Mud Season Hiking Do’s and Don’tsMay 4, 2018
by KRISTIN MCLANE, GREEN MOUNTAIN CLUB
Spring is a lovely time of year to visit Vermont. Stowe comes alive as Aprils showers and warm sun bring May flowers and ample opportunities to play outside. While Vermonters are quite familiar with mud season–unofficially the fifth season of the year–visitors who are eager to explore Stowe’s breathtaking mountains and hills may not be aware of the impact spring hiking can have on fragile trail environments. Mud season is the transitional time between winter and spring when the weather constantly skips between snow, sun, and rain. Meanwhile, the snowmelt swells the rivers and streams, and our beloved hiking trails become a muddy mess.
Trails oversaturated from snowmelt and spring rains are vulnerable to damage from soil compaction and erosion with every footstep. As the founder and maintainer of the Long Trail in Vermont, the oldest long-distance hiking trail in America, the Green Mountain Club works to protect and maintain the system and foster stewardship of Vermont’s hiking trails and mountains.
During mud season, the Green Mountain Club asks hikers to take a break from hiking to let trails dry out and heal from the onslaught of water. So what’s a hiker to do in the meantime?
- Find alternate activities to engage in such as road biking, canoeing or walking through town or along the Mountain Road.
- Hike on durable surfaces like recreation paths, dirt roads and dry, lower-elevation trails on south-facing slopes–these tend to dry out earlier in the season.
- Be prepared to turn around if conditions change and the path is suddenly muddy in front of you.
- Widen the trail by walking around–or on the edges of–muddy areas and puddles.
- Trample vegetation to avoid mud–this leads to a damaged environment more susceptible to erosion later. Alpine vegetation is especially vulnerable.
- Underestimate the weather. Just because the calendar says it’s spring doesn’t mean the mountains agree. Higher elevations are still in winter mode and must be prepared for accordingly.
We are fortunate to have an excellent mud season option for hiking and biking right here in Stowe–the Stowe Recreation Path is a 5.3-mile paved path that winds along the river through town and woods and features views of Vermont’s tallest mountain, Mount Mansfield.
Make sure to check out Green Mountain Club’s other suggested mud season hikes. The Green Mountain Club visitor center is located on Route 100 in Waterbury, Vermont just 7 minutes south of the historic Stowe village. Thank you for doing your part to keep Vermont’s trails in great shape!