The freeze-thaw cycle has arrived:  Please help protect our trails and Avoid Muddy Trails!


What is freeze thaw?Avoid Muddy Trails

When the temperature drops below freezing, the moisture in the ground freezes and because water expands as it freezes, the frozen soil gets broken up, resulting in less compaction of the trail surface.  Once the air temperature rises above freezing, the newly broken up soil, in combination with the now melting ice, combine to make a muddy mess of the trail surface.  These conditions are often worse where the sun warms up the trail during the day.

As a general rule, if the temperature drops below freezing (32°F) for more than a couple of hours, a freeze-thaw cycle will occur.  And once the melting starts, it will take several to many days for the trails to dry out following a freeze-thaw cycle or a winter rain event.  How long depends on many factors, including air temperature, trail conditions, soil type, evapotranspiration rates, sun exposure, and others.

When can I ride in the Winter?

You can ride trails that are DRY or FROZEN.

Depending on how cold it has been and how much rain or snow melt was recently added, it is usually okay to ride the trails if the air temperature is and has been well below freezing for several hours.  For example, early in the morning after a night or more of below-freezing air temperature can yield a good, hard frozen trail surface; a “hard” freeze typically occurs with sustained temperatures of 28°F or lower. But it is important to plan your ride so that you are off the trail well before the melting begins.

How do I know I shouldn’t be on the trails and why does it matter?

Tracks on the Ground – Turn Around!  Stay off the trails if you are leaving ruts in the trail.  Riding in these conditions results in significant trail damage, and makes it take even longer for the trail to dry out.

What about when the trails are 95% dry, but there is an occasional puddle due to a drainage issue?

Remember the rule for the occasional puddle is to “ride through it” and keep single track single!  Riding around the puddle only widens the trail and makes trail repair more difficult.

Thank you for helping to protect our trail systems!



Content retrieved from:

Winter Riding – Protect our Trails!. More winter trailhead news 2021. (n.d.).