NYS DEC has released an early season muddy trails advisory urging hikers to postpone hikes on trails above 2,500 feet until high elevation trails have dried and hardened. As snow and ice continue to melt at high elevations, steep trails can pose a danger due to thick ice and deep, rotten snow. Thin soils are susceptible to erosion and sensitive alpine vegetation can be easily damaged.
Despite recent warm weather, high elevation trails are still covered in slowly melting ice and snow. The remaining compacted ice and snow on trails is rotten, slippery, and will not reliably support weight. These conditions, known as “monorails,” are difficult to hike and the adjacent rotten snow is particularly prone to postholing.
Take extreme caution on low elevation trails and expect variable conditions including thick mud, flooded areas, and deep slushy snow. Backcountry streams are prone to high waters and flooding due to melting snow from high elevations mixing with spring rainfall. Do not attempt stream crossings during periods of high, fast moving water. The stream water is very cold and falling in can lead to immediate hypothermia.
Avoiding high elevation trails during the Muddy Trail Advisory helps to alleviate impacts to the trail tread due to erosion and protects alpine vegetation. When encountering mud on low elevation trails, walk through the mud instead of around it to help reduce trail widening and minimize damage to trailside vegetation. Until conditions improve, explore lower elevation trails close to home and enjoy other forms of recreation. Visit the DEC website for a list of hikes in the Adirondacks below 2,500 feet.