Hikers in Upstate NY Face Risks Due to Unpredictable Winter Weather

The winter season in Upstate New York showcases the breathtaking beauty of Mother Nature. However, the backcountry has become hazardous due to the unpredictable weather and recent storms.

When embarking on a winter hike in the Adirondack or Catskill Mountains, it is crucial to be adequately prepared to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

“Winter conditions in New York’s backcountry areas include beautiful, unpredictable, and sometimes treacherous weather,” Commissioner Seggos said. “While DEC encourages recreation year-round on State Forest Preserve lands, visitors are advised to pay careful attention to forecasted conditions when adventuring outdoors.”

Snowshoes, Poles & Axes

The trails may become slippery due to snow, ice, and slush, posing a risk to hikers. To ensure safer travel, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) advises hikers to bring snowshoes and trekking poles.

Ice axes are a vital piece of equipment that may be necessary when venturing into the High Peaks.

Winter Hiking Tips


Winter hiking can be a magical experience, with snow-covered trails and breathtaking views. However, it also presents unique challenges and risks. To ensure a safe and enjoyable winter hike, it’s important to be well-prepared and knowledgeable about the conditions you may encounter. Here are some essential tips to keep in mind:

1. Dress in layers: Layering your clothing is key to staying warm and comfortable during a winter hike. Start with a moisture-wicking base layer, followed by an insulating layer, and finish with a waterproof and windproof outer layer. Don’t forget to wear a hat, gloves, and warm socks to protect your extremities.

2. Use the right footwear: Invest in a pair of insulated and waterproof hiking boots with good traction. This will provide stability and prevent your feet from getting wet and cold. Additionally, consider using gaiters to keep snow out of your boots.

3. Carry the necessary gear: Make sure to pack essential gear such as a map, compass, headlamp, first aid kit, and a multi-tool. It’s also important to bring extra food and water, as well as a means of starting a fire in case of emergencies.

4. Be mindful of daylight hours: During winter, the days are shorter, so plan your hike accordingly. Start early to maximize daylight and allow plenty of time to reach your destination before darkness falls.

5. Check the weather forecast: Stay updated on the weather conditions before heading out. Avoid hiking during storms or extreme cold temperatures, as it can be dangerous and increase the risk of hypothermia.

6. Stay hydrated and fueled: It’s easy to neglect hydration during cold weather, but it’s just as important to drink plenty of fluids. Dehydration can still occur in winter, so carry a water bottle and drink regularly. Additionally, pack high-energy snacks to keep your body fueled and warm.

7. Watch your step: Winter trails can be icy and slippery, so take caution with each step. Use trekking poles for added stability and consider using traction devices such as crampons or microspikes for extra grip on icy surfaces.

8. Know your limits: Winter hiking requires more effort and can be physically demanding. Be aware of your fitness level and the limitations of your group. Don’t push yourself beyond your capabilities and turn back if necessary.

Remember, safety should always be your top priority when winter hiking. By following these tips and staying prepared, you can have a memorable and enjoyable outdoor adventure.

Winter Hiking Safety Tips

When you’re traveling through the snow, winter hiking can require more energy and time. It is important to plan your trips accordingly and make sure you pack all the essential items before setting off.

    • Check the weather before entering the woods
    • Be aware of weather conditions at all times
    • Layer clothing – wool, fleece, materials that wick moisture
    • Wear a wool or fleece hat, gloves or mittens, wind/rain resistant outerwear, and winter boots
    • Pack an ice axe, food, and water, extra clothing, map and compass, first-aid kit, flashlight/headlamp, sunglasses, sunblock protection, bivy sack or space blankets

It is crucial to prioritize regular eating, drinking, and resting. When you are tired, hungry, or dehydrated, your vulnerability to hypothermia increases significantly. Additionally, it is of utmost importance to never travel alone in such conditions.

Winter Hiking Safety Tips

Winter hiking can be a thrilling and rewarding experience, but it’s important to prioritize safety. Here are some essential tips to keep in mind before hitting the trails during the colder months:

1. Plan and Prepare
Before embarking on a winter hike, make sure to plan your route and check the weather conditions. Familiarize yourself with the trail map and inform someone about your hiking plans. It’s crucial to pack the necessary gear, including extra layers, a first aid kit, headlamp, and sufficient food and water.

2. Dress Appropriately
Layering is key when it comes to dressing for winter hiking. Start with a moisture-wicking base layer to keep sweat away from your body. Add insulating layers such as a fleece or down jacket, and don’t forget to wear a waterproof and windproof outer shell. Opt for thermal socks, insulated boots, gloves, and a hat to protect your extremities from the cold.

3. Stay Hydrated
Even though it may not be as hot as during summer hikes, staying hydrated is still crucial during winter excursions. Carry an insulated water bottle or thermos to prevent your drink from freezing. Consider drinking warm fluids like tea or hot chocolate to keep yourself hydrated and warm.

4. Be Cautious of Ice and Snow
Winter hiking often means encountering icy and snowy conditions. Use traction devices like microspikes or crampons to improve your grip on slippery surfaces. Trekking poles can also provide stability and help you navigate tricky terrain. Be cautious of hidden ice patches and use extra care when crossing frozen bodies of water.

5. Watch for Signs of Hypothermia
Hypothermia is a serious risk during winter hikes. Keep an eye out for symptoms such as shivering, confusion, slurred speech, and drowsiness. If you or a fellow hiker show signs of hypothermia, take immediate action by finding shelter, changing into dry clothes, and consuming warm fluids. Seek medical help if necessary.

6. Be Mindful of Daylight Hours
The daylight hours are shorter during winter, so plan your hike accordingly. Start early to ensure you have enough time to complete your trek before darkness falls. Carry a headlamp and extra batteries in case you find yourself on the trail after sunset.

7. Know Your Limits
Winter hiking can be physically demanding, especially in harsh weather conditions. Know your fitness level and be realistic about what you can handle. It’s better to turn back or choose an easier trail if you’re feeling fatigued or uncomfortable.

By following these winter hiking safety tips, you can enjoy the beauty of the winter landscape while staying safe and prepared for any challenges that may arise. Remember, proper planning, appropriate gear, and knowledge of winter hiking techniques are essential for a successful and enjoyable winter adventure.

Snowmobiles & ATVs

Some seasonal access roads are still open for travel, but it is highly recommended to use four-wheel drive vehicles or snowmobiles. To stay informed about the current conditions of snowmobile trails, you can check the NYSSA Snowmobile Web map.

If you find yourself in an emergency situation, it is important to dial 911 for immediate assistance. However, if you require the assistance of a Forest Ranger, you can reach out to them by calling 1-833-NYS-RANGERS. It is crucial to have these contact numbers readily available in case of any unforeseen circumstances.

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