Mud Season Mayhem

March 16, 2022

While most of us grew up with the four basic seasons – spring, summer, fall, & winter – Montanans know that there is a fifth season. This fifth season shoves its way between spring and summer, and again in fall and winter. This season is known as Mud Season, and it can wreak havoc on our trails. When the snow is melting and hikers are shedding their microspikes to hit Gallatin Valley’s trails, Mud Season is upon us. We’re going to give you the tips and tricks you need to Hike Kind this Mud Season.

Before you hit the trails in your shorts and sweatshirt, think about the lasting effect of your boot prints. Our trails are susceptible to heavy wear brought by hikers walking on muddy trails. This is when trail braiding and damage to the trail itself occurs.

You can Hike Kind this mud season by sticking to paved trails, knowing trail conditions before you go, hiking in the morning before the ground thaws out, and turning around if you encounter a particularly muddy section of trail. Paved trails are a great way to get outside and enjoy the changing season while minimizing your impact. If you’re looking to get away, do some research before you hit the trails. Check out the Hiking Bozeman Forum on Facebook for the latest trail conditions and reports. Some things to consider are: What have temperatures been like? Is a hike out and back possible before the ground thaws? How trafficked is this trail?

Our brains can be a good resource. If a little alarm bell starts to go off, “I’m encountering some really soft ground and I’m leaving significant tracks!” don’t be afraid to turn around. On the way down, tell fellow recreators what you just encountered. Lastly, walk through the mud. Do not walk around it. A few steps off the trail creates braided or social trails. Social trails damage our pathways, spread noxious weeds, kill the naturally occurring flora and fauna, and require costly repairs.

While we’re hoping this Winter season sticks around, we will all be ready to get outside when the birds start singing and our trails turn muddy. Thank you for Hiking Kind this Mud Season!


Hike Kind on Muddy Trails

    1. Opt for paved pathways or trails covered in gravel during Mud Season
    2. Avoid overly crowded trails
    3. If you MUST, walk through the mud, not around it
    4. Don’t pick the flowers
    5. ALWAYS clean up after your pet
    6. Start early before the ground thaws


Why avoid muddy trails?

    1. Hiking on muddy trails causes costly and labor-heavy erosion
    2. Creating “Social Trails” can spread noxious weeds and kill wildflowers
    3. Hiking muddy trails can undo all of the hard work of trail ambassadors and volunteers


Great Mud Season Hikes to keep your boots clean. (See the trail map below!)

    1. Path to the M and Drinking Horse from Story Mill Community Park
    2. Highland Boulevard Pathway – Main St to Kagy Blvd, and around the hospital
    3. College Street from 11th Ave to Huffine connecting to Huffine Pathway from College Street to Cottonwood Rd.
    4. Oak Street Pathway from Cottonwood Rd to Davis Lane
    5. Oak Street Pathway from 7th Ave to Wallace St
    6. 19th Ave from Oak St to East Valley Center
    7. East Valley Center
    8. Jack Rabbit Lane