State of NY launches pilot parking reservation system for Adirondack High Peaks region trailhead

The Adirondack Mountain Reserve (AMR), the home of the Ausable Club, has always allowed hikers to access trails to popular High Peaks and other vistas which were commonly accessed from Lake Road, the most popular of which include:

  • Gothics
  • Sawteeth
  • Dial Mountain
  • Nippletop
  • Noonmark Mountain
  • Indian Head and Fish Hawk Cliffs
  • Blake Peak
  • Mount Colvin
  • Rainbow Falls
  • Buttermilk Falls
  • Armstrong
  • Lower and Upper Wolfjaw

This accessed has been granted by a conservation easement granted to the State of NY which provides for hiker access from AMR land. The parking lot operated by AMR has a capacity of about 100 spaces which were limited to 28 for a time during the pandemic.

The area in question located off of Route 73 and across the road from the Roaring Brook Trailhead (for Giant and Rocky Peak Ride)

The AMR have floated the idea of creating some kind of restrictions over the last few years citing a large increase in hiker usage which was putting a strain on the available infrastructure. This pilot reservation system is the first of its kind in the Adirondacks to address parking, traffic safety and overuse concerns, particularly along Route 73. Anyone who has spent time hiking in the area over a long weekend or really any nice weekend at all over the last 10 years knows the parking situation can get a bit out of hand. I have included the known details so far with my personal commentary shown in red. In all of this it is important to note that this is a small piece of private land and therefore some cooperation is necessary between the landowner and users to ensure continued access for everyone.

Specifics:

  • Hikers looking to cross AMR property will be required to have a no-cost reservation or show a valid bus ticket within 24 hours of arriving in Keene Valley via Trailways or Greyhound. All hikers, whether being dropped off or arriving via bike or car, are expected to start their hike between 5 a.m. and 7 p.m., when the lot is open. Reservations for overnight parking will also be available.

This point still requires some clarification on how it will be implemented in practice. If overnight parking is available, it would seem reasonable that you could arrive at anytime. It is also not clear if there will be some kind of gate or other checkpoint set up to police this. I would think it would be easy for someone without a reservation to park in a space overnight. This further begs the question of if they intend to tow away unpermitted vehicles. I could see this turning into a real debacle.

*According to the AMR website, if you arrive outside of the 7am-5pm window then your reservation will be confirmed on your departure. I think this could work but it still begs the question of how they will deal with unpermitted users who arrive at odd times.

  • There will be 70 permits available daily, with six hikers allowed per permit. Parking is available for vehicles with up to 15 passengers although an additional reservation would be required.

Based on the reported number of hikers checking in to the trail register on Saturdays and Sundays, this is a number of permits consistent with the typical use of this area on most days outside of major holidays. At the end of the day this area has always been limited by the small number of parking spaces available.

  • DEC rangers and AMR security staff will enforce the restrictions. Visitors without a reservation will be directed to other parking areas or information centers..

I think this enforcement would be necessary for this pilot program to work at all.

  • While the parking lot will close at 7 p.m., some allowances could be made for overdue hikers to depart until 10 p.m., a spokesperson for DEC said.

For me personally this is a real sticky point. I think I understand the thinking but this is a pretty narrow window of time, especially for late day hikers. Also because they are offering overnight parking anyway I do not see how this will work in practice.

  • The AMR website also offers an option for time slot reservations. These reservations are available for hourly chunks from 5am to 7pm as of this writing.

With most people not having a clear idea of how long their trips will take I would assume most people will just book the entire days time slot anyway, whether they plan to climb multiple High Peaks or only Noonmark. This could result in a lot of unused spaces come mid day. I think this is another point that needs to play out in practice to really know how it will be handled. For example, will staff allow for mid day drive ins for unregistered people?

The new restrictions will go into effect May 1 through Oct. 31, with permits available up to two weeks in advance via http://www.hikeamr.org. The website will be available starting April 15.

I think this pilot overall could be useful for a majority of users. When you are driving from several hours away it can be very stressful not knowing if you will have a parking space where you want to hike, even at 6am. It is easy to say, “well then hike something else” which is all well and good for experienced hikers like myself who know the area but for the typical user this could be really challenging and instead leads to illegal parking and other similar issues when they just try and squeeze in to the one location they have already researched. My hope is that they will monitor the situation closely and be open to feedback moving forward on changes that might be needed.

Let me know what you think in the comments. I will add any updates to this information as it becomes available.

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