Apr 23, 2022 - Things to Do

How to enjoy mud season in the Colorado mountains

A park visitor hikes at Great Sand Dunes National Park in 2019. Photo: Helen H. Richardson/Denver Post via Getty Images
A park visitor hikes at Great Sand Dunes National Park in 2019. Photo: Helen H. Richardson/Denver Post via Getty Images

In the mountains, spring is known as mud season.

What to know: Between unpredictable storms and melting snow, the hiking trails are often a mushy mess.

  • Higher elevations are particularly tricky because the terrain can remain snow-covered in shady spots well into June.

Why it matters: The biggest problem has nothing to do with keeping your hiking shoes or bike tires pristine. It's that traversing the mud is bad for the trail because it fuels erosion and because people trample vegetation as they look for dry ground.

What to do: This doesn't mean you need to stay at home. Here are a few tips to make the most of the season.

Head south: This is the perfect time to visit two national parks in southern Colorado, the Great Sand Dunes and Mesa Verde.

  • At the Dunes, the seasonal Medano Creek flows in late May and the sand isn't too hot for your feet.
  • In Mesa Verde, it's not too hot so you don't need to hide from the sun as you explore the red rocks and cliffs.

Front Range hiking: The trails closest to Denver get crowded in the summer, but they are a little more manageable — and usually not too muddy — if you pick the south-facing slopes.

Paddle: The water is still fairly chilly, which keeps boat traffic down.

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