There’s a reason we call the timeframe between winter and spring “mud season” around here. After the last snowfall hits and before the summer sun shows up, Park City’s world-class trail system simply needs to unthaw. While the frozen mud transforms into hero dirt, our trails become super vulnerable, giving eager hikers and mountain bikers the opportunity to damage paths in their wake.
Before you head out, read these quick tips from Mountain Trails Foundation‘s (MTF) Executive Director Charlie Sturgis to ensure you’re being a respectful trail user.
Check local conditions
Don’t just show up at the trailhead and hope for the best. “Make a diligent effort—call bike shops, check MTF’s website or Facebook page, and look at Basin Recreation’s website,” Sturgis recommends. Gather as much intel as you can to make a good choice about mud season conditions.
Consider the where/when/how
High elevation and shaded trails are not meant for early spring use. Places like Bonanza Flat and Bloods Lake are best kept for peak summer months in order to avoid mud or post-holing in leftover snow patches. “Check the exposure of the trail and which direction it’s facing, and think about time of the year and the elevation,” Sturgis says.
Be willing to turn around
“One of our slogans is ‘If it sticks to your heels or your wheels, turn around,” Sturgis says, “and of course our other slogan is: ‘Ruts suck, winter or summer.’”
In the summer, ruts facilitate a higher level of erosion and cause trails to lose top soil. It’s a pretty tell-tale sign that you shouldn’t be there if mud is sticking to your shoes. It’s a similar story if you’re mountain biking. “It’s one thing to be dirty from some wet dirt, but if your tires are clogged with mud, then you’ve definitely been a bad boy or girl,” Sturgis says. Plus, many bike shops will charge you for bringing back a dirty bike. And if it’s your own—do you really want to clean a bike caked in mud?
Think about the bigger picture
Here’s one big reason you should respect the trails: Repairing damage sidetracks trail-building crews from more important (new!) projects.
“We are fully booked for trail building this summer,” Sturgis says. “We don’t want to have to pull people away from those jobs to fix something.” If MTF can focus on planned maintenance projects, clearing trees, and building more trails, the more trails you have to ride or hike on. Exciting projects—like an uphill trail in Treasure Hollow and downhill flow trail off of the 9K trail—are just a couple of the builds on tap.
Take 10 seconds for kindness
“Slow down, smile, and be safe—it isn’t that hard,” Sturgis says. “We’re all trying to get out there and have fun for the same reasons.” The easiest thing to control is your speed, he says. “Speed is almost always associated with any conflict or complaint that we have on trails or full-on accidents.”