DEC: focus on safety during summer hiking season

Be prepared to ensure safety


New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) reminds visitors to New York’s outdoor spaces to focus on safety before heading out to outdoor adventures in the state’s wild and beautiful destinations. As this summer’s recreational season begins, DEC continues to advance actions to promote public safety and improve visitor experience.

Planning ahead before heading out to the Adirondacks or Catskills is the safest way to enjoy the beautiful hiking opportunities New York state has to offer. With the summer heat comes a greater need for food and water to stay hydrated and healthy out on the trails. DEC reminds hikers that preparing for changing weather conditions, being air quality aware, and knowing how to hike safely in all conditions is the best plan to ensure a safe arrival home.

Visitation to state forest preserve lands is typically highest during the summer months. In partnership with state agencies, local municipalities, and private entities, DEC works to protect public safety, improve the visitor experience, and safeguard sensitive ecosystems. Using recommendations outlined by the High Peaks Strategic Planning Advisory Group (HPAG) and Catskills Strategic Planning Advisory Group (CAG), as well as input from local and community partners and outdoors enthusiasts, New York state continues to implement new strategies and adaptively manage the ongoing safety and resource needs of both forest preserve regions. For more information, visit DEC Announces Suite of Actions to Protect Public Safety and Promote Sustainable use of State Lands on DEC’s website.

Be Prepared

• Wear proper gear and attire, including sturdy, comfortable boots and:

• Moisture-wicking synthetic fabrics that keep your skin dry and help regulate your body temperature in both cold and warm weather - avoid cotton as it holds moisture;

• Layered clothing is recommended even for summer hikes;

• Light-colored clothing, which will make it easier to see ticks

• Waterproof, sturdy, and comfortable shoes or boots (no flip-flops);

• A watch or other time-keeping device;

• Trekking poles will reduce leg fatigue and joint pain; and

• Snowshoes and traction devices in the winter. 

Hikers and others heading outdoors should always let someone know where they are going, when they plan to return, and should provide updates if there are any changes to the plan. Anyone heading out needs to be realistic about their fitness and skill level and not overestimate their abilities or underestimate the weather conditions.

Air quality

Before heading out, Be Air Quality Aware! DEC and DOH issue Air Quality Health Advisories when DEC meteorologists predict levels of pollution, either ozone or fine particulate matter (PM2.5), are expected to exceed an Air Quality Index (AQI) value of 100. The AQI was created as an easy way to correlate levels of different pollutants to one scale, with a higher AQI value indicating a greater health concern.

Additional information on ozone and PM 2.5 is available on DEC’s website.


Make a plan before heading out. DEC is sharing weekend parking and reservation status via @NYSDECAlerts on X and DEC’s website. In addition, the New York State Department of Transportation’s 511 traffic management system will note when certain parking locations on Route 73 reach capacity and provide information about the Adirondack Mountain Reserve’s parking reservation system. Visitors are encouraged to check these resources before and during travel to make adjustments if parking availability changes. First-come, first-served parking lots at popular trailheads and roadside destinations in both the Adirondacks and Catskills often fill quickly and early, leaving some visitors to find alternate parking or new destinations entirely.

10 Hiking essentials

Carry these essentials in a day pack on all hikes for a safe and enjoyable experience:

• Navigation: Map, compass, GPS system, extra batteries

• Insulation/rain gear: Waterproof/windproof jacket, hat, gloves, thermal undergarments (pack extra), wool socks (pack extra), goggles - winter, face mask – winter

• Light: Headlamp, flashlight, lanterns, extra batteries

• First aid supplies: Use a premade kit or build your own.

• Emergency kit: Whistle, signal mirror, duct tape, pocket knife/multi-tool, etc., bright colored cloth.

• Fire: Matches in waterproof container, lighter, fire starters

• Nutrition: Choose high protein and high calorie items; Pack extra food

• Water: Pack at least 2 liters per person; carry more than you think you will need; water filtration or purifying system.

• Sun and insect protection: sunglasses, sunscreen, hat, bug repellent, bug net

• Emergency shelter: Tent, space blanket, tarp 

Those planning a trip should consider going with at least one other person. Hiking alone can be dangerous. Also monitor trail conditions before arrival and during planned hikes. Trail condition resources include: Adirondacks area; Catskills area; Finger Lakes area. 

Hikers are encouraged to Love Our New York Lands all year by practicing Leave No TraceTM principles and by recreating safely, sustainably, and hiking in suitable conditions based on weather and experience level.