Wilderness by definition is a sizable, roadless region where the natural ecological processes continue to evolve with as little human interference as possible according to a federal statute established by the Wilderness Act of 1964.
In the Adirondacks, of all the land classifications, man has impacted wilderness areas the least. To further protect them, wilderness areas have restrictions placed upon their use with only conforming "structures and improvements" such as leantos, outhouses and pre-existing dams allowed.
In order to foster access, foot trails, log bridges and signboards are permitted but the use of motors or mechanized vehicles such as bicycles is prohibited.
When the Adirondack Park Agency was established in 1972, the state identified fifteen parcels consisting of a minimum of 10,000 acres each to be established as wilderness areas.
Today approximately 1,030,000 acres of protected lands are designated as wilderness which constitutes approximately 18.2 percent of the public lands within the park. The park encompasses nearly 85 percent of all wilderness lands east of the Mississippi, which is besieged by nearly 9 million visitors annually.
The park's wilderness lands still present a conundrum of disjointed public parcels which are dissected by highways, hamlets, private parks and villages. While there remain numerous opportunities for extensive travel, even the most remote sections of the park lack the contiguous nature of true wilderness. Despite the 'rewilding' efforts of travelers are still likely to encounter signs of man at some point in their travels.
According to a Draft Map of Primitive Class Areas in the Adirondack Park developed by the Adirondack Park Agency, "The preliminary estimate of potential Primitive Areas indicates the truly remote areas of the Adirondack Park are a relatively small and therefore precious resource."
According to the methodology implemented by the US Forest Service's Recreational Opportunity Spectrum, less than 3 percent of the park's total of 6 million acres are considered to be truly primitive enough to be wilderness.