Winter in the Sierra Nevada means one thing regardless of elevation – it’s our “rainy” season, be it frozen or of the liquid kind. And as any resident knows, precipitation in the Sierra comes in HUGE storms soaking the ground beyond its limit. We ask you as a responsible traveler or local to check the trail conditions ahead of time. You can call the park ranger or look at the open space or park website.
Muddy Isn’t Tacky Dirt
Mountain bikers will tell you moisture is a crucial component for creating what is called “hero dirt.” This is when just a little bit of moisture comes, and the dust packs down on the trail. But just like Goldilocks and the three bears, there’s a big difference between dry “hero dirt” and muddy ground. When storms deposit inches of rain like the Sierra typically receive or up high when the snow melts in the spring, the ground becomes over saturated. Rather, it’s a sloppy mess.
“We are appreciative that you use our trails, however when the trail surface is displaced it creates maintenance and erosion issues. During wet conditions please find a hard surface trail until soggy trails can drain and dry sufficiently for use.”BYLT’s Trails Coordinator, Shaun Clarke
A Faux Pas… Stay Off The Trail Until It Dries Out
When you hop on your horse, bike, or even hike in these muddy conditions, there’s a good chance you’ll be affecting them in a negative way. Trails will become wider, create unnecessary erosion, and even create higher maintenance costs. Even though mountain bikers and horses can create the most destruction, hiker boots can also become a problem when people step around mud puddles and widen the trail.
Adding Risk As Well
Besides damaging the trail, hiking in a storm can be dangerous. Tree roots can lose their footing with flooding and rockslides. In a past storm on Banner Mountain, the Orene Wetherall Trail was closed temporarily after a slide. Wind storms can break branches and topple trees overhead as well. Volunteers can quickly correct many of these situations, but it’s a good idea to give the soil time to drain.
Enjoy Nevada County’s Culture Or Use An Alternative Trail
When the weather is frightful, it might be a better idea to take in Nevada County’s cultural scene. Sample world-class wines, savor a beautifully crafted cappuccino from one of our artisanal coffee shops, or just peruse our world renowned used book stores. If the weather is nice out and the soil still hasn’t had a chance to dry out, we recommend an alternative trail. This includes the Littleton Trail, the paved bike path around Western Gateway Park or the Hardrock Trail at Empire Mine State Historic Park.
As Chief Seattle once said, “If you want civilization to flourish, you must think seven generations ahead.” On your visit here, we hope you take his words to heart and ensure that Nevada County’s beautiful trails can be enjoyed not just today but for future generations as well.