Adirondack Directory - Wilderness

Dix Mountain Wilderness Area

As edited by IAATAP from the full 2004 DEC management report (click here for full report)

44°3′38″N 73°46′9″W


Dix Mountain Wilderness consist of 45,208 acres in the towns of Elizabethtown, Keene and North HudsonDix Mountain is part of the "High Peaks" designated wilderness.  The terrain is rough and rocky and mountainous with several mountain tops exceeding 4,000 feet.  There are four trailless peaks in the area; South Dix, East Dix, Hough and Macomb, which are all over 4,000 feet in elevation. Most use of this area is for hiking and camping, but significant use is for fishing and hunting.  Maximum elevation is 4,857' feet.  The Dix Mountain Wilderness has 36.5 miles of foot trails and 12 bodies of water.  Half of the summits lack maintained trails and the eastern portion remain trailess.  This wilderness area is not for the light of heart!  View our Directory of the 46'ers for more summits.

Access to the periphery of the DMWA is easily gained via Interstate Route 87, US Route 9, State Route 73, and by the Elk Lake Road in the Town of North Hudson. (note:  only use the designated areas - the public does not have rights to access other roads or trails on the Elk Lake Preserve (including trails to Sunrise Mountain and Boreas Mountain).  The road from Clear Pond to Elk Lake is gated and only assessable after the close of big game season).  The interior is served by 33.5 miles of marked and maintained foot trails.  Access from the south is by the Samuel Bloomingdale Easement and the Adirondack Mountain Reserve.

Historically, this area was unknown to outsiders.  The Native American and Algonquin had been the only occasional visitor.  After the American Revolution, grants of "Wild forest land" were offered to promote development.  As timber dwindled and landowners abandoned their land for taxes, the  owners sold large lots to the State in the '20 and '30's.  This region was sometimes referred to as "Colvin Country" in tribute to Verplanck Colvin, Superintendent of the Adirondack Survey, who initiated the first detailed surveys.  Tourism later became the major industry in the the late 1800's, and hotels and mountain resorts were built.   Much of the trail system was originally developed from these 'hotel trails'.   Adirondack Guides and their sports (clients) were impressed with the quality and abundance of brook trout and game.

Several areas of the Dix Wilderness has outstanding biological diversity, being:

  • Chapel Pond Valley (100 acres)

  • High Peak Tundra (40 acres)

  • Marcy Swamp (220 acres)

  • Ausable Club Old Growth (1150 acres)   

Ttitbit:  The sphagnum complex is very fragile, and please do not trample.








Primitive Tent Sites

A total of 30 primitive tent sites have been identified along with three lean-tos.    Camping at large is permitted 150' of any road, trail, spring, stream, pond or body of water.  Please, all campsites shall be restored to its natural state and all evidence removed.  "Pack it out" please.

Please subscribe to the "Leave-No-Trace TM" program.   Camping above 3,000' is prohibited including no campfires at ANY time above 4,000'.  This area is fragile and to be respected.  Portable gas stoves are preferred for the environment.  Those broken limbs may make a nice fire; but they also house insects for the local aviary population.   Other common sense rules:  *  no glass containers (except necessary for prescribed medicines).  * no motorized equipment,  * no use of soap or detergent in any body of water.  * no the use of audio devices which is audible outside the immediate area of the campsite.  * dispose of food scraps.  * respect the signage for others.    IAATAP maintains a full directory of Camping, to explore nearby camping areas, click here.

Titbits:  DEC regulation requires that groups of ten or more persons camping on state land obtain a permit from a forest ranger. DEC policy prohibits issuing group camping permits to groups wanting to camp on forest preserve lands in the Adirondacks that are classified as wilderness, primitive or canoe area. This policy was developed to protect natural resources, the primeval character of the area and exceptional wilderness experiences for all recreationists, and follows Leave No Trace practices. Except for the eastern High Peaks Wilderness, Pharaoh Lake Wilderness and the William C. Whitney Wilderness, where the group size is 8, camping groups in wilderness, primitive and canoe area lands are limited to 9 people or less.




