The Rainy Season Is Here. Plan Ahead and Protect The Trails.

‘Tis the season. October means there’s a good chance of rain nearly every day (or so it seems) and that’s when we need everyone to watch for trail updates. 

This past week, if you rode, there’s a good chance you got wet. Pop up showers, abrupt fronts moving in off Lake Michigan, and plain old rainy days mean that there’s a good chance you’ll see sprinkles most days this month. While a few drops shouldn’t change your plans, consistent showers can contribute to complete saturation in a relatively short amount of time. Know how your local trails drain and plan accordingly to avoid the mud. 

Some trails, like Merrell, Luton, and Wahlfield, tend to hold moisture more than others places to ride like Yankee Springs. A lot of this is due to soil composition, with clay much more likely to hold water near the surface, causing puddles and slow drainage. Sandy trails see water absorbed much more quickly. At Yankee, the singletrack can often appear totally dry just a few hours after a long and steady rain. At Merrell, the same rainfall might take twenty-four or even forty-eight hours to drain properly. 

During that time, the trail bed is especially vulnerable to damage from all trail users like runners and cyclists. While freeze and thaw cycles are the most dangerous, even spring and fall days with substantial precipitation can introduce a lot of moisture to the soil, causing ruts and divots from tires that dig the trail deeper, expose and damage roots, and contribute to wash-outs with more traffic. We also see a lot of mud puddles, and as riders skirt to the sides to avoid the murky depths, that makes our tidy singletrack’s footprint expand wider and wider. 

That makes autumn a great time to remind folks just how much work we put into maintaining the trails and how easy it is to avoid doing damage. If it’s rainy, opt for the trainer, gravel roads, or pavement. To find out about trail conditions before you make the drive to the trailhead, we’ve got the resources to communicate if your local trail is a go. We post as often as possible on the Trailforks app and encourage other trail users to do the same. You can link Trailforks to your Strava and signup for email prompts after each ride; if you hit the woods, Trailforks will slide into your inbox automatically to ask for a quick update! 

You can also give other riders a thumbs up or a thumbs down by indicated what’s good to go in your ride’s Strava title. There’s also a pretty robust community called West Michigan Trail Conditions on Facebook that sees a lot of posts each week featuring updates from riders across the region. No matter where you communicate, we hope you’ll help us protect the trails and save our volunteers a lot of time by accurately posting trail conditions that will help other riders make the smart call. There’s nothing more frustrating than making a trip to the trailhead only to discover that your favorite bit of singletrack is completely submerged and unrideable. If you really dig the trails, you’ll agree; waiting a day or two for better conditions is totally worth it in the long run.

Want to contribute to rainy weather maintenance and all our trail projects? Give WMMBA some Trail Karma through your Trailforks app!