If you love the Catskills, you've got to be prepared to love mud season. Or... if not love it, at least tolerate it. Read on to learn when it strikes, how to stay safe, how to protect the ecosystems we love, and how to love mud season!
Wait, "mud season"?
Yup. Mud season. It's the time of year when snows are beginning to melt, soils are beginning to thaw, and trails and terrain that would otherwise absorb water or allow it to run off are storing water. This creates huge puddles or a sloppy, goopy mess of mud.
When is mud season?
Well, frankly, it depends on where you are. But whenever snows begin to melt and the ground begins to thaw there's a great chance for mud. Typically, that's March - May depending on snowmelt, rainfall, temps, and elevation.
Why is mud season different from any other season in the Catskills?
During mud season, soils are at a MUCH greater risk for erosion, and new sprouting plants are incredibly vulnerable. The difference between an awful mud season on the trails and a mild mud season on the trails has everything to do with us--how well we're treating our trails, woodlands, and forests.
Do I need to hike differently during mud season?
During mud season hikers need to take precautions to stay safe and protect the wild places they're visiting. You need to follow the Leave No Trace (TM) principles (bolded here, with Mountainkeeper's advice italicized):
- Plan Ahead and Prepare - Make sure to check the Catskills trail conditions before you leave the house. Wear hiking boots or footwear that can get wet and muddy, and which will keep you safe.
- Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces - This applies year round, but ESPECIALLY during mud season, make sure you're hiking on professionally constructed/Department of Environmental Conservation trails. Avoid herdpaths and the 'trailless peaks'. Mountainbikers - take mud season off! Bikes can really damage ecosystems during this fragile time of year.
- Dispose of Waste Properly - Always. The Catskill Park is a NYS Forest Preserve--there aren't trash or toilet facilities at most trailheads. Plan ahead, and plan to pack out what you packed in.
- Leave What You Find - Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints. And during mud season, leave those footprints IN the mud pit. Do not widen trails by walking around mud--when you encounter mud, tromp right through it.
- Minimize Campfire Impacts - Like Smoky said... Only you can prevent forest fires.
- Respect Wildlife - Seriously. Wildlife is, well, wild. Stay away.
- Be Considerate of Others - Life is hard enough. Be kind to everyone on the trail.
Where can I learn more?
Glad you asked! You can check out the Department of Environmental Conservation's website for more information on hiking during mud season, as well as this Albany Times Union article from March 2023 featuring Mountainkeeper's Deputy Director.
How can I support Mountainkeeper's work to protect the Catskills?
Thanks for asking! Click here. Whether it's $5 or $50 or $500, all of the gifts we receive are greatly appreciated and go right in to supporting our programs.