and follow other LNT principles concerning dogs.

2. Be considerate of everyone on the trails

The New York Department of Environmental Conservation asks dog owners to keep their pets under control on Forest Preserve lands, and other agencies have similar guidelines. The best way to do this is through proper training or simply keeping your dog on a leash 100 percent of the time. When a group approaches, leash your dog, and step to the side to let them pass. Ask other visitors on the trail if your dog can say hello before assuming it’s okay for them to approach. Not every human or dog on the trails loves dogs, so it’s always important to ask.

Courtesy: Ruffwear
Courtesy: Ruffwear

3. Know the rules for everywhere you go

Each activity in the Adirondacks has its own set of rules. For instance, the High Peaks Wilderness Area has certain leash rules. On some trails on private land, such as Indian Head and Rainbow Falls, dogs are not allowed at all. On other trails, dogs must be leashed at all times. Check online for rules and regulations before you go.

4. Think about your dog’s needs

Being outside is about having fun. When you’re heading out on an adventure, it’s important to put your dog’s comfort level first. Plan your trip around your dog’s interests, age, ability, and energy levels. Research activities beforehand, so there are no unexpected rock scrambles or water crossings. And, be fully ready to turn around if your dog isn’t having fun. During your journey, look for signs of dehydration, heat exhaustion, hypothermia, and pain…and take breaks often.

Credit: Mary Godnick
Credit: Mary Godnick

5. Wear the right gear

Especially during hunting season, many trails are shared by a variety of outdoor enthusiasts. In response, it’s important that your dog stays visible to other people and animals in the Adirondacks. Your dog should wear a reflective collar, bright bandana, or harness that can be spotted from afar. Some dog owners that hike deep into the Adirondacks also prefer their pet wear a bell on their collar, so they can be heard by humans and wildlife. Additionally, there are cooling vests, insulated warming “jackets,” booties, and life jackets made for dogs that may also be helpful.

6. Safety isn’t just for humans

Bring an extra water bottle and healthy treats for your dog. Use a portable water bowl or reuse a plastic container to give your dog water frequently. Carry a small first-aid kit that includes materials you can use to administer first aid if your pup gets injured. The Humane Society recommends a few essential items for pet first aid. Additionally, tick-borne diseases are a real threat in the Adirondacks, so talk with your vet about the best flea and tick prevention options for your pet.

7. Think about your post-adventure hangs

Many restaurants, shops, breweries, campgrounds, and lodging options in the Adirondacks are dog-friendly. Still, call ahead to make sure that any place where you’ll grab a bite to eat and rest your feet can also accommodate your dog. New York State law prohibits the confinement of an animal in a motor vehicle in extreme temperatures, so avoid leaving your pooch in the car.


10 Must-See Spots in the Adirondacks (That Aren't Above 4,000 Feet)

The views of the Adirondacks from one of the park’s tallest mountains are breathtaking. So, it’s no wonder everyone is flocking to the region’s 46 High Peaks. Hiking one—or all!—of the 4,000-footers is one of the Northeast’s greatest adventures. But, for those of us who get tired of the trailhead throngs, crowded or busy trails, erosion (be sure to Leave No Trace when you head out, even on these less-visited hikes), and noise pollution, or for those of us who just want a tranquil day to experience the ‘Daks alone, you may want to skip the most popular routes, and check out one of these quieter, lower-elevation options instead.

Courtesy: The Adirondack Council
Courtesy: The Adirondack Council

1. Hike Jay Mountain (Jay, NY)

The Jay Mountain Wilderness Area is a secret oasis between Lake Placid and Lake Champlain. If you’re looking for a solid hike to challenge yourself and experience the solitude of the Adirondack wilderness, this is for you. This moderate eight-mile round-trip trail is a good option for somewhat experienced hikers. For the last mile, be ready to hike along a rocky, open ridge, where you will have awesome views of the surrounding forests and mountains.

2. Paddle the North Branch Moose River (Old Forge, NY)

This quiet river is just behind the hustle and bustle of Old Forge’s main road. Rent or bring your own kayak or canoe to explore the remote waters of the river’s North Branch, itself slow moving and surrounded by lush forests at every twist and turn. Along the way, hop out on occasion to enjoy the sandy shores.

HopkinsMountain
Courtesy: The Adirondack Council

3. Hike Hopkins Mountain (Keene Valley, NY)

If you’re looking for a moderate, low-traffic hike right near the High Peaks, Hopkins is a good alternative. You will get an equally amazing view with a much quieter trip. This 6.4-mile round-trip hike follows a beautiful creek most of the way, making it a scenic walk, and features vibrant green moss along the trail. Here, stop to watch the quiet water flow over boulders.

