Muddy Day, Please Don’t Play

Photo is courtesy of the Forest Preserve District of Cook County.

Staying on the trail is an essential component of protecting the health of our river-edge trails and forest preserves which protects the plants and the wildlife that depends upon them—a hard and fast rule that becomes even more important when it is muddy.

Riding or walking on a muddy trail destroys the surface and leaves ruts or deep holes that contribute to erosion and create a hard-to-fix trail surface. Spring is an especially sensitive time because frost layers often linger below the trail surface even when air temperatures have warmed up. As a result, spring rains have trouble permeating the soil, creating muddy topsoil. Trail use and muddy conditions can quickly destroy a trail.

Here are some important tips if you come across a muddy trail:

  • Avoid the trail altogether or go through the center as opposed to the sides to avoid widening the trail and compacting the soil and destroying the plants along it.
  • Mountain biking - Never ride on your bike on trails at all unless they are clearly marked bike paths and if you encounter a muddy section, dismount and tiptoe down the center.
  • Hiking - If you must traverse a muddy section of trail, go right through the center of the trail, rather than travelling around the mud and widening the trail.
  • Horseback riding - Although most horses don't mind getting their feet wet, you and your horse are encouraged to travel through the center of the trail so inadvertent trail widening doesn't occur. Again, only ride horses on trails designed for them. Like cycling, unintended impacts include damage trails, plants, and the soil.

Our partners at the forest preserves of Cook and Lake Counties have numerous hiking and outdoor activities, just be please careful to avoid muddy days when trails are at risk.