Overcrowding was an issue in the High Peaks long before COVID-19, so it’s not shocking that the planned shuttle bus system in Essex County has been suspended. Aspiring 46ers and other High Peaks enthusiasts may need to make alternative plans this summer.
Shuttle Bus System Suspended Due to COVID-19
According to Adirondack Explorer the State had set aside $1.2 million for this shuttle project, which included the purchase of four new buses. The plan was to have the buses travel to the various trailheads along State Route 73, but due to concerns around the COVID-19 pandemic the entire system has been shelved. The Town of Keene has also suspended the Garden Shuttle until further notice.
Essex County and New York State agreed there was no safe way to operate the shuttle buses this summer, particularly with trailheads and parking lots that are congested in a normal year; hiking and outdoor activities have undoubtedly become more desirable amid the public health crisis.
A Reduction in Hiker Traffic – Not Such a Bad Thing!
The DEC reported hiking traffic doubling on the High Peaks trailheads as far back as 2016. “No parking” signs have been added, a hiking permit has been considered, and other efforts have been made to reduce traffic but the crowding remains a problem – in parking lots, at trailheads, and on the trails.
Hikers have long been encouraged to explore other areas of the Adirondacks besides the High Peaks. While many outdoor recreationalists comply, unfortunately this has led to these other areas becoming inundated with hikers as well.
The shutdown of this shuttle bus system could have a positive effect with the reduced crowds, offering a potential silver lining: our gorgeous mountains being preserved for years to come.
What Else Hikers Need to Know
While the Garden Shuttle is not running the Garden Parking Lot remains open. Parking is $10 a day through a self-service payment system. Hikers are asked to park at the Rooster Comb parking lots if the Garden is full. (However, if you don’t live in the area, please recreate closer to home. If you do go, have an alternative plan ready in case the parking lots are full.)
Depending on how the pandemic plays out the shuttle bus system may run in the fall, which would be great for leaf-peeping season in the Adirondacks.