The Adirondacks is rich in bird life.  Visit our Adirondack Bird Directory when you have time.  By the NY State's Unit Management Plan, the following species are under study, we have summarized their findings.  Pictures and links provided by Wikipedia. 


According to the NY Breeding Bird Atlas, 123 species are believed to breed within the Dix Mountain Wilderness.    Summits above 2,800' are protected by the NY State Bird Conservation Area Program and the Adirondack Subalpine Forest Bird Conservation Area.  The most concerned aviary species for this region is the Bicknell's Thrush.  The endangered birds in the Dix Mountain Wilderness are:


Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)


Peregrine Falcon - Picture credits to Wikipedia


In 1974 New York initiated a program to reintroduce the Peregrine Falcon in the state. Peregrines were successfully hacked in the Adirondack Park with the release of the first birds in 1981. It is possible that Peregrines are utilizing the mountain cliffs for nesting.  Three basic requirements nesting Peregrine Falcons include open country for hunting, sufficient food resources of avian species, and steep, rocky cliff faces for nesting. The falcons typically nest 50 to 200 feet off the ground near bodies of water. Nesting sites for Peregrines usually include a partially-vegetated ledge large enough for it young to move about. The nest is a well-rounded shape that is sometimes lined with grass, usually sheltered by an overhang. Sometimes Peregrines may nest in old Common Raven nests.   Human disturbance of a breeding pair may result in nest abandonment!  "DO NOT DISTURB" please!  Climbers, not it is illegal to climb during their breeding season, and breeders will attack.   To report a falcon signings please contact NYSDEC Region 5, Bureau of Wildlife, P.O. Box 296, Ray Brook, New York 12977, 518-897-1291.



Bicknell's Thrush (Catharus bicknelli)


Bicknell's Thrush - Picture credits to WikipediaBicknell's Thrush utilizes fir waves and natural disturbances as well as edges of ski slopes. They breed  in the Adirondacks at elevations greater than 2800 ft.   The species is most common on the highest ridges of the Adirondacks, preferring young or stunted dense stands of balsam fir up to 9 ft. in height.



Common Loon (Gavia immer)


Common Loon - Picture credits to WikipediaThe Common Loon is a species of special concern and are located through out the Adirondacks  They use small and large freshwater lakes in open and densely forested areas for breeding and nest on lakes (mostly less habited lakes). The Loons will use little shallow coves for nesting which are constructed on the ground at the water’s edge on sand or rock, wherever to avoided predators.  Small islands are their favorite or small peninsular.  They have a beautiful call - click:  Common Loon - Cornell Lab of Ornithology.   Sand Pond has been designated as important habitat for the Loon.  Please do not disturb.


Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor)

The Nighthawks will either use bare flat rocks or bare ground in open fields and pastures, and if in populated areas they may use flat, gravel rooftops.  Here in the Adirondacks, the nighthawks will use the mountainous areas, provided woods are interspersed with clearings or openings. They are nocturnal and have a particular call (click here).



Eastern Blue Bird


Northern Raven



Other aviary species spotted in the Dix Mountain Wilderness  region are:  bald eagle, osprey, peregrine falcon, northern raven, ring-necked duck, common goldeneye, common merganser, northern three-toed woodpecker, gray jay, boreal chickadee, ruby-crowned kinglet, Philadelphia vireo, olive-sided flycatcher, yellow-bellied flycatcher, Tennessee warbler, northern Parula warbler, Cape May warbler, bay-breasted warbler, blackpoll warbler, Bicknell’s thrush, Swainson’s thrush, Lincoln’s sparrow, rusty blackbird, evening grosbeak.



Wild Species of Concern





 Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum)

The Spotted Salamander have two rows of yelloish orange spots that run along the back side.  They make their home in hardwood forest area and spend most of its time below the surface, under leaves or burrows; and use nearby ponds for breeding in the Spring.  They have poison glands around their back and neck, to release as protection against their predators.  This toxin is harmless to humans.  They are nocturnal hunters.



