Advice for Hiking the High Peaks in Keene During the Covid-19 Pandemic (2021)
Joe Pete Wilson, Supervisor, Town of Keene
The Town of Keene is the home of the High Peaks, and some of the most popular trailheads are located along NY State Route 73. These wonderful mountains attract lots of hikers, and during the health emergency, we all have to adjust to the need for social distancing and reduce the risks we take while hiking to avoid injuries. Back country rescues put a burden on state Rangers and local rescue teams. Please keep that in mind.
REMEMBER: Pack a mask, avoid crowding and keep your distances safe.
This guide is intended to help make sure your hike goes well. There are many changes to parking and access. So plan ahead and be flexible. That will give you the best adventure.
KEY STRATEGIES. Here are four effective strategies you can follow to have a smooth and enjoyable experience setting off into the woods.
- Arrive EARLY. Plan to be there by 6:30 at the latest.
- Plan Ahead! (see below)
- Be flexible: have alternate destinations already mapped out.
- Check with Front Country Stewards at Marcy Field
PARKING CHANGES AND LIMITS. On weekends and nice summer days, parking at these trailheads fills up early, often before 7 am. Here are some of the areas where parking is restricted or becomes crowded on a regular basis:
- Chapel Pond area, especially for the rock climbing access points.
- Roaring Brook parking lot for Giant.
- Au Sable Club parking lot for Indian Head, Noonmark, Gothics, Dial, Nipple Top, & Lower Wolf Jaw. This lot is reduced from 80 spots to 28 spots.
- Rooster Comb parking lot provides a long haul to the Great Range.
- The Garden parking lot for the Johns Brook Valley and beyond. (The prior years’ shuttle service is currently closed because of the Covid-19 health emergency. Check back to see when and if this will re-open.). https://www.townofkeeneny.com/2019-garden-hiker-shuttle-information
- Owls Head (Keene); Access is restricted to week days only. The majority of this trail is on private property. Please respect the property owners and don’t wander off the trail or park blocking their driveways.
- Cascade Mountain; the parking is in North Elba, but the mountain is in Keene. Currently, roadside parking is allowed, but this is subject to change. Click for current conditions: https://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/9198.html
If you are climbing the High Peaks, consider hiking popular peaks on weekdays and shoulder seasons. Otherwise, get there early. Click for current conditions: https://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/9198.html
Some mountains have two or more routes to the top. Giant can be reached from a number of different trailheads. The Wolf Jaws, Gothics, and the rest of the Great Range can be reached via the Au Sable Club, Rooster Comb, and Garden parking lots.
ALTERNATE HIKING IDEAS
Here are some great hikes that are not part of the 46 High Peaks. Close to Keene.
Hurricane Mountain: From Rt. 9N. A beautiful hike and a historic fire tower. (The Tower is closed because of Covid-19, but trails are open.) This trail is well designed and much of it recently rebuilt, so it can withstand heavier traffic.
Blueberry Mountain: A rugged ascent to a great view. You can continue on to Porter & Cascade. You will see very few people on this hike. Trail leaves from rear of Marcy Field parking lot.
Mt. Van Hovenberg: The new trail is well designed and parking is easy. Park at the bobsled run and follow the signs. Great views!
Owls Head Lookout: Rt. 9N near Elizabethtown. Moderate hike and excellent views over Lake Champlain into Vermont.
Mt. Gilligan. Rt. 9 New Russia. 1 mile hike.
Blueberry Cobbles. Rt. 9, New Russia. On the trail to Rocky Peak Ridge.
Bald. Same trail, just past Blueberry Cobbles.
Champlain Area Trails. https://www.champlainareatrails.com/trails/ A network of engaging trails, most moderate or easy. East of Keene. See website for specifics, especiallyNorth and South Boquet Mountains, Coon Mountain and Split Rock Mountain.
Hikes further from Keene
NORTH of KEENE
Loon Lake Mountain
Silver Lake Mountain
SOUTH of KEENE
Be prepared; this guide is not a How-to-Hike manual
Bring a map and know how to use it. If you can’t park at your first choice hike, a map can help you find a new goal and successfully climb it. It can also help you not get lost.
Also stop at Marcy Field and get advice from a Town of Keene Front Country Steward. They can help you find a suitable hike and direct you to it.