It’s time to address the age-old question about hiking in the mud: should you walk around a mud puddle or through it?
The answer is a little complicated. So, let me walk you through it (pun intended).
Muddy prints left by hikers, bikers, and horseback riders eventually dry and make the trail uneven. Not only is this a tripping hazard, but it also encourages excessive erosion. This harms the surrounding ecosystem and forces trail crews to spend more time and money on trail restoration.
Bottomline – recreating on muddy trails is bad for the trail. In general, you should avoid trails that are muddy.
But sometimes, you encounter a surprise mud patch. What should you do? The most responsible way to cross the wet patch is to go directly through the puddle.
Going around the puddle leads to trail widening and excessive erosion, which, as we’ve already learned, is a trail builder’s worst enemy.
Of course, if there are some large rocks along the path, step on those instead of going through the puddle.
Mud season can feel like forever. But if you’re patient and stay off the muddy paths, your future self will thank you when your favorite trails are in tip-top shape this summer. Our volunteers trail crews and hardworking USFS staff will thank you too.
So sit back, enjoy the signs of spring, and we’ll see you on the trails this summer.