Why We Should Avoid Muddy Trails

Spring has sprung in the high country, and this beautiful, warm weather has kicked off our annual snowmelt. A lot of our trails are becoming saturated with spring runoff, so it’s a great time to remind you to AVOID MUDDY TRAILS! When there are muddy patches on trails, bikers and hikers inevitably try to avoid the mud, and go around it. This causes unnecessary erosion and sometimes permanent damage to the trail and the surrounding vegetation. This may not seem like a big deal, but it can take hours for several volunteers to restore that area, that was damaged in just the few seconds it takes you to go off trail, around a mud pit. Even if you do walk or ride straight through the mud, you will sink into the trail creating ruts. When those dry, the trail is left a badly rutted mess, usually until someone is able to fix it.

Trail braiding on the Spruce Creek Trail.

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Tips to Avoid Muddy Trails:

  • If you start to make deep tracks in the mud, turn around and head back.

  • If you come across a muddy spot on a trail that is otherwise dry, NEVER bike or walk off-trail, around a muddy patch. This makes a new trail on the side of the trail, (trail braiding) encouraging others to use, and causing unnecessary erosion and damage to the soil and vegetation. If you must, always ride/walk through the mud on the center of the trail tread.

  • Enjoy the wonderful system of paved bike paths for a few weeks, while your favorite trails dry out.

  • If the temperatures at night are still dropping below freezing, get your biking and hiking in early, while the ground is still frozen.

Trail cupping caused by riding muddy trails

Why We Avoid Muddy Trails:

  • When someone bikes or walks around a trail to avoid a muddy patch, (trail braiding) it loosens the soil and greatly increases the chances of erosion.

  • Biking and walking on muddy trails could make them rutted for months, or until they’re fixed.

  • Snowmelt saturated trails are much more prone to soil erosion and compaction when used – this leads to trail cupping, which then causes pedal clipping.

  • Riding your bike through mud can slow you down to a stop extremely fast and lead to a fall. Hiking in mud is slippery and mud-caked boots are heavy and and hard to maneuver.

Thanks for doing your part to keep our trails enjoyable!