DEC website steers hikers to less popular peaks
The state Department of Environmental Conservation’s website was sporting a new look Monday morning, designed to encourage hikers to avoid the crowded trails of the High Peaks Wilderness Area.
“Hike NY’s Hidden Gems” was sprawled across the top of the DEC homepage, www.dec.ny.gov, over the backdrop of a scenic Adirondack lake. Coming just three days after Gov. Andrew Cuomo invited all New Yorkers to visit Lake Placid this summer, the DEC’s move is meant to direct hikers away from the more popular trailheads near Lake Placid.
“DEC hopes that visitors will hike lesser used trails, rather than overused trails such as Cascade Mountain,” DEC spokesman David Winchell said in an email. “We also hope to help visitors find hikes that (are) better suited to (the) experience they desire and their capabilities.
“Lastly, DEC hopes to introduce visitors to other hiking opportunities in the Adirondacks.
“DEC is undertaking an effort to reduce some of the high usage taking place at trailheads along State Route 73.”
Trailheads along Route 73 were bustling again this past Saturday, even amid cloudy weather during a slower period of the early summer, when mud and bugs are particular obstacles.
During this past President’s Day weekend in February, more than 300 winter hikers signed into the Cascade Mountain trailhead on Route 73 outside of Lake Placid. And during the long Labor Day weekend last fall, summit stewards said more than 1,500 people had reached the top of the popular mountain.
The DEC web link directs visitors to 13 less popular hikes around the northern Adirondacks, including Rocky Peak, Silver Lake Mountain and Baxter Mountain as well as some non-mountain hikes. For each it describes the trail and the view, and gives coordinates as well as Google Maps links. Winchell said forest rangers and regional foresters helped develop the list.
“These hikes were chosen because they provided a quality hiking experience and could withstand increased usage,” Winchell wrote. “Some of the trails had been rerouted in recent years and therefore are more sustainable. Also the Adirondack Mountain Club Professional Trail Crew and Student Conservation Association Adirondack Program crews will be working on the Catamount and Silver Lake Mountain trails this season to make them more sustainable.”
After several years of increases in hikers visiting the High Peaks, the DEC announced Friday, the same day of Cuomo’s Lake Placid tourism announcement, the formation of a five-person trail crew for the High Peaks. This will be the largest trail crew the DEC has fielded in years.
Winchell said the change in the DEC website is permanent, but the main banner’s subject matter will change periodically.
“The website will be updated on a weekly basis with news, photos and event listings and will provide recommendations depending on the season for places to visit on DEC’s lands including trails, campgrounds, prime fishing spots, watchable wildlife areas and other outdoor recreational opportunities,” Winchell wrote.
John Sheehan of the Adirondack Council environmental group applauded the effort.
“The Adirondack Council is pleased that the DEC is doing this and we also applaud Commissioner Basil Seggos for the announcement that they were hiring a new five person trail crew for the eastern High Peaks,” Sheehan wrote in an email.
“The High Peaks are a wonderful place to visit, but summer has not yet begun and trails are already getting crowded on weekends. Success of efforts to promote the Adirondacks is a wonderful thing but crowding takes a toll on the environment, negatively impacts the visitors experience, and may discourage people’s returning.”
‘NY’s Hidden Gems’
The state Department of Environmental Conservation recommends visitors do these hikes instead of more popular ones around Lake Placid and Keene. Visit http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/9163.html for a description a map link for each hike.
Owl Head Lookout
Bear Den Mountain
Silver Lake Mountain
Copperas and Owen Ponds
Brewster Peninsula Nature Trails