A review of parking areas along roads in key areas of the Adirondacks indicates substantial overuse of the centralized High Peaks area of the 6 million-acre park.
The most popular route tourists use to visit the Adirondack High Peaks takes them off the Adirondack Northway onto Route 73. The two-lane road winds past forests, lakes, mountain ridges and hamlets. Along the way small parking lots, often looking more like pull-offs, are squeezed near trail heads and popular recreation areas like Cascade Lake. Often those parking sites have a capacity as low as five cars. “The original idea of the DEC was a small parking lot was a way to control the capacity.”
Keene Supervisor Joe Pete Wilson says that strategy is no longer working. “As the popularity of a lot of the destinations here in the Adirondacks, I mean you think of the Cascade trail head or Chapel Pond, that management strategy of making a small parking lot and then we won’t have too many people on the trails, it isn’t really working any more.”
Last fall between Labor Day and Columbus Day, environmental groups and local governments surveyed the parking areas. Adirondack Council spokesman John Sheehan says they found nearly 80 percent of trailheads leading to the High Peaks were significantly above capacity. “You see twice or three times as many cars at the parking lot that means twice or three times as many hikers and campers as there should be in that particular area. Over time people have started to ignore the size of the lots and just started parking anyway. In other cases people are parking in locations that really were not official parking lots and hiking into places in locations that were not contemplated as a trailhead. So that’s a problem as well. It’s really going to take a number of different techniques to try and change this behavior but the first thing we had to do was identify the problem and try and identify the magnitude of the problem.”
The environmental advocates and community leaders hope the recently acquired Boreas Ponds and MacIntyre tracts will disperse access and use. Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages President and Town of Horicon Supervisor Matt Simpson says those opportunities along with the redevelopment of the former Frontier Town should ease crowding in the High Peaks region. “I think we’re going to hopefully be able to show people there’s many other places within the Adirondack Park that they should visit. And Exit 29 is a great example. You know in the Town of Horicon we have the Pharaoh Wilderness, great hiking opportunities there. And there’s those sorts of activities that are readily available throughout the park. I think we just need to figure out a way to get that message to people.”
Survey results include: the Cascade Mountain lot had an average of 240 cars, yet its capacity is 73 cars. At the Adirondack Loj 674 cars were parked in a lot planned for 196 vehicles and with parking for 10 cars at Ampersand Mountain 64 managed to squeeze into spaces and along the road.