Using the catchy slogan “Muddy day? Please don’t play” the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is reminding all Michigan residents how to protect our trails this spring.

With warmer weather in the forecast, the DNR is reminding residents throughout the state to help protect Michigan trails by not using them when muddy. Utilizing the catchphrase “Muddy day? Please don’t play,” from the Potawatomi Mountain Biking Association, the DNR wants to ensure residents are considering the trails and their condition before heading out.

Person biking on Northern Michigan trails.

Why Shouldn’t I Ride On Wet Trails?

Simply put, riding or walking on a muddy trail destroys the surface. It leaves ruts, deep holes, uneven tire prints, footprints and contributes to erosion. All of these items can lead to a very 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 erode trails very quickly.

When is a Trail Too Wet to Ride?

Sometimes it’s hard to tell if your favorite trail is too wet to ride until you’ve officially arrived. Here are some telltale signs you should avoid the trail to help keep it safe.

  • If your bicycle leaves visible ruts.
  • If you’re leaving behind footprints.
  • If you notice recent, deep hoof or animal prints.
  • If it rained heavily the day of or the day before.
Horseback riding on a Northern Michigan trail.

What To Do if You Encounter A Muddy Trail

Although you should avoid muddy trails altogether, please keep these tips in mind if you encounter a muddy section:

  • Mountain Biking | If you encounter a muddy section, dismount and tiptoe down the center, not to the sides because it widens the trail.
  • 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.

Photo(s) by DNR