JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. – Some popular hiking trails in the Jefferson County Open Space system are temporarily closed because of too much mud.
Deer Creek Canyon Park, Apex Park and a section of the North Table Loop at North Table Mountain Park are closed until further notice.
“We’ve got some pretty significant mud conditions,” Ranger Mary Ann Bonnell told FOX31 Tuesday.
The combination of recent snowfall and warmer afternoons have made some trails too dangerous to use.
“The reason why we close for mud is not so much danger to the human being, it’s danger to the trails you love,” Bonnell said.
According to Bonnell, the trails that are closed are muddy from beginning to end. When conditions are that sloppy, hikers tend to go around the mud instead of through it.
“They’ll end up widening or braiding the trail,” Bonnell said. “You can imagine a trail that starts out as maybe two-and-a-half, three feet could widen to 15 or 17 feet as people are avoiding mud.”
On a busy weekend, she says hikers can cause permanent damage in just one day.
“It’s hard to bring that back once it’s been trampled down and the vegetation has been removed,” she said.
Jeffco Open Space has a list of “mud hacks” to help hikers through the conditions and keep trails intact.
The first hack: wear shoes that you do not mind getting muddy.
“I know that sounds crazy, but I’ve had visitors tell me, ‘Oh, I don’t want to get my shoes dirty,'” Bonnell said.
Rangers are asking hikers to go straight through the mud if they encounter it on the trail.
“We want you to get your shoes dirty,” Bonnell said.
She recommends bringing a grocery bag with you to put your muddy shoes in when you’re finished so the mud isn’t transferred to your vehicle. Keep a spare pair of shoes in your vehicle to change into for the ride home.
Another hack rangers recommend is hiking early in the morning while the ground is still frozen. When mud is frozen, it won’t get caked on your shoes like it will when the ground is soft.
You are also encouraged to hike on paved trails and gravel trails while dirt trails are too muddy.
According to Bonnell, the closed trails will reopen when the weather gets a little warmer and a little drier. She does not anticipate a prolonged closure.
“We’re asking just give them a couple days to rest,” she said.
During the closure, anyone caught on the trail will face a $150 fine.
“We don’t want you to obey the closure because you’re afraid you’re going to get a ticket from a ranger. We want you to obey the closure because it means something to you to protect your trails,” Bonnell said.