The Green Mountain Club, maintainer and protector of Vermont’s Long Trail, recently released its annual message advocating responsible use of hiking trails from mid-April until Memorial Day weekend. Warmer temperatures and a substantial winter snowpack have made Vermont’s hiking trails wet, muddy, and especially prone to erosion. Hikers walking on saturated soils or on the sides of trails cause irreversible erosion and damage surrounding vegetation of our beloved Green Mountains. Some of the Long Trail has been worn down to bedrock by soil erosion over the years.
The State of Vermont officially closes trails on state lands from April 15 through the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend. Trails on the Green Mountain National Forest are not officially closed, but the U.S. Forest Service asks hikers to avoid muddy higher elevation trails like the Long Trail until Memorial Day weekend.
“It’s been a long winter and everyone is itching to take a hike. If a trail is so muddy that you need to walk on the soil beside it, turn back and seek an alternative area to hike or an alternate outdoor activity like canoeing or biking,” recommends GMC Director of Trail Programs Dave Hardy.
“High elevation soils retain snow and ice longer, and they dry out later, so we ask folks to use their judgment since a trail may be ready for hiking at the trailhead, but will get softer and still have a snowpack as you climb higher,” says Hardy.
Mud season hiking guidelines
Walk through the mud, not around it! If a trail is so muddy that you need to walk on the vegetation beside it, turn back, and seek an alternative area to hike.
Hike in the lower-elevation hardwood forest (unless it is muddy!) with southern exposure (south facing slopes dry out first in Spring).
Avoid the spruce-fir (conifer) forests at higher elevations.
The State of Vermont closes all trails on state land, including Camel’s Hump and Mount Mansfield, from April 15 until the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. Please do not hike in these fragile areas.
Also avoid: Stratton Mountain, Killington Peak, Lincoln Ridge (Mount Ellen to Appalachian Gap), Jay Peak.
The GMC thanks hikers for their cooperation in helping to preserve one of Vermont’s finest recreational resources, our hiking trails. For information on mud season hiking opportunities, please contact the Green Mountain Club (802) 244-7037 or visit www.greenmountainclub.org.