Wood Turtle (Glyptemys insculpta)

The wood turtle is found in well oxygenated  good quality streams with sandy-pebbly substrates that are deep enough so that they do not freeze during hibernation Ideal habitat includes dense alder swamp and forested wetland habitat bordering the streams where the turtles can bask and have protection from predators.  Wood turtles forge for fungi and vegetation.  Wood turtles select both slopes and level sandy open areas for nest sites. They are listed as species of interest because of the long maturity rate (15 years) and high hatchling mortality.




Chapel Pond is the largest pond in the Dix Mountain Wilderness being 19 acres.    Dix Mountain Wilderness has 11 ponded bodies of water and 179 designated wetlands (or 997.3 acres along the West Mill and Walker Brooks drains, and the head of Upper Ausable Lake and near Elk Lake). The wetlands are important deer wintering areas.   The most frequented fishing spots include Chapel and Round Pond.  Dix Mountain Wilderness ponds are:  Cranberry Pond, Lilypad, Rhododendron Pond, Round Pond, Chapel Pond.   Visit our Fishing Directory for more information.



Horse Trails

New York Codes Rules and Regulations (“NYCRR”) §190.8(n) authorizes the use of state owned lands by horses and equestrians.  However, the use of horses on designated foot trails is prohibited unless the trail is also specifically designated as a horse trail. Horse trails in a Wilderness area to: “those that can be developed by conversion of appropriate abandoned roads, snowmobile trails, or state truck trails.”  While Six Mountain is too steep for equestrian travel,  many of our regions are.  Consult your DEC trail map.  Visit our Adirondack Horseback Directory for other areas.



Hunters enjoy pack & paddling into the region for weeks of hunting.  The game species found in the Dix Mountain Wilderness include white-tailed deer, moose, black bear, coyote, bobcat, raccoon, red fox, gray fox, fisher, marten, mink, muskrat, striped skunk, river otter, beaver, porcupine, and varying hare.  The deer population has decreased due to the severe winters.



Hiking Trails


The backcountry acreage is enormous and the Adirondacks has the largest trail system in the nation with more than 2,000 miles.  Enjoy the glory of hiking the Adirondacks, nature's solitude, unbroken forest, lakes and mountains and take the path less taken.  Focus on your senses.  Click here for the DEC "Lost in the Woods" brochure.  Visit our Adirondack Hiking Guide


The DEC trail classification system is outlined in the Forest Preserve Policy Manual. This classification system recognizes four trail classifications as outlined below:



Class 1:

Trail Distinguishable: Minimal biological or physical impacts, slight loss of vegetation and/or minimal disturbance of organic litter

Class 2:

Some Impacts: Tail obvious, slight loss of vegetation cover and/or organic litter pulverized in primary use areas, muddy spots or tree roots, or water action evident.

Class 3:

Moderate Impacts: Vegetation cover and/or organic littler pulverized within the center of the tread, exposed rocks and trees or small mud holes, but little evidence of widening beyond the maintained width of the trail.

Class 4:

Extensive Impacts: Near complete or total loss of vegetation cover and organic litter, rocks or tree roots exposed and roots damaged, or ruts more than 20cm (7.8 inches) deep, or widening caused by muddy areas or water action consistently.

Class 5:

Very Extensive Impacts: Trail to bedrock or other substrate, or tree roots badly damaged, or some ruts more than 50 cm (19.5 inches) deep or large areas (over 50%) of bank erosion, or mud holes so extensive that the trail is outside of its maintained width.


Marked Trails

NYSDEC Foot Trail Disk

Most trails are marked with color coded disks affixed to trees as shown (see left). Trail guides and maps correspond to these markers. Trail register boxes are generally located near major access points and parking areas. Although most state-maintained trails are marked, hikers are encouraged to consult topographical maps or other guides when planning to venture into the backcountry.  Click here for the DEC "Lost in the Woods" brochure.

