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Old 05-31-2021, 11:00 PM   #3
DSettahr's Avatar
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 5,300
Assuming that this year is more in line with pre-pandemic use levels, you shouldn't have much difficulty finding an open tent site at Marcy Dam or Lake Colden on a Sunday night. I wouldn't necessarily expect lean-to space, but there almost certainly should be open tent sites.

(Last summer definitely bucked established trends... mid-week use levels were in line with weekend use levels in previous years, and weekends were a whole new level of craziness not really ever seen prior.)

Other popular spots for combining camping with High Peaks peak bagging include:
  • Johns Brook for camping, with Big Slide and the Great Range in the vicinity.
  • Slide Brook (and to a lesser extent Lilian Brook) with the Dix Range
  • Bradley Pond with the Santanoni Range
  • Ward Brook with the Seward Range

Less popular but still doable camping/peak combinations include:
  • The Opalescent River/Skylight Brook with Allen
  • Gill Brook with the Colvin/Blake range and/or Dial/Nippletop
  • Giant's Washbowl with Giant and Rocky Peak Ridge

Colden is probably a slightly easier hike from Upper Works, but the hike through Avalanche Pass also offers tons of added scenic value. But with Upper Works there's also less of an issue with having to time your arrival to ensure that parking is available.

And you're probably already on top of it since you mention having read the regulations, but the biggest things to be aware of for the Marcy Dam and Colden areas are the fire ban and the bear canister requirements. Fires were banned due to rampant illegal tree cutting- there literally is not enough dead and downed wood to sustain campfire use by all visitors to that area (and that was true even of use levels 20+ years ago, which are lower than use levels seen today).

With regards to the bear canister, to fully be on the up and up in terms of proper food protocol requires some additional info you may not have gained from perusing the regs. Avoid BearVault brand canisters; they have failed repeatedly in the High Peaks. Ursacks are also not permitted due in part to the added challenges of ensuring compliance with Ursacks, which are much harder for rangers to ID at a glance from a distance than a bear canister.

Carrying the canister is only half the battle; proper use of the canister is equally as important. All food, toiletries, and garbage must be stored in the canister at all times- this includes alcohol. Keep the lid on the canister at all times- obviously, you have to take food out at some point but when this is necessary, open the canister, remove the food needed for that specific meal only, and then immediately reseal the lid. This minimizes the amount of food that is accessible to a bear at any given time. Avoid leaving the canister open while unattended, and avoid spreading your food out on the ground in camp (this is a "bear buffet").

I hope this is helpful. Good luck and enjoy!
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