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7 Ways To Survive Mud Season

Mar 26, 2024 04:35PM ● By Story and Photography By Lisa Ballard
If you go by the calendar, spring starts on March 19 with the spring equinox, when daytime equals nighttime. From that date until the official start of summer on June 20, the days might get longer, but that doesn’t mean they’re worth looking forward to, at least at first. The weather can be downright dreary. The landscape is still gray until mid May, and the ground turns to muck as the frost oozes out of it. If having four equal seasons—winter, spring, summer, and fall—weren’t so ingrained us, I would split spring in two and declare a fifth season, mud season.

Mud season in the Upper Valley begins when the snow melts to the point that it’s leaving until next winter. Bare patches of ground open up, then grow bigger and bigger until only the remnants of a few dirt-flecked snowbanks speckle the roadsides. It ends when the grass turns green and the trees begin to leaf out. It’s an odd limbo when it’s easy to feel antsy after a long winter.

Here are seven ways to cure the mud season blues, and maybe even make you look forward to the “fifth season.”



Maple sugaring begins midwinter when the nights remain cold but the days are warm. By mud season, sugar shacks are in full swing boiling sap into that sweet, sticky liquid we pour over pancakes. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. For a memorable family outing, consider visiting one of the maple sugaring operations in or near the Upper Valley that are open to the public. You can watch it being made and sample the latest delightful batch.

Need to know: Maple syrup is graded A, B and “Commercial” (the lowest grade) based on its color, clarity, flavor, and density. The later in mud season, the darker and more robust the syrup, and thus the lower the grade.


Where to go:

Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks Montpelier, VT

Vermont’s oldest sugarhouse! Free tours and tastings, plus a “maple trail,” farm life museum, and store.

Sugarbush Farm Woodstock, VT

Learn firsthand about the art of making syrup. Also sample cheeses and see farm animals.

Brackett Brook Farm Orford, NH

Family sugarhouse that gives boiling demonstrations, samples, and tours of its sugarhouse and sugarbush. (603) 353-9080



 If you like to ski, you’re in luck! Many ski areas in Vermont and New Hampshire are open into early April, and a couple keep the lifts turning into May and sometimes June, depending on how quickly the snow melts on the slopes. There’s also Tuckerman Ravine on Mount Washington, which is a spring mecca for backcountry skiers. No need to rush to the mountain. Prime spring corn snow starts by midmorning on the trails that the sun hits first. Follow the sun to find more of that buttery, soft surface, then call it a day when it turns to mashed potatoes.

Need to know:  If you ski in a T-shirt and/or shorts, remember to coat your bare skin in sunscreen. The chance of sunburn is deceptively high due to the reflection of the UV rays off the snow and the fact that your skin has not seen the sun since last summer.

Don’t fall! The snow may seem soft under your skis, but it can cause nasty scrapes and “road rash” if you slide down it.

If you’ve got Tuckerman Ravine on your must-ski list, wait for a day when it’s at least 60° in the valley to ensure spring skiing conditions on the headwall.


Where to go:

Tuckerman Ravine



Killington Mountain Resort


Okemo Ski Resort



Mud season is also migration season for songbirds, raptors, wading birds, and waterfowl that come back to the Upper Valley to breed. The American robins are among the first to return, often while there’s still snow on the ground. The herons, osprey, ducks, and geese are last, in need of open water. Mud season is one of the best times of the year to birdwatch because it’s before the leaves are on the trees, so you can see birds more easily. To get the best view, invest in a pair of good binoculars. To help you ID what you see, pick up a good bird book, such as the National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds – Eastern Edition, or download the Merlin app from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Need to know: Avoid putting out bird feeders to lure birds to your backyard. Feeders are also bear attractants. When bears come out of hibernation, they’re hungry!

Where to go:

Anywhere outdoors, but especially near water or where the forest meets open fields, including:

Bedell Bridge State Park Haverhill, NH

Northern Rail Trail

Lebanon to Enfield, NH

Mink Brook Nature Preserve 

Hanover, NH

Lower Shaker WMA

Enfield, NH

Cedar Hill Rail Trail

Newport, NH

Union Village Dam

Thetford, VT

Kilowatt Park

Wilder, VT

Paradise Park

Windsor, VT

Springfield Nature Area

North Springfield, VT



Mud season is fishing season. Though the lakes and ponds may be slow to thaw, rivers and streams are running. Aggressive pike peruse the shallows looking for places to spawn. Trout get spunky as water temps warm into the 50s. No telling when perch or other panfish might strike. Fishing is a great way to get outdoors during mud season, and maybe bring home something wild-caught for dinner.

Need to know: In both Vermont and New Hampshire, bass season is open and the fishing is fantastic, but catch-and-release only and with artificial lures/flies (no live bait). If you’re planning to fish from a boat, wait for a calm day and wear a PFD even if you are an expert skipper and swimmer. The water is dangerously cold! Watch the water color, too. During spring runoff, the water can turn brown, which makes the fishing more challenging. The fish can’t see your lure or fly float by so they’re less likely to go for it.


Where to go:

New Hampshire

Connecticut River and its tributaries

north of Orford

Sugar River Trail, Newport, NH

Mascoma River, Lebanon, NH


Ottauquechee Stream Management Area

White River

Tweed River



Many farm animals are born during mud season. There’s nothing more fun for kids than seeing kids (baby goats), lambs, calves, foals, chicks, and piglets at a nearby farm. Some farms allow you to pet and help feed their baby animals. Livestock babies grow quickly, so plan more than one trip to see how they change every couple of weeks.

Need to know: Only approach baby animals under the supervision of the owner or official handler. Both baby animals and their mothers can be defensive and bite or kick. Always heed their warnings! If you handle or feed an animal, wash

your hands before and afterward to prevent transmitting diseases or allergens.

Where to go:

Billings Farm & Museum, Woodstock, VT

The Friendly Farm, Dublin, NH



In general, mud season is not hiking season. The trails at higher elevations still have snow or ice on them. The trails at lower elevations are likely covered with boot-sucking mud. What’s more, trekking up or down these muddy paths increases erosion. That said, there are some hikes that are generally dry and delightful this time of year, where you can see fleeting early spring wildflowers and vistas that disappear when the leaves are on the trees.


Need to know: Be prepared for all types of weather, even snow, with layers of clothing, a knit hat, gloves, and waterproof-breathable outerwear. Gore-Tex hiking boots that cover your ankles help keep your feet dry. Avoid north-facing trails, which tend to stay frozen longer.


Where to go:

Harmon Hill via the Long Trail Bennington, VT

Mount Tom

Woodstock, VT

Mount Cardigan

Orange, NH

Holts Ledge via the

Appalachian Trail

Lyme, NH

Mount Monadnock

Jaffrey, NH


 If you’ve tried the survival skills 1 to 6 and you still feel bogged down by mud season, you can always skip town for a week or two. Tropical beaches are a big draw, but even a short trip to visit a friend in another part of New England, or a few nights in Boston, New York, or Montreal might refresh you. And cities are usually warmer and less muddy.

Need to know: Mud season ends by Memorial Weekend.

See you then!


Where to go:

Any place, preferably farther south.

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