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The Hills Are Alive...(with lots of people and crowded trails)

...dangerously so!  I suppose this was inevitable given how the pandemic has shut down so many other venues and activities, but the invasion of people hiking in the High Peaks of the Adirondacks has reached dangerous proportions.  We have experienced an abundance of hikers for many summers here, but this year has seen visitors increase exponentially.  Parking areas are full nearly every morning by 6:00 at nearly every trailhead.  This has led people to park illegally for great distances on the narrow shoulders of the roads creating a hazard for motorists and for hikers attempting to exit their cars.

Trails are crowded and people are being very careless with pandemic guidelines. Few people are wearing masks and social distancing. The latter would be extremely difficult on many parts of the trails given their narrow widths and the large numbers using them.

Most concerning however is the large number of people attempting hikes that they are not prepared for. This past Tuesday alone saw rangers conduct three search and rescue operations. The summer to this point has also seen an increase in hikers stranded, injured or otherwise requiring helicopter rescues.  A great many of these hikers are wearing inappropriate footwear (flip flops), carrying no maps, no compasses, no food, and no water.

Not certain how to best help the situation. It may be best to not attempt to hike in the High Peaks at all this summer, but on the other hand it may be more beneficial to do the more popular hikes carrying extra water and food and gently sharing our knowledge and experience with people who obviously have neither.

6 Replies

I just tonight read an article in Time about that exact same thing happening all over, from National to state parks

REI Member Since 1979

@Philreedshikes Yes. The 'Dacks aren't unique in the respect that they're being overwhelmed by users this summer. The problem here is that the number of rangers available to respond to the increased need for rescues, etc. has been exacerbated by the cuts in personnel over the last decade. I'm afraid we will have a few deaths to contend with before this summer is over.

@Kato1953 When I was in the Navy, there was a saying:

Proper prior planning prevents piss poor performance (7 P's of life).  Clearly inexperienced persons should at a minimum watch a you-tube or two on the area they are going into.  Since REI has great employees, they could also just stop in the local store and discuss their hike and get some guidance before making the leap.

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@Gary2 There was a ranger in the high peaks of the Adirondacks named Pete Fish who I used to encounter frequently when I was a younger man and very into ice climbing and winter mountaineering. Pete was responsible for saving countless lives by posting himself at popular trail heads and making certain all hikers who were attempting a given hike were properly dressed and equipped. One winter afternoon I was with a group attempting to climb New York's highest peak (Mt. Marcy) in very poor conditions. Just as we were about to exit the tree line and begin the summit push, there was Pete. He was guarding the trail and turning parties back even though he must have been nearly frozen himself. Another group from a school in Toronto approached with a number of kids wearing blue jeans and light hiking shoes. Pete nearly lost his mind! He scolded the leader of the group and absolutely forbade them to go any further. After they left we shared a thermos of hot soup with Pete and headed down ourselves. 

Unfortunately, Pete has retired and with the increased numbers of hikers on the trails today we would need scores of Petes tirelessly demanding that people at least come prepared for the adventure they are about to embark upon.

@Gary2 Spot on. 
In SoCal we have the same problems of some overcrowded trails with inappropriate gear and one additional problem. The delightful warm weather often turns very cold at altitude at night. So people start building personal warming fires outside of designated fire rings. The consequences in our bone dry forests can be devastating and deadly.


I have spent many happy days hiking and climbing the East Side of the Sierra Nevada mountains. I would never even think of starting a fire there! It would be like lighting a match in a box of kindling. Hope you and yours are well and haven't suffered from the insane fires burning all along the West Coast!