frequently asked questions
I’ve never been to the Adirondacks. Is it like a National Park?
The Adirondacks is not like a National Park, and it is different from most of New York’s State Parks as well. There is no entrance gate, ticket fee, or visitor’s center. The Adirondacks is a region in northern New York that spans 6 million acres. 2.6 million of those acres are State-owned forest preserve lands protected as "forever wild" by Article XIV of the New York State Constitution. Public recreation on these lands is free and open to all. Visitors can hike, paddle, camp, mountain bike, rock climb, ski, snowshoe and much more. DEC’s Land classification system and individual unit management plans determine the rules, regulations, and permitted forms of recreation in different areas of the Adirondacks. Local communities provide amenities, but keep in mind that recreation is often remote and rugged. Not all trailheads or boat launches have bathrooms and most trails are primitive in nature and minimally maintained.
Will my hike require a reservation?
New this year, hikers beginning at the Adirondack Mountain Reserve (AMR) Trailhead will need a reservation. These no-cost reservations will be required May 1 through Oct. 31, 2021. Reservations will be required for
parking, daily access, and overnight access to these specific trails. Visitors can make reservations beginning
April 15 at hikeamr.org. Walk-in users without a reservation will not be permitted. For more information or to obtain a reservation visit hikeamr.org
The hikes accessed through AMR include:
Primarily through AMR: Dial, Nippletop, Bears Den, Blake, Colvin, Indian Head and Fishhawk Cliffs, Pinnacle, Rainbow Falls, Beaver Meadow Falls, Cathedral Rocks and Bear Run.
There are also trails leading from AMR lands to Hedgehog Mountain and the Lower and Upper Great Range, including Lower and Upper Wolfjaws, Armstrong, Sawteeth, Gothics, Saddleback, Basin and Haystack. Many of these mountains can be reached by trails accessed from other trailheads.
Hikes originating from the Adirondac Loj or other areas of the high peaks will not require a permit or reservation.
I’m planning a visit with my dog. Can he/she hike with me?
Hiking with dogs is permitted on most state land, but rules and regulations for managing your dog may vary. Hiking with dogs is not permitted on all private lands or conservation easements, such as the Adirondack Mountain Reserve. Please keep your dog on a leash at all times for their safety and the protection and comfort of other visitors, wildlife, and natural resources. Always clean up after your pet and dispose of their poop in designated trash cans. Keep in mind that Adirondack trails can be challenging for dogs as well as people. Know your pet’s limits and recreate within them. Come prepared with plenty of extra water for your pet and avoid hiking on hot, sunny days.
I’m new to hiking. Should I hike a High Peak?
The High Peaks are the 46 tallest mountains in the Adirondacks. As such, they are some of the most challenging hikes you can take on. Many of them feature steep, rugged, sometimes dangerous terrain. Some of them don’t have marked trails. If you are new to hiking in the Adirondacks, consider starting with something shorter and easier. There are countless trails up smaller mountains that provide an equally stunning view. There are also flat trails that lead to picturesque backcountry lakes or other remote nature scenes. Choosing a trail appropriate for your experience level gives you the opportunity to familiarize yourself with Adirondack hiking, learn important outdoor skills, and build the strength and confidence needed to tackle larger summits down the line.
What should I pack for a day trip?
What you pack for a day trip will depend on what you are doing and the time of year. If you are hiking, start by reviewing Hike Smart NY’s list of 10 essential items. Those items provide a good starting point for almost all adventures. Whatever your day trip entails, always bring clothing and shoes appropriate for the weather and your experience, plenty of food and water to keep you energized and hydrated, a headlamp in case you don’t finish your trip before nightfall, a first aid kit, a map of the area you are visiting, and a way to call for help.
I’m planning a winter hike. What will I need?
Winter hiking requires significantly more gear than warm-weather hiking. Start by reviewing Hike Smart NY’s list of 10 essentials for winter hiking. You will need snowshoes or skis for use in deep snow, microspikes for walking safely on thin, flat ice, and crampons for thick, steep ice. Be aware that winter hiking is more challenging than warm-weather hiking. Even if you are an experienced hiker, start small with winter hikes so you can become familiar with the gear, practice your layering technique, and determine what speed you are able to travel at in winter conditions.
Can I camp in the Adirondacks?
