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Beware the Mud! Learn About Spring Hiking & Mud Season in the Adirondacks

Spring hiking means muddy hiking in the Adirondacks. As the weather warms up, many outdoor recreationists are itching to get out on the trails, but mud season can be a hazard. Here's what you need to know, what trails to stick to, and which ones to avoid.

a pair of muddy boots

Wear Proper Footwear & Stay on the Trails!

While there's no official start or end date, the Adirondack mud season usually runs from the first of April to mid-May. This is a time when snow melts off the mountains and creates large amounts of mud and erosion. When mud season is at its worst, the DEC often asks hikers to stay off some trails (a Muddy Trail Advisory). In fact, hikers are encouraged to postpone their spring hikes on any trails that are above 3,000 feet until about mid-June to allow the trails to fully dry and harden.

While hiking in the mud can pose a danger to hikers, it can also cause damage to the environment. One of the biggest issues with mud season is that hikers can destroy trails and damage vegetation. When hiking, we see mud and immediately think - how can I avoid this? This leads to hiking off-trail. When hikers travel off the marked trails, particularly in the High Peaks, it puts plants in danger of being trampled and destroyed. A typical lawn can be stepped on up to 500 times before damage becomes visible, but delicate alpine plants can be damaged after only five steps!

Therefore, vegetation found on alpine areas of the Adirondacks become threatened during the mud season. And while the alpine summits are the most vulnerable areas to vegetation destruction, hikers need to be aware of this issue on the lower elevations as well. Your best bet is to always walk in the middle of the trail, even when it's muddy and messy.

Trails to Try During Mud Season

Ready to take on an Adirondack hiking trail this spring? Check out the best trails to try, and the ones to avoid below:

High Peaks Region

  • Hurricane Mountain Wilderness - Little Crow Mountain
  • McKenize Mountain Wilderness - Moose Pond Trail, Whiteface Landing Trail

Northern Adirondacks

  • Paul Smiths College Conservation Easement - the VIC, Jenkins Mountain
  • Saranac Lake Wild Forest - Panther Mountain, Floodwood Mountain
  • Santa Clara Tract Conservation Easement - Azure Mountain, the Pinnacle
  • St. Regis Canoe Area - Long Pond Mountain

Northeastern Adirondacks

  • Taylor Pond Wild Forest - Poke-a-Moonshine Mountain, Silver Lake Mountain
  • Wilmington Wild Forest - Clements Pond

Northwestern Adirondacks

  • Grass River Wild Forest - Lampson Falls Trail, Tooley Pond Mountain Trail

Western Adirondacks

  • Horseshoe Lake Wild Forest - Coney Mountain, Goodman Mountain, Mt. Arab

West Central Adirondacks

  • Blue Mountain Wild Forest - Rock Lake Trail, Tirrell Pond Trail
  • Blue Ridge Wilderness: Camp Sagamore Trails System, Cascade Pond Trail, Death Brook Falls Trail, Sawyer Mountain, Sprague Pond Trail
  • Cedarlands Conservation Easement - Mud Pond Mountain
  • Sargent Ponds Wild Forest - Buttermilk Falls

East Central Adirondacks

  • Camp Santanoni Historic Area - Adirondack Interpretive Center, Newcomb Lake Road Trail, Santanoni-Lake Harris Trail
  • Hoffman Notch Wilderness - Bailey Pond Trail, Mr. Severance
  • Hudson Gorge Wilderness - Big Bad Luck Pond, Blue Ledges, Hudson Gorge Spur Trail, Ross Pond Trail, Whortleberry Pond Trail
  • Jessup Wild Forest - Baldface Mountain, Fawn Lake Trail, Watch Hill Trail
  • Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest - Moxham Mountain Trail

Eastern Adirondacks

  • Hammond Pond Wild Forest - Arnold Pond Trail, Belfry Mountain, Hammond Pond Trail, Moose Mountain Trail
  • Lake George Wild Forest - Fifth Peak
  • Pharoah Lake Wilderness - Grizzle Ocean Loop Trail, Grizzle Ocean Trail, Lost Pond Trail, Pharaoh Lake Loop Trail, Pharoah Lake Trail
  • Split Rock Mountain Wild Forest - Barn Rock Bay Trail, Lewis Clearing Bay Trail, North Rim Rail, South Rocks Overlook Trail

Southwestern Adirondacks

  • Black River Wild Forest - Ledge Mountain Overlook Trail, Woodhull Mountain
  • Fulton Chain Wild Forest - Bald Mountain
  • Independence River Wild Forest - Independence River Area Trail Network, Stillwater Mountain

Southern Adirondacks

  • Ferris Lake Wild Forest - Goldmine Stream Trail, Panther Mountain/Echo Cliff Trail
  • Shaker Mountain Wild Forest - Pinnacle Valley Trail
  • Wilcox Lake Wild Forest - Spruce Mountain Trail`

Note, a few of the above summits reach just over 2,500 feet, but are okayed via the DEC's page on recommended low-elevation hikes for mud season and cold, shorter days in the fall.

Trails to Avoid During Mud Season

muddy trail

Save these hikes for June or later in the summer!

Trails to Avoid in the High Peaks Wilderness

  • Algonquin
  • Colden
  • Feldspar
  • Gothics
  • Indian Pass
  • Lake Arnold Crossover Trail
  • Marcy
  • Marcy Dam - Avalanche Lake - Lake Colden Trail
  • Phelps Trail above Johns Brook Lodge
  • Range Trail
  • Skylight
  • Wright
  • All trails above 2,500 feet
  • All trail-less peaks
  • All trails above Elk Lake and Round Pond

Trails to Avoid in the Giant Mountain Wilderness

  • All trails above Giant's Washbowl, "the Cobbles," and Owl Head Lookout

Trails to Avoid in McKenzie Mountain Wilderness

  • Ester
  • McKenzie
  • Moose
  • Whiteface
  • All trails above 2,500 feet

Trails to Avoid in the Sentinel Range Wilderness

  • Pitchoff Mountain
  • All trails above 2,500 feet

*If you're determined to hike the High Peaks during the spring, don't forget to check out the latest trail conditions before heading out the door, and be prepared to stay on the trail and in the mud.

See our seven recommended hikes for mud season »

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