Everything you need to know
why close the trails
Trail closures are not about mud or really even moisture per se. Rather, trail closures are about compaction – or, more specifically, maintaining compaction. Rain and how wet the trails are is only important because using the trails when there is too much moisture in the soil will cause loss of compaction, and (on trail systems like ours) soft, mushy trails are not fun trails.
It’s important to note that loss of compaction stems from both too much moisture in the soil and users on the trails. If you were to go to the well-established trails after (or even during) heavy rain, you would not find soft and mushy trails. But if people were to use those trails while there was still a significant amount of moisture in the soil, then those hard, compacted trails would quickly turn soft and mushy. We learned this the hard way.
Once compaction is lost, it can take a long time to get the impacted areas to dry out enough to regain compaction. Users will continually create tire ruts and footprints that hold water, which will lead to more tire ruts and footprints. The resulting downward spiral is hard to reverse until we get a long stretch of warm, dry weather. Often, a bad spot that forms in late December will stay that way until sometime in March.
From sometime in March until sometime in December, we are able to keep the trails open an overwhelming majority of the time. This is because of good design, construction, and maintenance, the nature of the soil on the property, and an awesome user group that respects trail closures. However, from sometime in December until sometime in March, the trails can struggle. The grassy, terraced slopes encourage water to soak into the hillsides and then leach out onto our trails for days after a heavy rain.
During this roughly three-month span, we simply have to be patient and remember to be grateful for how wonderful the trails are and how many days of the year we get to ride them. There isn’t any other choice. These months are a great time to spend more time with your loved ones, catch up on projects at home, explore other trail systems, do some cross training, and attend trail workdays. Accordingly, we try to pack into these months as much volunteer trail work as possible.