We’ve had a lot of freezes and thaws over the last month, and many of the Missoula trails are starting to be snow free!  While the ice and snow are rapidly leaving the valley, they’ve been replaced with ample quantities of sticky mud and chilly puddles. Many other trails remain a sheet of ice. And there’s a good chance more of that snow and ice will come back at least one more time! Trail conditions like we have now warrant extra care to make sure we don’t damage our trails while they’re in a very vulnerable state!

Stay on trail!

Instead of hopping into puddles and squishing through muddy sections, people often incorrectly travel off-trail, parallel to the existing path. Traveling off-trail to avoid wet conditions creates new trails next to the old ones, contributing to erosion and trail braiding. This time of year, it is tremendously important to STAY ON TRAIL, no matter how muddy/wet/snowy/icy. If there’s more than the occasional muddy patch, find a different stretch of trail that’s a bit drier.

Even when it’s icy, always stay on trail to avoid causing erosion problems. Photo: Anastasia Wilde

Trail etiquette tips

Here are a few tips for keeping Missoula trails in great shape for a summer season of romping around:

1. Run through the puddles (splashes are fun)
2. Run through the mud (mud splatters on your legs are fun)
3. Wear traction devices when things are icy/snowy
4. If it’s really muddy, head somewhere else

Remember, your shoes will dry! We promise! If you don’t want to get wet and muddy, please consider staying at lower elevations or in sunny, exposed places where the trails are completely dry. Or, hang on for a few more weeks as trails dry out. Together we can reduce erosion and trail braiding while still enjoying our time on Missoula public lands!

Trails can quickly change from mud to ice. Be prepared! Photo: Anastasia Wilde