There are only five developed trails in the his region.  Climbing the trail-less peaks are popular and easily accessible by Route 73 (6.1 mile) and three access points along the Northway at Lindsay Brook, Wet Mill Brook and Walker Brook.  One of the most trail-less trips is the Dix Mountain as a day trip or overnight.  Trailhead registers are Elk Lake, Round Pond, Weston Trail, Stimson Trail and AMR Lake Road.


Favorite Scenic hiker summits:  Dix Range, Nippletop, Noonmark, Bearn Den and points along the Boquet River.  Artists continue to be stimulated by this area for their works.  Names like Elliot Porter, Albert Gates, Nathan Farb, Carl Heilman II and many others.  Yester-year painters included:  Charles Cromwell Ingham, Thomas Cole, Asher B.Durand, Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait, Samuel Colman, Alexander Helwig Wyant, and Winslow Homer.


Your pet dog also enjoy a nice day hike, but do remember to pick up after them, and an encountered with a dog off lease can result in a lawsuit and fines.  Dogs may not be left unattended, and must have proof of a valid rabies inoculation.  Hunting dogs (with license number) are except from the lease rules during hunting season.


Follow those have gone before:




Titbits: Motorized Equipment in Wilderness, Primitive and Canoe Areas: DEC has adopted a regulation prohibiting the use of motorized equipment in lands classified as wilderness, primitive or canoe. Public use of small personal electronic or mechanical devices such as cameras, radios or GPS receivers are not affected by this new regulation.




Rock & Ice Climbing


The Dix Wilderness rock climbing is very popular with about nine distinct climbing areas such as:    the west side of Route 73 in the vicinity of Chapel Pond. The attractions include the cliffs adjacent to Chapel Pond,  “Beer Walls” (Chapel Pond Pass) and the “King Philip Wall."  The “Beer Walls” are the most highly–used climbing area in the Adirondack Forest Preserve due to the ease of access from the highway. “The Empress” rising from the Chapel Pond slab is arguably the most popular friction climbing route in the Adirondack Park. The King Philip area provides several easy instructional routes that are popular with youth camps.


Placements of bolts or fixed anchors which involved drilling for defacing the rock is a violation.  Use the established fixed anchors on Forest Preserve lands.

Due to the limited number of climbing routes suitable for group instructional purposes one large group routinely can monopolize all the suitable “top-rope” routes in an area. Often single individuals from these climbing groups will hike in to a climbing area in advance of the remainder of the group to “claim” use of favored top-rope climbs by establishing belay systems, effective excluding any other individuals or groups from using those routes.

All rock climbing groups are limited to the maximum size of 10 persons and limited to utilizing a maximum of three roped climbing routes at any given time.    Visit our Rock Climbing Directory.




       Parking Areas

  • Route 73 Highway pull off's.

  • The present parking areas indicates a parking capacity for trailheads is 194 cars, distributed among 13 parking areas. This  includes parking at the Zander Scott Trailhead, which serves both the Zander Scott trail to Giant Mt, in the GMWA and rock climbers using the cliffs at the eastern side of Chapel Pond. Parking at the Ausable Club serves users of both the DMWA and HPWA, as well as users who will not be venturing off the easement trails at the Ausable Mountain Reserve.





Adirondack Mountain Club


Lake George


Forest Fire - Search and Rescue     518-891-0235 or 911
State Land Regulation/Backcountry Law Enforcement     518-897-1300
Environmental Law Enforcement     518-897-1326
Poacher & Polluter Reporting online     1-800-TIPP DEC
State Lands Interactive Map (SLIM)      


Wilderness Reports

Other great hiking/fishing trips


Support our sponsors:





Link/Showcase your business!


Learn more



Adirondack Center For Loon Conservation


































































































































        | Home Page |   Tour the Park Articles |   Concierge  |  History Tall Tales Bulletin | Advertise with us | |


 *  DISCLOSURE:  "In and Around the Adirondack Park" is not affiliated with any of the above information, businesses, organizations or events, nor can we  vouch for the quality,  and is NOT responsible for the actions  of the above parties.  This is brought as a public service message only.   We publish your works (professional or amateur free).  Before going out in the Wilderness, please study your route and learn how to be prepared!