It’s that time of year again, hikers. With mud season upon us, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is urging hikers to walk through, not around, muddy areas. Learn what you can do to protect our trails and keep yourself safe.
Walk Through The Mud
It may seem counter-intuitive, but when you come to a muddy section of a trail, you should walk through the mud, not around it. When hikers travel outside of a pre-established trail, it puts delicate trailside vegetation at risk of being trampled and destroyed. This applies to muddy areas near trailheads, at summits, and every portion of the trail in between.
To preserve trails during mud season, the DEC encourages hikers to follow these important tips:
- Walk through mud and water on trails, not around it
- Avoid damaging hiking trails and sensitive trailside vegetation and habitats
- Wear waterproof hiking boots and clothing that can withstand mud and water
- If you’re hiking with a group, walk single file directly down the center of the trail
Not only does following these tips protect nature, but it keeps the trails safe for other hikers. Walking through mud prevents trail creep, or trail widening, where the trail erodes away the surrounding vegetation, exposing dangerous roots and boulders that could be hazardous to future hikers.
A Slippery Spring
Though muddy trails are prevalent this time of year throughout the state, higher elevations face the added issue of melting snow and ice. Steep trails are especially dangerous, as the combination of ice and mud makes the soil particularly erosive.
Because of this, the annual High Elevation Muddy Trail Advisory advises against hiking elevations of 2,500 feet and higher until snow has melted completely and trails have dried and hardened.
Alternate Hikes For Mud Season
Hikers who want to enjoy the great outdoors during mud season are encouraged to hike lower elevation trails. Take note, though, that mud should still be expected even on lower elevation trails, and the DEC’s tips still apply on these hikes.