Just what is mud season?
Running anytime from late March into mid-June—it varies each year depending on weather—mud season is when hiking trails in the Adirondacks are most susceptible to damage. Thanks to continuous waves of snow melt, mud becomes a constant on hiking trails, creating prime conditions for erosion. As you ascend, mud turns to a range of rotten snow, ice, and deep snow pack creating challenging conditions for hikers that also raise the risk for injury. On the highest summits, alpine vegetation begins its spring growing cycle, which is a highly vulnerable time for an already vulnerable variety of plants. Stepping on these plants could kill them, so avoiding summits that they grow on at this time is important to their survival.
We ask that you join ADK and the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) in participating in a “voluntary trail closure” by avoiding trails over 2500 feet (762 meters) in elevation until mid-June. This, of course, includes all of the forty-six High Peaks, as well as numerous other trails in the High Peaks Region. However, that leaves ample opportunity to explore lower elevation peaks like Mt. Van Hoevenberg, or to visit other parts of the Adirondack Park that don’t experience snow packs to the same degree.
Andrew, ADK’s Trail Programs Director, highly recommends visiting the Catskill Park, as the soil there “has a sandy composition, and as a result tends to thaw and drain earlier in the spring.” Sticking to areas with durable trails and drier conditions is a good rule of thumb for this time of year. For hiking recommendations and up-to-date trail conditions, give our High Peaks Information Center a call at 518-523-3441, ext. 21.
With all of that mud, what should I wear on my feet?
Durable footwear is a must any time of the year, but wet conditions require sturdy boots to navigate safely. We recommend waterproof hiking boots that have rubber soles, as these will provide the necessary support to avoid injury. Gaiters, which are waterproof leg coverings that protect the tops of your boots, are also an important investment. They range from ankle length to mid-thigh, and are great at keeping mud and water out of your boots.
Beyond these pieces of gear be aware that, since snow can stick around well into May and June, snowshoes may still be required to hike in certain regions of the Adirondacks. Microspikes (or trail crampons) are also highly recommended until temperatures stay consistently above freezing on summits.
Anything else I should know?
Here’s a big way you can help: if you encounter a muddy patch on the trail, walk right through it! Skirting to the edges widens trails and creates even more mud, so help out your fellow hikers and stick to the trail. This is where good footwear comes in handy!