Mud Season

Deep water creates a muddy mess of a trail.

Super saturated soils create deep and wide mud puddles sometimes covering whole sections of trail.

The calendar says spring has arrived in the White Mountains. However, New Englanders know there is one more hurdle to get over before hiking gets in full swing – mud season. Mud season is the transitional time between winter and spring when the combination between snow, rain, and melt creates very wet conditions. Hiking during this time can have major impacts on trails and fragile ecosystems.

Avoiding Trail Damage

A hiker goes off-trail to evade mud puddle on a trail.

Exactly what you SHOULDN'T do. Walking off-trail threatens to widen the trail or damage vegetation

Super saturated soils create deep and wide mud puddles sometimes covering whole sections of trail. These conditions make the trails most susceptible to soil compaction and erosion. Soil compaction reduces the ability for vegetation to grow and the ground to absorb water causing additional flooding potential. This leads to more erosion exposing rocks and roots.

In addition to mud, snow monorails – hard packed snow in the center tread of a trail – exist above and below treeline and endure long into mud season.  Walking around monorails widens trails and destroys fragile alpine plants above treeline. 

So what’s a hiker with spring fever to do during this muddy mess?

Tips to having a low impact outing:

  • Good boots are designed to get muddy! Walk through the mud and stick to the center of the path stepping on rocks whenever possible.
  • Choose hikes at low elevations and south-facing slopes. These tend to dry out faster. Avoid steep trails. Durable surfaces like roads, paved trails, or rail trails are also great options at this time of year.
  • Be prepared for spring weather to change quickly. Higher elevations may still have winter weather conditions.
  • Look for alternative activities until things dry out.  Road biking, paddling or scenic driving are great ways to enjoy the Forest while trails dry out.

Do Your Part

To prevent damaging the environment, turn around when the trail is extremely muddy. Soon it will dry out and you’ll be able to enjoy the hike. Whatever you do, don’t widen the trail or damage vegetation by walking around the muddy areas. If you want more information about good alternative early season activities, please contact any of our offices.