Over the past year, PROTECT worked to research and publish 100 online hiking trail guides for great places to visit outside of the High Peaks Wilderness. These guides have grown very popular and in 2022 we plan to expand this list. There are many wonderful places in all corners of the Adirondacks. The reality is that many of these places face similar challenges as the High Peaks with limited investment, poor trails, and poor management.
The High Peaks Wilderness Area is the most popular destination for hikers because of the vast array of mountains of all sizes to hike and a network of 200 miles of formal trails and 100 miles of informal trails. The trails throughout the High Peaks lead to some of the grandest views and mountain summits east of the Mississippi River. These trails and hikes draw hundreds of thousands each year.
The High Peaks Wilderness is seeing the highest use in its history, with use levels increasing each year. The High Peaks has experienced extensive damage to the natural resources and public hiking trails because of the high public use. Trail corridors have eroded and degraded. The High Peaks trails are often overcrowded, and the trailhead parking areas fill up quickly and early most days throughout the summer and fall months and winter weekends.
There are a number of efforts underway to try and improve the management of the High Peaks Wilderness. One idea that has been talked about for years is the need to disperse hiking outside of the High Peaks and throughout the rest of the Adirondack Park.
Last summer, Protect the Adirondacks set out to publish an online trail guide to showcase hiking opportunities outside of the High Peaks Wilderness. The Adi- rondack Park has many alternatives for great places to hike outside of the High Peaks. We organized a terrific interns team who hiked, photographed, inventoried, and assessed over 120 trails outside the High Peaks. These trails detailed hikes to various destinations, including mountain summits with big views, remote ponds, bogs, rivers, beautiful forests, and waterfalls.
We published our first 50 hikes in the online trail guide during the run-up to Labor Day and Columbus Day weekends last year. Over the winter, we completed the final 50. We now have published 100 online trail guides that feature outstanding hikes from across the Adirondacks on our website. This online trail guide is very popular with hikers and the general public seeking places to hike throughout the Adirondacks. We expect to keep adding to this list in the months ahead.
The dispersal of public recreation use outside the crowded High Peaks Wilderness Area is one tool among many to protect natural resources and improve the overall management of the High Peaks. Protect the Adirondacks has advocated for years to build a comprehensive management program for the High Peaks. We saw the opportunity to create an online trail guide to advertise dispersal options as one important contribution to the overall effort to improve High Peaks Wilderness management.