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Old 03-22-2016, 04:33 PM   #3
DSettahr's Avatar
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 5,300
Some good resources for you to use while planning your trip:

NYS DEC's Regulations for State Land Camping and Hiking (Note that some areas, like the High Peaks Wilderness, have additional regulations than those listed on this page- Trail Boss' link above is a good resource for the High Peaks Regulations.)

Leave No Trace Principles

The size of your group is going to be a complication. Overnight groups on State Land in NY are limited to 9 people max; in the High Peaks Wilderness (which includes Gothics) this limit is 8 people max. Note also that in the High Peaks, associated groups must maintain at least 1 mile of separation at all times, so even if you split into smaller groups, those groups cannot have any contact with each other. The reason for these limits is that large groups (even well-meaning ones) tend to have disproportionately large physical and social impacts in the backcountry. Two smaller groups hiking and camping separately tend to have less total combined impact than one larger group hiking together does.

In Wild Forest areas, you can get a permit for a group of up to 12 people to camp together. This precludes camping in the High Peaks, though- only 2 High Peaks are located outside of Wilderness Areas, and the camping options in the vicinity are pretty limited.

I agree with Trail Boss' recommendation to reserve a couple of sites at a campground (if you can find one that is open in early May), and do day hikes together as a group. As he noted, the limit for day hiking groups in the High Peaks Wilderness is 15 people, so this should work for you. Ultimately, this is probably the easiest way for you to get such a large group out into the outdoors without generating undue impacts or violating any regulations.

With regards to Gothics specifically, yes, once the snow and ice has melted, no special equipment is needed to climb it if you stick to the marked trails. There are 3 marked trails that lead to the summit. If you don't already have one, I would strongly encourage you to invest in a physical hiking map (Both the ADK and National Geographic make goods for the High Peaks, the ADK map is better in overall quality). A guidebook isn't a bad idea either if you're unfamiliar with the region and the trails.

The timing of your trip may also be worth considering, though. Early May is still mud season. Most years, the DEC institutes a hiking ban during mud season and asks hikers to stay off of steep trails in the High Peaks. During this time of year, soils that are still saturated with melt water are particularly susceptible to adverse impacts from hikers. The soils in the High Peaks are pretty sensitive to hiker traffic to begin with, and erosion in particular is already a problem on my High Peaks trails. Hiking during mud season can significantly exacerbate this issue. The ban is purely voluntary, so you won't be ticketed of fined if you hike in the High Peaks anyways, but ultimately complying with it is generally in the bests interests of protecting resources in the High Peaks. If you're determined to do something in the High Peaks and are interested in helping to protect the area at the same time, I would encourage you to at least consider postponing your trip for a few weeks.

That doesn't mean you need to stay out of the woods entirely- there are plenty of other options in the Adirondacks besides the High Peaks, which comprise only a small portion of the Adirondacks. The Lake Champlain valley/Lake George region in particular tends to dry out sooner than the High Peaks, and offers a lot of peaks with astounding views. Mountains like Pharaoh, Treadway, Black, Sleeping Beauty, Buck, And Fifth all have really nice views (better even than many of the High Peaks).

I hope this helps!
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