Hiking In Mud Season

Spring is mud season in Montana. Winter snow melt and spring rains make everything wet and muddy. Bare ground such as trails and roads get the most mud exposure since there aren’t any roots or plants to help absorb the water. Spring is also the time when the first few nice days of the year make everyone want to get outside.

This time of year is when hiking trails and roads are most susceptible to damage. Overuse in muddy conditions is one of the leading causes of trail erosion. The most commonly asked question on any of the multitude of online groups devoted to hiking around Bozeman is “Is (insert trail name here) muddy?” Yes. This time of year the answer is always yes. Just assume that your favorite trail is muddy during the spring.

The very best thing you can do as a hiker and recreationalist during mud season is avoid muddy trails. If you get there and it’s really wet and sloppy, go somewhere else. Everyone will thank you later and it’s the responsible thing to do.

How do you find hiking trails that aren’t muddy?

Look for routes that are mainly in open areas. Direct sunlight can dry muddy patches quickly. Trails at lower elevation are also more likely to be dry. With the amount of snow we had this past winter, there is still a lot of snow at mid level elevations and up. Check trail conditions before you go, and be willing to change plans if things are too muddy.

Some mud is unavoidable while hiking in spring, so be sure to wear waterproof hiking boots. Gaiters are a big help in keeping mud and dirt out of your socks. Mid height and taller boots are worth wearing instead of low top sneakers. This time of year is hard on footwear, so be sure to wash them off and treat the leather at the end of the season with a good leather conditioner.

Mud season is an unavoidable circumstance in Montana. Be respectful of the trails, be ready to deal with the realities of the time of year, and you’ll still be able to get outside and enjoy what the Bozeman area has to offer. Summer isn’t too far off!

If you don’t want to deal with muddy trails, you should rent a raft and go floating instead!


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