I wrote the following blog post in March 2012, but it’s just as appropriate today. BE AWARE…The trail conditions noted in this re-post from 2012 may not reflect current conditions!
The unseasonable temperatures are drawing people outdoors in shorts and t-shirts. My children are on spring break from college and determined to get in some summertime-style hiking (no crampons, no snowshoes). They headed south to Rattlesnake, figuring that the higher elevation snow would have melted. They were disappointed to find the trail closed. They turned around and drove to Waterville Valley’s Depot Camp and found there was too much snow to hike the trails sans snowshoes. Smarts Brook ranged from mud and slush to ice. So…they traded their hiking boots for sneakers and have spent their days walking around Waterville Valley.
The White Mountain National Forest and NH Fish & Game remind us that although the White Mountains are popular for hiking year round, each season has its special challenges; be sure you’re prepared.
Seasons aren’t always clear-cut in the mountains. It can be summer-like in the valleys, while in higher elevations it can be raining, snowing or socked-in by fog. Deep snows can still be found at high elevations, even when there’s no snow in the valleys below. Avalanche danger may still exist. Hypothermia can be an issue year-round, especially if you do not have warm, waterproof clothing.
In spring and after heavy rains, streams can change from trickles to torrents, making crossings difficult. If you decide to ford a stream, be extremely careful. Keeping your boots on will give you better footing and prevent your feet from going numb from the cold water. Unbuckle your pack’s waistbelt before starting. Use common sense and, if in doubt, don’t cross.
Rain and melting snow at higher elevations will create wet and muddy hiking trails. When hikers tramp on saturated soils, they cause irreversible erosion and damage to the trail and surrounding vegetation. That’s why my kids found Rattlesnake “closed” to hikers earlier this week.
The bottom line: Use common sense on hiking trails during mud season (usually between sugaring season and Memorial Day weekend) and enjoy our White Mountains responsibly!