Early Spring Hiking Tips

hSpring is right around the corner, which means hundreds of hikers around the country are anxiously pulling out their boots and dusting off their packs. While the temperatures may be rising and the sun making an occasional appearance, hiking in the Spring can still bring with it several unforeseen challenges. Prepare yourself by keeping these helpful tips in mind before hitting your first Spring trailhead.

With the snow currently melting all over the place, you can be sure that many of your favorite trails will be muddy, or even beneath a few inches of water. Avoid trails that you know will be sloppy and allow them to dry out before setting forth. Keep in mind, too, that trails in lower elevations and a more southern exposure will dry out quicker than others, so if you need to get out right away, try to hit those trails first. If you do encounter a muddy stretch of trail, don’t walk off trail to avoid it. Skirting the trail can damage the trailside vegetation and eventually lead to erosion, while staying on the trail can prevent this.

To help fight the water and mud, you can keep your feet dry and warm by waterproofing your boots a few days before heading out. If the chance of hitting snow is still a possibility, consider wearing gaiters to help keep stones and muck out of your boots.

Rapidly melting snow typically means that rivers and streams will see a rise in water levels this time of year. For this reason, it’s important to use care when approaching a stream crossing. Also, you can plan ahead by checking the weather before hitting the trail. Furthermore, Spring rains combined with melting snow is a recipe for fast-moving streams and rivers, so if there’s a chance that it might rain on the day you planned to hike, you may be better off staying home, rather than risk becoming hemmed in by a flash flood or swept away by one. Keep in mind, also, that water levels can rise higher later in the day due to early morning snow and melting ice as the temperature rises throughout the day.

Finally, Spring brings warmth, and with warmth comes the return of biting insects. Be sure to pack protective clothing and repellent as needed if you want to stay protected against these winged nuisances.

Yes, cabin fever has taken many an outdoorsmen in the Winter, but you’ll want to be mindful of the risks of early Spring hiking before hitting the trails. Today’s tips will help you stay dry and safe while Mother Nature does her thing during this seasonal transition.