Photos: A breath of fresh air

People get some exercise on a sunny day at the West River Trail, in Brattleboro Vt.

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The Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation (FPR) and its partners remind hikers of mud season at this time of year and ask for the public’s help protecting Vermont’s trails. And this year, COVID-19 is still a dominant concern, even with more people vaccinated. FPR and partners are asking for the public’s assistance with making smart choices to protect both public health and trails during this vulnerable time.

Vermonters should be aware that mud season conditions have begun and will persist in many places until Memorial Day or later: trail closures may be in effect for several weeks.

The Green Mountain Club and other trail organizations are working hard to get the trails ready and opened in time for the traditional kick-off of the season on Memorial Day weekend. Please exercise patience and help in stewarding the trails. While mud season conditions persist, here are some tips to keep you and our trails healthy.

Plan Ahead and Prepare:

The wet soils on and around hiking trails are very susceptible to erosion. To protect fragile soil and surrounding vegetation, some trails may be temporarily closed by the land manager. Please respect the trail closure signage you see. Visit www.trailfinder.info before you head to the trails: you can find trails close to home and learn whether they are open or not. Staff will be updating trail conditions on ANR lands on a weekly basis, so check back frequently.

Hikers walking on saturated soils or on the sides of trails cause damage to surrounding vegetation, widen trails, and inhibit natural drainage of our beloved hiking trails. If a trail is muddy, even if it is not officially closed, please find an alternative, less vulnerable area to hike in. If you want to help take care of the trails, contact the trail manager and consider volunteering.

“We are all excited to be outside after a long winter of social distancing and virtual meetings,” said Mike DeBonis, Green Mountain Club Executive Director. “Unfortunately, the mountains aren’t quite ready for hikers yet, so it is best that we all do our part and hike on lower elevation trails and backroads. Giving the higher elevation trails time to dry out will help protect the trails and make for a better hiking season for all of us later in the year,”

Check out a list of hikes which are better suited to mud season at https://fpr.vermont.gov/recreation/mud-season or visit www.trailfinder.info or www.greenmountainclub.org. If a parking lot is full, please find an alternative place to recreate.

Take It Easy

The period of snowmelt and muddy trails varies considerably throughout Vermont depending on elevation, solar orientation, depth of snowpack, and amount of spring rainfall. Even as it warms up in town, our mountains still hold cold, wet, snowy, and icy conditions that may persist deep into spring. Hikers who find themselves at high elevations will need better traction and warmer clothes than the valley may suggest.

If you encounter conditions you are not prepared for, please turn around. Especially right now, our emergency responders and medical providers do not need the additional burden and risk of a search and rescue operation or to treat a hiking-related injury.

Respect COVID-19 Guidelines

As Vermont continues its work to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, FPR and its partners will continue to provide advice based on the Governor’s Executive Order and Department of Health/CDC guidance: COVID-19 guidelines may change but will still apply.

For the latest information, please visit https://fpr.vermont.gov/recreation/outdoor-recreation-and-covid-19

The Green Mountain Club, the Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation and the Green Mountain National Forest thank hikers for their cooperation in helping to maintain Vermont’s outstanding hiking trails.

For information on mud season and trail closures, see: https://fpr.vermont.gov/recreation/mud-season or call the GMC’s visitor center staff at 802-244-7037 (or email gmc@greenmountainclub.org).

Talk with us

Since COVID-19 makes it difficult to convene Coffees with the President, if you have a question or a comment about The Eagle, send it to company President Fredric D. Rutberg at frutberg@berkshireeagle.com