DEC urges hikers to walk through – not around – mud on trails

Spring has arrived, and as a new season of hiking and outdoor recreation in the Adirondacks approaches, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) urges hikers to be cautious and practice “Leave No Trace” principles to protect natural resources, and help ensure a safe and enjoyable experience, and help DEC responsibly manage the largest wilderness in the Northeast.

Spring conditions are present throughout the State and the lower elevations of the Adirondacks. However, backcountry trails in the highest elevations are still covered in slowly melting ice and snow. Steep trails with thin soils can become a mix of ice and mud as the ice melts and frost leaves the ground, making the trails slippery and vulnerable to erosion by hikers.

DEC is encouraging hikers to protect Adirondack trails:

Avoid damaging hiking trails and sensitive trail side vegetation and habitats;

  • Wear waterproof hiking boots and clothing that can withstand mud and water;
  • Walk through – not around – mud and water on trails; and
  • Walk single file directly down the center of the muddy trail to protect the integrity of the trail.

Walking around the mud and not directly through results in trail creep. Trail creep or trail widening is when the trail slowly erodes away the surrounding vegetation which is used as habitat, food, and survival for wildlife. As the trail continues to erode and widen, roots and boulders appear causing the trail to become slippery and less defined, making the trail more dangerous for recreating.

In addition, DEC is urging hikers to hike on lower elevation trails that are typically drier and less prone to damage. DEC suggests the following alternative trails for hiking, subject to weather conditions, that can withstand higher impact during the muddy trail season due to south-facing direction that helps to dry and harden the trails quicker:

High Peaks Wilderness:

  • Mt. VanHoevenberg
  •  Mt. Jo
  • Giant Mt. Wilderness:
  • Giant’s Washbowl
  • Roaring Brook Falls
  • Owl Head Lookout
  • Hurricane Mountain Wilderness
  • The Crows
  • Hurricane Mountain from Rt 9N
  • Jay Mountain Wilderness
  • Jay Mountain
  • McKenzie Mt. Wilderness:
  • Baker Mountain
  • Haystack Mountain
  • McKenzie Mountain
  • Saranac Lakes Wild Forest:
  • Panther Mountain
  • Scarface Mountain
  • Floodwood Mountain
  • Taylor Pond Complex
  • Catamount Mountain
  • Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain
  • Silver Lake Mountain

DEC will be releasing the annual High Elevation Muddy Trail Advisory urging hikers to avoid all trails above 2,500ft for the protection of fragile high elevation vegetation and wildlife habitat, as well as for the safety of the users.

On Thursday, May 17, DEC Public Participation Specialist Erin Hanczyk will be taking over @adksUSA on Facebook. Follow her on her hike up Catamount Mountain in the Taylor Pond Complex as she walks us through preparation and tips for safe, enjoyable, and ethical spring hiking.
DEC encourages hikers to practice “Leave No Trace” principles. The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics in a national nonprofit organization that protects the outdoors by teaching people how to enjoy it responsibly. For more information, visit the Leave No Trace> website.
Check DEC’s website for weekly updates of information on backcountry conditions in the Adirondacks at (<

About Mike Lynch

Mike Lynch is a multimedia reporter for the Adirondack Explorer. He can be reached at Sign up for Mike’s newsletter

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