Mud Walking - The Art of Hiking on Muddy Trails


We have to treat our trails with care to prevent muddy spots from turning into 10-20 foot wide mud highways.

Be sure to stay on the trail if it is muddy or wet. If you walk around the mud the trail will widen and become even muddier in the future. Mud is part of the backcountry challenge. Expect it. Wear waterproof boots and gaiters to protect your feet from mud and water. Hike through it. It is not that difficult. Use a stick, walking staff or trek pole/poles to help gauge the depth of the mud and to help you with balance.

Most mud is able to be walked through. I see people unnecessarily walking around mud that your feet don't even sink into. My boots are only medium height and I hike through muddy areas all the time. And with 2 trek poles it is faster than trying to find a route around the mud. Keep in mind too that to minimize trail damage you should wear as light a boot as possible for the conditions. Heavy boots with deep treads compact the soil more and tend to tear up the trail. Stay on the trail and Leave No Trace!

A muddy trail widened from trampled vegetation and erosion


Mud Diagram Key

  • 1. This is the original path of this trail

  • 2. When the original path became muddy, people not up for the challenges of the outdoors began to walk around the mud on the right of the trail thus trampling the grassy vegetation (Figure D.) and causing more bare earth to be exposed which in turn became muddy and widened the trail.

  • 3. Now users are hiking to the left of the original path to avoid the mud and have created a secondary trail.

  • 4. The secondary trail route is not completely free of mud. If you look carefully the hiker still has to travel through or jump over some mud before getting back onto the regular trail.

  • A. There is a rock here that you can step on to avoid sinking into the mud.

  • B. A large branch/small log is another place to step to avoid the mud while staying on the original trail.

  • C. A final stick to step on to get past the muddy area.

  • D. A small patch of grass has survived being trampled by those avoiding the mud and walking on the right side of the original trail.

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