11 Jan Staying Off Muddy Trails and Other Tips for Recreating in Mud Season
In the Yakima Valley, there’s a season somewhere between winter and spring: Mud Season! Though mud can be fun stuff to slide and stomp through, hiking or biking on muddy trails destroys both the trails and the surrounding land. We want to take a moment to explain how this happens and how you, as a valued land steward, can help keep our community trails healthy and happy.
How mud wreaks havoc
- When people encounter muddy trails, they often try to walk or bike around the mud. This act widens and erodes the trail. It turns beautiful single-track trails into wider, less beautiful ones. It also tramples fragile plants and lithosol soils that may never recover.
- Plowing right through muddy puddles can seem like a better option. On less trafficked trails, it is. But on highly trafficked trails like CCC’s, it doesn’t help. Footprints create ruts and depressions. Bike tire treads create even deeper ruts and depressions. If ruts form on slopes, which they tend to do, they become chutes or channels for water that erode and destroy trails and require serious trail maintenance and resources to repair.
You can help
At CCC, we update trail conditions on our website and on our Facebook page so that you’ll know when conditions are dangerously muddy. We’re also working to make our trail closures quicker and clearer at trailheads. You can help!
- Check trail conditions beforehand and go only when trail conditions are dry.
- If you head out for a hike and encounter mud, please turn back. Staying off muddy trails keeps them and surrounding plants happy and healthy. If you find mud that we haven’t noted, please let us know so that we can help others plan their trips.
- If you need to walk past a small patch of mud on trail, walk through it, not around it. The better option is to turn back, and not walk through it at all.
Where you can go instead
During the muddy season, we recommend looking for other places to recreate. There are still plenty of fun options.
- Gravel and paved trails (like the Yakima Greenway or Powerhouse Canal Pathway) are great options.
- If you’re looking for more gravel ideas, here’s a great map of options all over the state.
- It’s also a perfect time to explore the roads of your own neighborhood.
- If you’re able to travel further, try to find some snow.
We never like to close our trails. But closing them periodically due to mud is essential to keeping our trails in good shape for the rest of the year. Some good news is that CCC trails are typically closed to mud for only a few days or weeks out of the year. We try to be as responsive as possible to the trail conditions on the ground so that we can open them as soon as we can.
*Thank you to Deschutes Land Trust for providing the inspiration and much of the content offered in this post.