Ah mud season. The lovely time in Colorado when the snow melts and the rains simultaneously fall from the heavens creating a slick sludge on most of the trails.
Getting outside during mud season can be tricky…but it doesn’t have to be impossible. Don’t let the name fool you, mud season offers the opportunity to explore Colorado away from the hordes of winter ski vacationers and summer tourists. This short interlude after the ski resorts close and before the tourists make their way to Colorado for summer hiking and fall leaf-peeping is one of the best times to experience the outdoors…without an audience.
While many front range folks are still bustling up to the mountains hoping for late-season snow or preparing gear for summer escapades, you can have your run of the place. As the name implies, the state is practically slathered in a thick layer of sludge, the mountains are an uninviting brown color, and everything seems to be dead. But, in fact, everything is just waking up. So, if you’ve got it in you to ruin a few pairs of sneakers, get your dog’s paws caked with mud, and experience Colorado in all its tan glory, mud season may just be one of the best times to visit. Here are some of our favorite ways to maximize your Colorado mud season.
Ski on the Cheap
Most of the time, the ski resorts are literal ghost towns during mud season. But that doesn’t mean the snow is also absent. April showers can bring May flowers, but in Colorado they can also bring some serious snow storms. The nice thing about mud-season skiing is the fact that the demand has dropped, meaning lodging and even lift tickets are cheaper.
Be aware, many restaurants are closed or just serving smaller versions of their regular menu, so don’t expect the full-service menu you’re accustomed to. Still, the lack of customers also means shorter (or no) lift lines, so even if your trip consists of drive-thru meals or PB&J sandwiches, it’ll totally be worth it.
Find Open Campsites
During the high summer season, campsites fill up quickly and it can sometimes feel more like you’re sleeping in a crowded hostel than in the wilderness. But during mud season, when the campgrounds and trails are caked in the namesake sticky stuff, you won’t find those crowds in Colorado. If you’re willing to get your tires and camping gear a little muddy, and endure a bit of cold, this just might be the best time to camp at those busier summer spots.
Some of the more coveted Colorado campgrounds, like the Great Sand Dunes or Rocky Mountain National Park or campgrounds along busy waters like Lake Granby and Green Mountain Reservoir are relatively vacant during this time of year, meaning you can experience some of the most incredible and awe-inspiring vistas in the state, and not have to share.
Have Your Reign of National Parks
Many of Colorado’s famed national parks are just waking up after winter and the summer crowds haven’t yet gassed up their RVs making mud season a prime visiting time. Just a few of our favorite mud season national parks include Rocky Mountain National Park, Mesa Verde National Park, and Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Rocky Mountain National Park is known to be teeming with wildlife during this time. Keep in mind Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park will be closed, so visitors will normally congregate in the park near the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center.
Hike Busy Trails in Solitude
During mud season, some of the summer’s busiest trails—which are known to be muddy, icy, and packed with snow during this time of year—are left to sleep soundly in their wooded hideaways. Mud season is surely not for the faint of heart. Don’t be surprised if you squish and slide your way to your destination, but, in my opinion, the solitude is totally worth it. Trade in your trail runners for a pair of rubber-soled waterproof boots to avoid making your shoes into a sloppy, soggy nightmare. Be prepared for all conditions during mud season hiking—micro spikes, layers, and poles can be great tools.
Some of my favorite mud-season hiking areas in mud season include:
- Staunton State Park
- Golden Gate Canyon State Park
- Three Sisters/ Alderfer Park in Evergreen
- Garden of the Gods
- Mesa Verde
- Rocky Mountain National Park
Get Out on the River
Spring is also the best season for white water rafting in Colorado. All the snowmelt and runoff create exciting river flows and rafting companies are eager to get back out on the water. Check out rafting excursions near Buena Vista or near the Royal Gorge. It’s also a great time of year for fishing, as the cutthroat and rainbow trout are starting to spawn.
Score Deals on Winter Gear
As winter ends, gear stores and outdoor companies are rushing to get their summer gear on the shelves and the winter items tend to go on super sale. Mud season is a great time to find deals on coveted winter outdoor gear like skis, snowshoes, snowboard, outerwear, and much more!
However you get outside during mud season, take a moment to breathe it all in and revel in the rare solitude found in some of Colorado’s most treasured areas.