Spring hiking season has arrived, and so has mud season. Most avid hikers would say mud season is really bad in northern New England since the snows of winter are still melting when folks in Connecticut are enjoying 70 degree days. But early spring snows (I’m looking out the window at CFPA HQ and, yes, it’s snowing) and April rains, combined with foot traffic can cause significant damage to the trail bed. But you've been waiting all winter to enjoy fresh air and a good hike. So it's good to be aware that hiking in spring will have consequences for the trails you love. So here are a few things to consider.
Hike on trails that are normally dry
Yeah, right. You might think that all hiking trails are a mud fest this time of year. But you do have options. Take for example Connecticut’s Airline State Park Trail. Built on an old railroad bed, this hardened trail has great drainage and its structure is far more durable and less susceptible to erosion. Some hiking trails are better than others - take for example trails that follow a trap rock ridge or those that have been constructed to provide better drainage. The New England Trail, both the Mattabesett and Metacomet sections, has long stretches of ridgeline. Newly reconstructed approaches to the ridge, such as the south end of Chauncey Peak in Meriden, are designed to be more durable and to dry quicker. Some great resources for trail information are the Connecticut Walk Book, and CFPA’s Interactive Trail Map.
Stay on the trail
Even if there’s standing water or what appears to be a mud pit spanning its width, stay on the trail! Use rocks as “stepping stones” wherever you can, and even though you may be tempted, DON’T walk on the side of the trail. This just loosens the soil on the edge, causing further erosion and inevitably a larger mud hole. Want another good reason to stay on the trail? Many miles of the Blue-Blaze Hiking Trail system are on privately owned property and are there only through the generosity of the landowner. Leaving the trail and ending up in the landowner’s backyard is a great way to get the trail closed! So, just stay on the trail; your boots will dry out.
Using the right gear not only keeps you dry and safe when you are hiking, but also it makes the hike more enjoyable! Here are some basic things that you should have ready to go before you get out there:
- Waterproof boots
- Trekking poles
- Waterproof jacket
- Extra layers
- Extra socks
- Emergency and first aid kit
- Waterproof bag for essentials you need to keep dry like your wallet, phone, etc.
Report Really Bad/Muddy sections
If you come across exceptionally muddy sections of any CFPA maintained Blue-Blaze Hiking trails, please let us know by using our trail report form