Hiking trails need special care during springtime

MONTPELIER — The Green Mountain Club, the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation and the Green Mountain National Forest (GMNF) have called on Vermonters and recreational tourists to be wary of the return of mud season to the Green Mountains and to respect associated trail closures and advisories.
The wet soils on and around hiking trails are very susceptible to erosion at this critical time of year. To protect fragile soil and surrounding vegetation, some trails may be closed by land managers. We ask everyone to please respect the signage you see. Hikers walking on saturated soils or on the sides of trails cause damage to surrounding vegetation, widen trails, and inhibit natural drainage of hiking trails.
“Even though it might feel warm and dry at your house, the trails at higher elevations are still very wet and vulnerable. It can take hours for a volunteer or trail crew to fix what takes just moments to damage by hiking on muddy trails,” says Jessica Savage, FPR’s Recreation Program Manager. “In between spring showers, we are all ready to hit the trails after a long, cold winter. Saving your mountain hikes until the trails are dry will ensure a better, longer hiking season for all.”
The period of snowmelt and muddy trails varies considerably throughout Vermont depending on elevation, solar orientation, depth of snowpack, and amount of spring rainfall. Even as it warms up in town, mountains are hiding cold, wet, snowy, and icy conditions that may persist deep into spring. Hikers who find themselves at high elevations will need better traction and warmer clothes than the valley may hint at. The GMC encourages hikers to use their best judgment. If hikers encounter conditions they are not prepared for, they should turn around. If a trail is muddy, even if it is not officially closed, find an alternative hiking spot.
“Lower elevation trails and back roads provide more sustainable opportunities for recreating during the spring months,” says Keegan Tierney, Director of Field Programs for the Green Mountain Club. “The sun melts snow and dries soils on lower elevation and south facing trails much sooner than those along the spine of the Green Mountains. Until the end of May, consider checking out trail systems that are maintained by our land management colleagues around the state, being sure to check on their websites for information before heading out.”
For information on mud season and alternative hike suggestions, contact the GMC’s visitor center at 802-244-7037 or [email protected], or the Vermont State Parks Call Center at 888-409-7579, Monday–Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. In addition, a weekly trail update with the latest conditions and a list of alternative hikes will be posted on the Vermont State Parks website at vtstateparks.com/hiking.html.

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