ADK 46 High Peaks Info and FAQs
Centrally located within Essex and Franklin Counties, the 46 High Peaks of the Adirondacks are on the bucket list of many outdoor enthusiasts. Traditionally recognized as the highest points in the Adirondacks, to climb all 46 is considered a grand accomplishment. The peaks range in height and difficulty, so if you want to take on the challenge of climbing all 46, it's best to be aware of the rules and regulations for the region and plan ahead!
The 46 High Peaks were originally grouped together based on their elevations. In 1927, Russell M. W. Carson's book "Peaks and People of the Adirondacks" described the mountain elevations. His research determined that the 46 High Peaks were the tallest mountains in the Adirondacks, and all of them had an elevation of at least 4,000 feet.
Later geological surveys revealed that not all of the 46 High Peaks were actually 4,000 feet or above in elevation, and one that did meet the "requirement" was excluded. Nevertheless, the original 46 are still grouped together and recognized as the ones to overcome. If you climb them all, then you are eligible to become an official Adirondack 46er!
Also, although they are referred to as high peaks, all 46 aren't the highest points in New York State. The Catskills have their own 35 High Peaks of mountains above 3,500 feet in elevation. A few of the High Peaks of the Catskills are greater in elevation than some of the 46 High Peaks of the Adirondacks.
The 46 High Peaks are all located in the Adirondack Forest Preserve, meaning they are on state-owned lands that are open for some forms of recreation, such as hiking and backcountry camping.
You can find the mountains in and around the High Peaks Wilderness Area in the northeastern region of the Adirondack Park. The High Peaks Wilderness is split between a Western Zone and an Eastern Zone. Some rules change based on the Zone you are in, so check our FAQs to read about some of the important differences, as well as more helpful information.
Q: How do I know if I'm in the High Peaks Wilderness Area?
A: There will be brown and yellow signs to let you when you've entered the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation's (DEC) public lands in the High Peaks Wilderness. The boundaries are available to check online. You'll also find trail register boxes near major access points, which you should sign in and out of.
Q: Can I camp in the High Peaks Wilderness Area?
A: Yes, however, the overnight group size is limited to a maximum of eight people.
Q: Where should I camp in the High Peaks Wilderness Area?
Backcountry camping is allowed on most Forest Preserve lands in the High Peaks Area. The exceptions are Unique Areas, Wildlife Management Areas, Historical Sites, and Nature Preserves. Also, camping is prohibited if you are within 150 feet of a road, trail, spring, stream, pond, or body of water.
Areas with a yellow DEC "Camp Here" tree marker are designated primitive campsites. Campers aren't required to stay at these designated sites, but the DEC marked them because they are generally on flat and hard land, which minimizes erosion.
Q: What if I want to go camping with a large group of people?
A: For groups of 10 or more people, or if you stay at one campsite for more than three days, then you must obtain a camping permit. Contact the DEC to acquire a permit.
Q: Am I able to make a campfire at my campsite?
A: In the Eastern High Peaks Zone, no campfires are allowed. In the Western High Peaks Zone, campfires are only allowed at designated sites or areas that are at least 150 feet away from a road, trail, or water source.
Q: Can I bring my own firewood to a campsite or campground?
A: No. In order to prevent the spread of invasive species, the DEC requires that all campers must get their firewood from the campground or a local vendor.
Q: Do I need a bear-resistant canister?
In the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness, campers must use bear-resistant canisters between April 1st and November 30th. Store all your food, toiletries, garbage, bug repellent, etc. in them. The canisters are meant to prevent bears from smelling scented items.
Q: How large of a group can go hiking together?
A: Groups on a day trip in the High Peaks Wilderness Area are limited to a maximum of 15 people.
Q: What are the rules for guided tours?
Guided tours in the High Peaks Wilderness Area require a licensed guide. You don't need to be a resident of New York State to be a licensed guide, but a license can only be obtained by taking an exam run by the DEC's forest rangers. All licensed guides must be at least 18 years of age.
Q: Can affiliated groups participate in recreational activities together, including hiking and camping?
A: Groups must adhere to the group size limits for camping and hiking. Furthermore, affiliated groups must stay at least one mile away from each other.
- Between December 15th and April 30th, camping is prohibited above an elevation of 4,000 feet. Camping is only allowed at that elevation in an emergency.
- Emergency fires are allowed at elevations above 4,000 feet.
- Don't disturb wildlife and plants.
- Pets must be kept under control.
- Don't use soap for washing or cleaning within 150 feet of water.
- Also, dispose of human waste at least 150 feet from a trail or source of water.
- Lean-tos are available on a first-come first-served basis, but they must be shared with other campers.
- Follow the practice of "leave no trace."
For hiking, camping, and other recreational activities, the DEC asks visitors to practice the seven "leave no trace" principles to help minimize the impact on natural resources and prevent conflicts. Those principles are:
- Plan ahead and prepare.
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
- Dispose of waste properly.
- Leave what you find.
- Minimize campfire impacts.
- Respect wildlife.
- Be considerate of other visitors.
A complete list of the DEC's State Land Camping and Hiking Rules are available online.