Hiking in Muddy Conditions

Tips on staying safe and hiking responsibly when trails are muddy.

Mud can be a challenge for hikers… and for trails.
Hiking in the mud can be messy, slippery, and tiring. Trails themselves are easily eroded and widened when they are muddy and hikers try to avoid getting wet and dirty.
Here’s how you can safely enjoy soggy trails without damaging them or the environment.

Choose Your Hike Carefully

Consider hiking in the early morning when the ground is still hard and frozen.

Plan shorter hikes: Hiking in the mud can take longer and be more exhausting than in dry conditions.

Avoid hiking in lowlands or areas that are typically swampy as these will likely be the wettest areas of the trail.

Pick a stretch of trail with sun exposure if possible as it will be more likely to be dry than shady areas.

Check for Trail Changes or Closures: As in any season, check for Trail closures and restrictions at brucetrail.org/trail-changes and the websites of parks and other public landowners.

Walk in the Middle of the Trail or on Hard Surfaces

You may be tempted to walk around mud puddles but doing so can damage vegetation, cause erosion, and widen the trail.

Walk in the middle of the trail, through the mud to protect the integrity of the trail and neighboring plant life.

If there are rocks or other hard surfaces on the trail, stick to these as much as possible. Avoid tree roots as these can be slippery when wet.

Be Prepared to Get Dirty

Wear solid, waterproof boots and walk through the mud rather than around it.

Wear items that you don’t mind getting muddy and that clean easily. Make sure these items are breathable in case you work up a sweat.

Consider wearing gaiters (waterproof coverings for your lower legs, worn over your boots). These prevent mud and water from getting in your boots and keep the bottom of your pants clean.

Pack These Helpful Extras

Trekking poles can help with balance and prevent falls when walking through slippery mud.

Traction devices/icers for your boots are handy to slip on if you encounter any lingering ice.

Extra water and snacks will keep energy levels up and prevent dehydration while you’re working hard.

A change of clothes, socks and shoes in the car for after the hike will keep you comfortable and your car clean.

Don’t forget to bring a bag to put your boots in once you’re back to the car.

Park Carefully

Parking areas and road shoulders can get muddy too. Take extra care when parking to prevent your car from getting stuck.

Be Prepared to Turn Around

If mud continues beyond isolated patches, or if a situation seems unsafe, turn around and try another area or another day.

Sometimes the best option is to reschedule your hike until conditions dry out, and that’s okay.

Staying safe, keeping trails in good shape, and reducing our impact on the natural environment are what matters most.

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