Hikers should be aware of these before hitting the trail!
As the cold weather turns milder and the snow melts into our rivers and streams, after being indoors much of the winter, many of us, whether we live here, or are just visiting, might be itching to get out and go on a hike.
With spring hiking, there’s a handful of additional risks and with that in mind, I thought i’d put together a helpful list of 5 essential items that I recommend people take to mitigate those risks.
I also recommend doing some research before hitting your desired trail. National forest service offices, land managers or even our local Visitor’s Center, can be a great source of information about trail conditions that tend to be more unpredictable in the spring. In springtime, the temperature swing can be more extreme, especially if you’re in an area where there is elevation change.
Temperatures can drop drastically as hikers travel upwards in elevation, making it hard to stay comfortable during the entirety of the hike. Multiple layers that are less bulky are best for springtime hikes. A base layer, midlayer, fleece jacket or sweatshirt, and an outer wind and water barrier should do the trick. Lighter layers work best so you can adjust to the temperature as it changes and you start to sweat.
2. Sun Protection
Sunburn can and does happen in spring! While the sun doesn’t pose a greater risk in the spring than in the summer, hikers often forget to bring protection against it during the spring. Always pack sunscreen in your hiking bag.
3. Water & Flash Flooding
Creeks and rivers flow higher and faster in the spring than any other time of the year due to snowmelt. The early springtime creeks and rivers can be more dangerous. Do your research to check if there are creeks or rivers that are on the desired trail and whether or not it is safe to hike at that current time
4. Slippery Slopes
Snow- and- ice-covered trails pose dangers of falls. When going hiking in the springtime, thinking about traction should be foremost in your mind. While this is definitely a concern at higher elevations, those hiking at lower elevations and on north-facing slopes could still run into icy, snowy or muddy surfaces.
5. Compromised Traction
Traction devices such as microspikes are useful and lightweight. The spikes can slip over trail runners or boots. Throw those traction devices into your backpack well into June because above the tree line there could still be snow. Trekking poles are also useful devices that hikers can use to stabilize themselves.
As we have seen, snow can still be an issue during spring, and with snow present, there are risks of avalanches in the mountains. Even if snow is not visible in an area, there can still be avalanches that are triggered above the places where you’re hiking. Always check avalanche risk with mountain authorities before heading out for a hike in the higher elevations.
The risk of injury due to winter inactivity is also very real. The first hike of the season can be exciting, but I’d remind hikers not to be overly confident when choosing a trail to hike.
Best to dial back expectations and take a shorter and slower hike at first to let the body adapt to the new hiking season. As the season progresses,slowly increasing distance and trail difficulty will have you running those trails by summer!
Meanwhile, here are two moderately easy springtime trails to get you started. Dust off the hiking boots, fill those water bottles and get outdoors!
The word means a “lookout” point or place. The peak was once used by the Taos Pueblo to stand guard against the Apaches who would come down Taos Canyon to raid the pueblo. In summer, there is quite an array of beautiful wildflowers. There are several vista overlook points along this trail. Looking westward are beautiful views of the town of Taos, the Rio Grande and San Antonio Mountain. Looking northward you can see the Taos Pueblo and the Wheeler Peak Wilderness area.
From Taos, follow US Highway 64 approximately three miles east. Parking is along the highway at the El Nogal Picnic Area.The Devisadero Loop Trail will pass through two very different forest types. On the south facing slope the trail travels through pinons, juniper and some gambel oak. As the trail drops over to the north side of the mountain the environment is much darker and cooler with tall Douglas firs and white firs replacing the smaller drought resistant pinon/juniper forest.
Approximately ¼ miles from the trailhead you will encounter a fork in the trail. The right-hand fork goes directly up to the Devisardero Peak. The left-hand fork has switchbacks which will take you up to the ridgeline. Once on the ridgeline, you can follow the trail eastward to the Devisadero Peak.
The Devisadero Loop Trail will pass through two very different forest types. On the south facing slope the trail travels through pinons, juniper and some gambel oak. As the trail drops over to the north side of the mountain the environment is much darker and cooler with tall Douglas firs and white firs replacing the smaller drought resistant pinon/juniper forest.
South Boundary Trail
There are multiple loops and point to point options that incorporate the South Boundary Trail. The actual Trail #164 begins at the El Nogal Picnic Area on US Highway 64 approximately three miles east of Taos and ends on Forest Road 76 near Angel Fire.
The South Boundary Trail is an incredible tour of the Sangre de Cristo Range that takes you across ridges, valleys, and over several peaks, through gorgeous conifer forests and incredible stands of aspen. The trail is at its very best in the fall when aspens along the route turn every shade of yellow, gold, and fiery orange, but the spring brings its own beauty and birdsong! Besides being a wonderfully scenic tour of New Mexico’s Rocky Mountains, this is also one of the state’s best mountain bike rides.
Written by Lynne Robinson