Spring (and Fall) Hiking Guidelines

Suggested Guidelines for Spring Hiking 

Spring offers perhaps the widest range of trail conditions of any of the four seasons. During "mud season," which extends from early/mid-April to Memorial Day Weekend, higher elevation trails are saturated and are particularly vulnerable to erosion and vegetation damage from hiking traffic. The AMC Four Thousand Footer Committee urges hikers pursuing the “Four Seasons” list to refrain from hiking the high peaks of New Hampshire during mud season. This is in line with the official closure of trails on Mt. Mansfield and Camel’s Hump by the state of Vermont from April 15 through Friday of Memorial Day Weekend. Spring peakbagging should be confined to the time in early spring when deep snow and winter conditions still prevail at higher elevations, and late spring, generally from Memorial Day Weekend to the summer solstice, when the trails are dried out and summerlike conditions begin to prevail.

These guidelines can vary from year to year, depending on weather patterns, and from trail to trail, depending on elevation and sun exposure. We hope those pursuing the “Four Seasons” list will exercise good judgment in this regard. We suspect that involvement in trail maintenance, which is the key component of this list, will increase hikers’ awareness of trail conditions and susceptibility to damage. Those with a sense of stewardship are less likely to damage the trails they tend.

Also, please note that a similar period of trail vulnerability occurs in late fall when trails are often saturated and subjected to freeze-thaw cycles. And as a general rule of thumb at any time of year, if you encounter a patch of mud on the trail, walk through it and not around it. If hikers skirt around muddy areas, trails grow ever wider and trailside vegetation is trampled.

Click here for more information on low impact outings during mud season, and how to do your part to keep trails intact. Keep these other springtime hiking hazards in mind, as well, when preparing to hike at higher elevations and beyond.

Thank you for being a good steward of the trails and mountains.
We wish you enjoyable hiking through all four seasons!

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