Sunday, January 13, 2013

Guide to Adirondack Trails, High Peaks Region

Find Your Way in the High Peaks

Part of the Adirondack Mountain Club’s (ADK) guide to the trails of the Adirondack Mountain region in New York State, the High Peaks Region is a comprehensive guide to the trails and peaks in the High Peaks area. 

The Adirondacks and the High Peaks 

The Adirondack Mountains are located in Northern New York, to the east of Lake Ontario, the west of Lake Champlain and north of Glens Falls region. The mountains are protected within the Adirondack State Park, which at 6 million acres (a mix of public and private lands), makes it one of the largest parks in the continental United States. Mountains in the Adirondacks range from small rolling hills, to the summits of the High Peaks that reach above treeline. In the lower elevations, the entire region is dotted with innumerable lakes and rivers and the High Peaks are also where the Hudson River begins its journey to the sea.

The High Peaks of the Adirondacks are the region of the highest peaks in the Adirondacks. The summits include Mount Marcy, at 5344 feet is the highest mountain in New York State and rises over 800 feet above treeline. There are also several other high summits through the region. The High Peaks region also includes the towns of Saranac Lake, Lake Placid and Keene. Lake Placid was home to the 1932 and the 1980 Winter Olympics and Whiteface Mountain, another of the high peaks, hosted the skiing events.

While Mount Marcy is the highest of the mountains, others in the region are quite high and many of these peaks reach above treeline (the altitude at which trees stop growing) and all are exposed to the full force of the weather. Weather in the High Peaks is variable and harsh conditions can occur throughout the year. Winds on some peaks can reach well over 100 miles per hour and conditions with windchills in the wintertime can often rival the conditions on Antarctica (while the temperatures are more mild, when windchills are factored in, conditions can be at times equivalent). These conditions can occur during any month of the year, but are most likely to occur in late fall, winter and early spring. Conditions can change quickly and without warning and anyone hiking in the region should be prepared for the worst.

What You’ll Find in the Book 

ADK’s Guide to Adirondack Trails, High Peak Region provides comprehensive descriptions of the trails, peaks and destinations throughout the High Peak Region.

Starting off with a general overview of the natural and human history of the Adirondacks, followed by advice for novice hikers and climbers new to the area. In addition the introduction reviews regulations, along with other information pertinent to the area.

Following the Introduction, the different major areas in the High Peaks regions break down the trail descriptions into different chapters. These chapters include:

- Keene Valley
- St. Huberts
- Heart Lake
- Northern
- Eastern
- Southern

I know that sounds pretty basic – but that covers all of the major areas within the High Peaks region. The majority of the trails are focused in the Keene Valley, St. Huberts and Heart Lake areas, as these are the areas with the highest mountains and the most public interest and thus the most trails.

Each trail description goes into detail about the hike and the trail. The major features along the trail are described; as are steep pitches, trail junctions, side trails and more. The descriptions also contain information on the vertical elevation you will be gaining and losing on the hike, the mileage for each trail and an estimated trip time for that trail. In general the descriptions are accurate and appear to have been field checked – but I have run across a few errors here and there that have been fairly minor and shouldn’t affect any less experienced hikers.

The book doesn’t come with separate maps, however maps are provided within the text illustrating the different areas covered in the book. The maps aren’t that detailed and generally show the location of the trail and its route. Little other information is given. In general, they probably aren’t detailed enough for anyone to use while actually hiking. For that, you would be better off spending a few dollars to get a high quality USGS topographic map or one of the color trail/topographic maps published for the different regions of the Adirondacks.

Following the trail descriptions, the book contains several different appendices. These include a glossary, a list of the 100 highest peaks, a table of short hikes, opportunities for disabled people to enjoy the outdoors, the different lean-tos available in the High Peak region, a list of State Campgrounds and finally an index to the trails and peaks covered in the rest of the book. These appendices can be quite helpful and provide plenty of interesting and useful information.

Who Needs This Book? 

If you plan on hiking in the High Peaks, then you should have a copy of this book since there really are no equals to the detail, quality and thoroughness of ADK’s guidebooks for the Adirondack region – they seem to have developed a monopoly on the information rich, detail orientated guidebooks for the Adirondacks – much like AMC has done in New Hampshire.

So if you already hike, or are planning on hiking in the High Peaks of the Adirondacks and want the guide, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of the Guide to Adirondack Trails, High Peak Region, you won’t be disappointed.

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