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High Country Spring Trails – When is it OK to Use Them?

We’ve all been there before…on a favorite trail in the early season. The warm spring sun has melted the snow and the trail looks tantalizingly close to sweet summer singletrack.

Then, it happens…you round the corner to find a remnant snow patch and a muddy section of trail. 

Someone has already passed this way, leaving deep, muddy tracks in the trail… leaving you questioning your next move.

Does snow blanket the trail ahead, or is this an isolated snow patch?  Did the other trail users exercise good judgment, or did they cause lasting trail damage? Should you continue, or is this the turnaround point?  

Spring trail conditions in the high country can vary widely based on many factors – time of year, solar aspect, elevation, time of day, drainage patterns, depth of snowpack, soils, and more. Some trails, or even sections of trails, can be dry, while others are quite muddy or still skiable.

What are some tips for deciding when to use high-country trails in springtime?

  1. Educate yourself. Local shops, welcome centers, or land managers can often help direct you to dry early-season trails. Our local trail conditions page is a great place to start – Winter Trail Conditions | Breckenridge, CO (townofbreckenridge.com).
  2. Be ready to turn around when you encounter snow or mud. This will keep local trails from being rutted and muddy, requiring additional trail maintenance.
  3. Use good judgment. Our trails are community assets. Waiting for mud and snow to clear will help ensure their long-term sustainability.
  4. Ride or walk through, not around, isolated muddy spots. Help keep singletrack single.
  5. Check your bike or your shoes after your trip – are they covered in mud? If so, you should have turned around or chosen a different trail.

Every year, trail users new to Summit County cause significant damage by riding or hiking on trails before they are dry. This affects others’ trail experiences, sets a poor example for others, and results in costly trail repairs. Would you rather have local trail crews and volunteers fixing ruts and other problems, or potentially building new trails?

Please do your part by enjoying dry trails, avoiding muddy ones, and using the paved Rec. Path until the snow recedes. Volunteering for local trail projects will also provide you with an entirely new perspective on what it takes to build and maintain a world-class trail system.

Thanks, and see you on the trail!