Are you ready for hiking season?
Mud season is over! Or is it? While the Friday of Memorial Day weekend typically begins Vermont's hiking season, we have had quite a lot of snow this winter that has prolonged mud season. We are almost done with May, but the snow continues to melt and it just keeps raining.
Yes, there is still snow in the mountains right now.
And plenty of it! In the first week of May, the snow stake on Mount Mansfield was showing 69" of snow, which is typical for the first week of March! There was still 42" of snow there three days ago. Killington Resort will be open for skiing this weekend and a couple of skiers still connected the snow patches at Mad River Glen this week. Over in the Adirondacks, ADK is asking folks to stay below 2500' until mid-June, and there are similar conditions in the Green Mountains.
In addition to the snow, there are tons of blowdowns from fall and winter storms that have not yet been cleared. Our trail adopters and section volunteers were delayed in getting out to clean up their trails this spring due to the late snow and mud. Some of them have said the blowdowns they're seeing are worse than the damage from Hurricane Irene in 2011! Recent reports from trail volunteers show that:
- Mount Mansfield: There is deep snow starting halfway up the Haselton Trail, enough that snowshoes were needed (May 17). A third of the Hellbrook Trail is still covered by snow (May 22). In fact, there is so much snow on Mansfield, Stowe is pushing back opening the auto toll road until June 1st.
- Camel's Hump: On the east side of Camel’s Hump, snow on the Monroe Trail starts at the Alpine Junction. On the west side, it’s patchy on the Burrows Trail. 3' of snow is still underfoot on the Long Trail above the Hut Clearing (May 17).
- Mounts Abraham and Ellen: The Long Trail between Abe and Lincoln Peak still has a fair amount of snow and big mud holes, and still snow up to Ellen (May 21).
- Bolton area trails: Still lots of snow throughout (May 18).
- Mount Tabor area trails: Lots of blowdowns on the Green Mountain Trail (May 18).
- North of Smugglers' Notch: Lots of snow on the Long Trail from Route 108 to Sterling Pond, and snow on the Sterling Pond Trail (May 15).
- Southern Long Trail: Snow appears to be gone from the Glastenbury and Stratton areas.
- Northeast Kingdom: Still snow on Middle Mountain and Bald Mountain, particularly on the Mad Brook Trail. Pisgah, Hor, Bluff, Moose, and Wheeler Mountains are snow-free but muddy (May 18).
- Lower elevations: Still wet.
What does this mean for hiking?
Higher elevations currently still have snow so hikers should consider staying below 3500’ for another week or two. Lower elevations may still have muddy conditions, so if you can't turn around, please be prepared to walk through puddles and mud to avoid damaging the surrounding vegetation and widening the trail.
We share updates on our Trail Updates page and in our Facebook Group so you can always check those before heading out on the trail.
To help plan your next hike, you can pick up a GMC waterproof map, the Day Hiker’s Guide to Vermont, or the classic Long Trail Guide. New this year, GMC is now offering digital maps of popular trails in Vermont through the Avenza Maps app, available in the App Store and Google Play.
Or give us a visit/call/email at the GMC Visitor Center and we can help you choose an appropriate hike for the conditions and your skill level. We are open 7 days a week from 9:00am to 5:00pm to answer any questions you may have about hiking on the Long Trail and its side trails, the Appalachian Trail in Vermont, and trails in the Northeast Kingdom.
Hiking Safety Tips
Here are a few tips for early season hikers:
- Plan ahead and let someone know where you will be hiking and when you are expected to return.
- Carry a map and know which trailhead you need to return to.
- Bring a warm extra layer as mountain tops are chilly year-round and Vermont’s weather can quickly change. Be prepared for winter conditions if you are hiking above 3500’ in the near future.
- Water levels in streams and rivers may be higher than normal this time of year so use caution when crossing.
- Stay hydrated and bring food for long hikes.
- Bring rain gear; even an emergency poncho or garbage bag will help in a pinch.
- Carry out what you carry in and help protect Vermont’s special places.
Other ways to prepare yourself for this hiking season are to take a GMC workshop. We have upcoming offerings including Backpacking 201, Wilderness First Aid, and Women's Intro to Backpacking. You can also join our 14 regional Sections for a group outing to try a new trail and meet like-minded hikers.
We can't wait to see you out on the trail this year! Keep an eye out for GMC's backcountry caretakers and Long Trail Patrol as they educate hikers in high-use areas and work on improving the trail. And don't worry, soon it will be summer and the trail will look like this: