Boise received a half inch of rain from Dec. 6 to Dec. 7, according to the National Weather Service
, and rain is forecast through the night of Thursday, Dec. 10 before turning to snow. As rain drenches the city, the trails of the foothills have become a soggy, muddy mess.
"Our trails get tremendous use throughout the year, but the most damage from that use comes each winter from visitors who use the trails when they are soft and muddy," said Ridge to Rivers Program Manager David Gordon. "There is a bit of a misconception among our hikers and runners that their use does not harm muddy trails. In reality, foot traffic is just as damaging to trails as bike use during winter months."
He added that foot traffic might even be more damaging than cycle traffic because there are far more hikers and runners than mountain bikers using the trails in the winter.
When people continue to use the trails while muddy, trail drainage features used for mitigating erosion become trampled. Users also try to step along the trail instead of in the mud—killing trailside vegetation and widening the trails. The traffic creates deep grooves in the path, which can be hazardous after the ground freezes.
"If it were just one or two people doing this, it would not be a big deal," Gordon said. "But we get so much use that the cumulative effects are substantial."
In an effort to lessen damage this season, many trails now have gates across the trailhead, urging people to turn back if trails are muddy. Once frozen, hikers and runners can resume trail use.
Trail conditions can be viewed daily on the Ridge to Rivers website
, as well as the Boise Foothills Trail Conditions Facebook page
, which tells trail users which trails are muddy and where the best alternatives are.