Despite the late arrival of winter to Vermont, the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation wants to remind the public that mud season is here and many trails around the state are closed.

During mud season, which can run until Memorial Day in upper elevations, hiking and biking trails are extremely wet and muddy due to the combined effects of snow melt, thawing ground and seasonal rain. The public should avoid muddy, soft trails to protect sensitive vegetation and ensure trails are in good shape for the upcoming hiking and biking season.

“Mountain bike trails are extremely susceptible to damage during mud season,” Nick Bennette, executive director at the Vermont Mountain Bike Association, said. “If your tires leave a noticeable rut in the trail, turn around and find a durable surface to ride elsewhere.”

The department asks the public to follow these guidelines:

• Check trail status. Official closures and trail conditions vary widely throughout the state.

• Seek durable surfaces to hike or bike on, like gravel roads, paved roads, rail trails and bike paths, as these are more resilient to mud season.

• Avoid hiking in the alpine zone to protect rare and fragile vegetation. Foot traffic through the mud causes soil compaction and erosion.

• Respect trail signage. Local biking chapters often post signs regarding closures. Respect these signs, and even if a trail appears to be open, if you arrive and discover muddy conditions, turn around and ride elsewhere.

• Weather conditions differ at higher elevations. It may be sunny and warm in town but windy, slippery, snowy or cold on the mountain.

• Turn around in muddy conditions. If you encounter conditions that you are not prepared for, turn around.

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