It’s that time of year again: The Green Mountain Club (GMC), maintainer of Vermont’s Long Trail and Vermont’s hiking trail advocate, has requested that hikers stay off Vermont’s muddy trails to preserve sensitive ecosystems.
With the usual dramatic fluctuations in Vermont’s spring temperatures, water from snowmelt and rain collects on and around trails. The effect is particularly pronounced on trails with higher elevation, where the snow is in the process of melting. Hiking on saturated soil will not only muddy your hiking gear; it can widen trails, cause irreversible damage to vegetation and stop the flow of natural drainage.
The mountains’ wet, snowy, and icy conditions will persist through April and into May.
For the trails’ safety, and the safety of the hikers, the Green Mountain Club suggests avoiding trails at high elevations, and being ready to turn around if the trail turns to mud. For the die-hard hikers, stick to trails with durable surfaces at low elevations. Here are a few mud-season hikes, as suggested by the GMC:
- Stowe Recreation Path, Stowe: This 5.5-mile paved path winds along the west branch of the Waterbury River through the beautiful town of Stowe. It is a great option for biking or walking while enjoying views of Vermont’s highest mountain, Mt. Mansfield.
- Prospect Rock via Long Trail, Johnson: This south facing portion of the Long Trail climbs steeply over one-mile to a lookout of the Lamoille River Valley and the Sterling Range.
- West River Trail: Once complete, this multiuse trail will span 36-miles connecting Londonderry to Brattleboro by following the old West River Railroad bed. As stated in the name, most of the completed sections follow the West River. A nice 3-mile loop can be made when combined with the Overlook Trail in Jamaica State Park.
- Cross VT Trail: As Vermont’s first west to east multiuse trail, it spans 85-miles from Lake Champlain in Burlington to the Connecticut River in Wells River. A 9.2-mile section through Groton State Forest is a perfect mud season destination as it follows a class IV road and passes multiple glacial ponds and lakes as well as a view of Big Deer Mountain’s granite cliffs.
- Mount Philo, Charlotte: This small mountain is found in Mount Philo State Park which is the oldest park in the state system. The short hike to the summit provides spectacular views of Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks. Great for all abilities.
- Delaware and Hudson Rail Trail: This 19.8 multiuse trail travels through Bennington and Rutland counties. Walkers can experience a variety of scenery as it passes by dairy farms; through meadows, forests, and wetland; and traverses 17 bridges and overpasses.
- Trail Around Middlebury, Middlebury: Managed by the Middlebury Area Land Trust, this footpath travels 18-miles around the town. As a top trail running destination, it connects hundreds of acres of town land, conserved properties, and historic landmarks.
For information on mud season hiking, contact the Green Mountain Club at (802) 244-7037 or firstname.lastname@example.org.