There are many opportunities for camping in the Adirondacks. DEC operates 47 campgrounds in the Adirondacks and there are private campgrounds available as well. There are also primitive campsites available for free on a first come, first serve basis. Permits (issued by DEC Forest Rangers) are required for primitive campsite stays of more than three nights or for groups of more than 8 or 9 people, depending on the area. Unlike DEC campgrounds which are staffed by seasonal employees, primitive campsites are not maintained on a regular basis. Please remember to Leave No Trace, carry out everything you carry in to preserve these natural spaces, and be careful with campfires where campfires are allowed. Those new to camping should check out New York’s First Time Campers program.
I’m planning a backpacking trip, can I have a campfire?
Many primitive campsites along backpacking trails have designated fire rings where you can have a campfire. Campfires are not allowed in all forest preserve units, though, so be sure to check the regulations for the specific area you will be visiting. Campfires outside of designated rings are strongly discouraged. Be careful with campfires and never walk away from a fire until it is completely extinguished.
What are the chances of seeing a bear on my hike?
Like most wildlife, bears generally avoid people. The thing bears find interesting about humans is our food. While camping, it is important to properly store your food to avoid having it stolen by a bear. For day hikes, however, this is rarely an issue. If you do see a bear, remain calm. If you can, back away slowly and leave the bear alone. If the bear approaches you, group together and raise your arms in the air to appear as big as possible. Yell in a low, loud voice and clap your hands to scare the bear off as you back away. Learn more about handling bear encounters on DEC’s website.
Will there be a bathroom at the trailhead? Where do I ‘go’ while I’m hiking?
Some trailheads have port-a-johns or privies, and some trails have pit privies (or outhouses) along the way, but not all trails have a bathroom nearby. Stop and use the last public flush toilet available to you before you arrive at the trailhead. When privies are not available, follow Leave No Trace guidelines for disposing of human waste along the trail. Walk at least 70 big steps away from roads, trails, summits, campsites, waterways, or bodies of water before going to the bathroom. For urine, wipe with a reusable cloth or pack out your toilet paper in a sealed, discreet bag. For poop, dig a cat hole and put both your waste and your toilet paper in the hole before covering it back up. If you cannot dig a cat hole, consider packing your waste out in a W.A.G. bag or sealed, discreet container. Refrain from going to the bathroom in marked alpine zones.
I have never heard of Leave No Trace. What’s that?
The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics provides innovative education, skills and research to help people care for the outdoors. The Leave No Trace 7 Principles establish a framework for safe and sustainable recreation. These are not rules, but guidelines designed to encourage a positive wilderness ethic. Originally based around backcountry recreation, the Principles have been adapted so that they can apply to almost every recreational activity in remote wilderness areas, local parks, and even in your own backyard. Leave No Trace exists on a spectrum. Users are encouraged to follow the Principles to their comfort level.
Know the Park:
The Adirondack Park is a 6-million acre patchwork of public and private lands. Choose places appropriate for your activities and abilities.
The public land within the Adirondack Park is protected by the NYS Constitution. That land is known as the Adirondack Forest Preserve, and it is made up of different land classifications. Specific rules determine which types of activities are permitted on which Forest Preserve land classifications. Learn more.
Within the Adirondack Park, which is roughly the size of Massachusetts, about 130,000 people live and work year-round in over 100 towns and villages.
The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) is responsible for developing long-range Park policy. It also has responsibility for two planning documents for all of the lands within the Park: one for the public land (the State Land Master Plan) and one for the private land (the Adirondack Park Land Use Development Plan).
The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is responsible for the management of the Forest Preserve and recreational facilities, including campsites.
There are three major state land classifications: Wilderness, Wild Forest, and Intensive Use. Within the Adirondack Park, there are approximately 120 different units of Forest Preserve within these classifications.
An Intensive Use area is where the state provides facilities for intensive forms of outdoor recreation—including forms of non-motorized and motorized use. There are three types of Intensive Use areas—campgrounds, day use areas, and boat launch sites.
A Wild Forest is an area where the natural resources permit a somewhat higher degree of human use than in Wilderness while retaining an essentially wild character. A Wild Forest area frequently lacks the sense of remoteness of Wilderness.
Wilderness is an area where people are visitors who do not remain. Wilderness areas generally provide users with outstanding opportunities for solitude. They do not allow motorized recreation. Wilderness has an unaltered character, is without significant improvements, and is managed to preserve and enhance its natural conditions.