Mud season is here, protect fragile trail environments

MONTPELIER, Vt. – On April 10, the Green Mountain Club (GMC), maintainer and protector of Vermont’s Long Trail and Vermont’s hiking trails advocate, along with the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation (FPR), manager of Vermont State Forests and Parks, and the Green Mountain National Forest (GMNF), announced the return of mud season to the Green Mountains.

mud season
Green Mountain Club Mud Season. Artwork by Emily Benning.

The wet soils on and around hiking trails are very susceptible to erosion at this critical time of year. To protect fragile soil and surrounding vegetation, some trails may be closed by the land manager during this time. Please respect the signage you see. Hikers walking on saturated soils or on the sides of trails cause damage to surrounding vegetation, widen trails, and inhibit natural drainage of our beloved hiking trails.

“It can take hours for a volunteer or trail crew to fix what takes just moments to damage by hiking on muddy trails,” says Jessica Savage, FPR’s recreation program manager. “In between spring showers, we are all ready to hit the trails after a long, cold winter. But even as your yard is drying out, soils are still thawing at higher elevations. Saving your mountain hikes until the trails are dry will ensure a better, longer hiking season for all.”

The period of snowmelt and muddy trails varies considerably throughout Vermont depending on elevation, solar orientation, depth of snowpack, and amount of spring rainfall. Even as it warms up in town, our mountains are hiding cold, wet, snowy, and icy conditions that may persist deep into spring. Hikers who find themselves at high elevations will need better traction and warmer clothes than the valley may hint at. The GMC encourages hikers to use their best judgment. If you encounter conditions you are not prepared for, please turn around. The mountain will be there another day. If a trail is muddy, even if it is not officially closed, please find an alternative area to hike in.

“Dry trails at lower elevations, dirt roads, and recreation paths all provide excellent opportunities for spring activities,” says Mike DeBonis, executive director of the Green Mountain Club. “Until the end of May, consider hiking on south-facing slopes and lower elevations where the sun can dry out the trails sooner.”

The Green Mountain Club, the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, and the Green Mountain National Forest thank hikers for their cooperation in helping to maintain one of Vermont’s finest recreational resources, our hiking trails.

For information on mud season and alternative hike suggestions, call the GMC’s visitor center at 802-244-7037 or email gmc@greenmountainclub.org or the Vermont State Parks Call Center at 1-888-409-7579, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.– 4 p.m. In addition, a weekly trail update with the latest conditions and a list of alternative hikes will be posted on the Vermont State Parks website.

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