Courtesy: The Adirondack Council
Courtesy: The Adirondack Council

4. Explore Moose River Plains (Inlet, NY)

Tons of trails and old dirt roads wind through the forest, beyond lakes, streams, and rivers. As a multi-sport hub, the Moose River Plains State Wild Forest area features 130 miles of marked trails and a network of old roads ideal for hiking and mountain biking. Since the forest is so big, you’re likely to have whatever section you choose to yourself. There are also over 100 primitive roadside campsites, motorboat-free lakes to paddle and fish, and trails to hike or horseback ride. And, if you’re lucky, you might spot the resident moose.

Courtesy: The Adirondack Council
Courtesy: The Adirondack Council

 

5. Hike Owls Head Lookout (Elizabethtown, NY)

This incredible peak is just down the road from some of the busiest trail heads, but is a much quieter climb. Owls Head Lookout (not to be confused with the very popular “Owl’s Head” in Keene) is an amazing five-mile round-trip hike. Following a stream most of the way, the route feels less like you’re on a trail and more like you’re exploring the wilderness on your own. When you get to the top, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of the dramatic High Peaks, Green Mountains of Vermont, and the Champlain Valley.

6. Camp at Eighth Lake (Inlet, NY)

If your type of “off the beaten path” adventure still involves bathrooms and is accessible by car, this is the state campground for you. Visit during the week or in early summer, and you can probably snag a waterfront campsite along the lake’s shore. Here, spend your day hiking nearby trails, like Rondaxe or Rocky Mountain, or rent a canoe or kayak to paddle to the little island on the lake. Bring a cooler with lunch, relax on the sandy shore, and take a dip in the water.

Courtesy: The Adirondack Council
Courtesy: The Adirondack Council

 

7. Hike Coon Mountain (Westport, NY)

Turn down an unassuming dirt road to find this hidden gem. Tucked away in a quiet town, Coon sees fewer visitors than the ultra-popular peaks near Lake Placid. You’ll hike less than a mile to the summit, and there, views of Lake Champlain, the Green Mountains, the High Peaks, and beyond make it a local favorite.

Courtesy: The Adirondack Council
Courtesy: The Adirondack Council

8. Paddle the Essex Chain Lakes (Newcomb, NY)

The Essex Chain Lakes are a wild network of lakes, ponds, and streams nestled at the Adirondacks’ center. It’s a long yet easy and scenic drive to get to this remote destination. Here, you’ll want to paddle and portage your way through the wild waters. Later, camp at the numerous rustic sites along the lakes, all available on a first-come, first-serve basis. No motor boats are allowed, so it feels quiet and peaceful.

Courtesy: The Adirondack Council
Courtesy: The Adirondack Council

9. Hike Lyon Mountain (Dannemora, NY)

Involving a seven-mile, three-hour round-trip hike in the park’s northeastern portion, Lyon Mountain offers beautiful views from the summit fire tower. Look out at Champlain Valley, all the way to Montreal, and get a 360-degree view of forests, mountains, and lakes as far as the eye can see. Throughout the year, the trail is infrequently used, and makes a good challenge.

10. Hike Mount Severance (Schroon Lake, NY)

Near the Lake George area, this small-but-mighty mountain is not far off the beaten path. However, compared to other local hikes, it sees far less traffic. While not far from the main highway, this 2.4-mile round-trip hike is usually quiet and can be completed in about an hour. At the top, you’ll be rewarded with a great view of Schroon Lake and the surrounding mountains.


ADK 125: What Do the 'Daks Mean to You?

This year, the Adirondack Park is celebrating its 125th birthday. Because of the vision and leadership of those who decided to keep the land “forever wild,” watersheds for the Hudson River and Erie Canal were protected, forests were able to recover, and wildlife, such as the moose and beaver, have returned to their native home.

Today, the Adirondacks are one of the few places that you can go to experience true wilderness, quiet, and incredible natural landscapes. Generations have grown up here or visiting the park every year. Others may have just connected with the landscape. No matter what your relation is, those lucky enough to experience its wild spaces and beautiful communities deeply love and cherish the Adirondacks.

To celebrate the Park’s 125th birthday, the Adirondack Council collaborated with Evan and Hilary Williams of Pure Adirondacks to host the #125YearsADK photo contest, asking others, “What do the Adirondacks mean to you?”

 

I’m grateful for those who had the foresight, and those who continue presently, to protect the Adirondacks. Living there was second to none and visiting every year is something where I count down the days. There’s a peace and sense of community in Upstate New York, in the mountains. What do the Adirondacks mean to me? “He had everything, he possessed nothing.” -A.W. Tozer #125YearsADK @adirondackcouncil . . . #latergram #choosemountains #chasinglight #killercaptures #otherpath #nysculture #visualambassadors #MG5k #creativefolk #unknowntones #theimaged #beautifulplanet #hopeshare @hopeshare #visualcreators #iloveny #thevisualcollective #folkcreative #mobilemag #createcommune #LF10k #fatalframes #thecreatorclass @thecreatorclass #naturephotography #nothingisordinary #wanderfolk #upstateny #exploreny #optoutside @iloveny

A post shared by Ian Evans (@ieevans) on

The place where I most easily find peace and restoration. #125yearsadk #wildaboutthepark

A post shared by Jeremy Slesak (@slesakphotography) on

The Adirondacks mean so much more to me than I can put into words. You can’t help but fall in love with all little things that make the Adirondacks such a special place. I am extremely thankful for the lakes, rivers, trails and especially the mountains. They have become my home. They have broken me down and built me back up making me stronger and growing my confidence. The long days, hard climbs and rewarding views that have me going back for more. I love every minute, every mile and every tired walk back to the car. My food, water and energy level may be pretty empty but my heart is always full and I get to share it all with my best friend 💙 Happy #125yearsadk @adirondackcouncil @pureadirondacks. . . . #Adirondacks #visitadks #pureadk #adklifemag #iloveny #newyorkexplored #adventuredog #dogsthathike #neverroamalone #campingwithdogs #livelifeoffleash #zukespack #hikingwithdogs #llbeanmoment #likeamountaingirl #ladiesgetoutside #LGOAmbassador #womenwhohike #seekthetrails #ourwild #upperrightusa #exploremore #werehikers #wildernessculture #findyourwild #livewildbefree #liveyouradventure #builtforthewild #OptOutside #exploremore

A post shared by Rachel & Baloo (@rachkenney) on

These mountains are where I’ve doubted myself the most, but also where I’ve believed in myself the most. Spent hours and hours in the woods with people I love. Learned so much about myself and what I am capable of, and that failure doesn’t have to be final. The Adirondacks have taught me the value of leaving my comfort zone, learning new skills, trying something despite being scared. I’ve felt more alive in that park than anywhere else. The views aren’t bad, either. So, happy (early) birthday, Adirondack Park! @adirondackcouncil #125YearsADK . . . #PureADK #ADK #hiking #sunsethike #naturalnewyork #outdoorsnewyork #newyorkexplored #scenicnewyork #goeast #upperrightusa #visitADKs #lakegeorgephotos #sunset #staygold

A post shared by Courtney Vallee (@courtvallee) on

Words can’t even begin to describe the impact that this place has on me. The great Adirondack mountains are something that you just can’t find anywhere else in the world. Although I live 12 hours away from them in the state of Ohio, 4 generations of my family have made the trek to the ADK every summer for nearly 90 years in a row. This one place has affected my life so greatly that I can say if it wasn’t for the Adirondacks, I would not be where I am today. Almost every person that I know and love has been brought to me because of the Adirondacks. For the past couple of years now, I’ve had the privilege to be in the ADK for every season. I’ve traveled to 16 countries and I’ve been to every single continental United State and I can tell you right now that there is no place on earth or in America like this. Not only is it unique, but it is filled with people that are so passionate about life, it’s like a disease, leaving you wanting more. The reason why I chose this photo, rather than all the other ones that I have is because my favorite aspect about creation is the stars and the ADK display them in a way that no other place can. I believe this is one of the most amazing aspects about this place. Being able to just wander off into the wilderness with a friend, or sitting by campfire on the beach at night, the stars are always there watching over the park, while leaving us in complete amazement about them. Being apart of this park is a tradition that I will carry on through the rest of my life until the day I die. I can’t wait to see the memories that I make this year. Thank you so much Adirondacks. -Your dear friend- Jonathan Zaharek . . . #worldprime #earthfocus #master_gallery #amazing_longexpo #longexpo_addiction #nightphotography #longexposure_shots #night_excl #earth_shotz #allbeauty_addiction #longexpoelite #depthsofearth #nightscaper #artofvisuals #timelessuniverse #milkyway #astrophotography #moodygrams #worldshotz #adventure #discoverearth #jaw_dropping_shots #global_hotshotz #125YearsADK #adirondacks

A post shared by Jonathan Zaharek (@jonathanzphotography_) on

Help us protect the Adirondack Park for another 125 years. Follow Leave No Trace principles when you’re on the trail, follow DEC guidelines and rules, and make your voice heard on issues facing the Adirondack Park.