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Hiking on Tree Roots

Roots on the Maine Appalachian Trail
Roots on the Maine Appalachian Trail

Hiking in the Northeastern United States? Then you better get used to hiking on tree roots because we have a lot of trees!

Seriously, hiking on tree roots can be quite a surprise if you’re not used to them. They get really slippery when wet and can easily snap a trekking pole if your tip gets trapped. They also require a little bit of extra concentration to manuever around and can really throw off the timing of your gait if you’re used to smoother, more uniform hiking trails. But with experience, you can develop the ability to hike quickly over them without giving them much conscious thought. You better, because there are a lot of tree roots in the Northeastern US and they keep on growing!

Mt Tremont, White Mountains
Mt Tremont, White Mountains
Black Angel Trail, Wild River Wilderness
Black Angel Trail, Wild River Wilderness
Maine Appalachian Trail
Maine Appalachian Trail
Maine Appalachian Trail
Maine Appalachian Trail
Maine Appalachian Trail
Maine Appalachian Trail
Maine Appalachian Trail
Maine Appalachian Trail
Maine Appalachian Trail
Maine Appalachian Trail
The Great Gulf Trail, White Mountains
The Great Gulf Trail, White Mountains
The Osgood Trail (New Hampshire Appalachian Trail), White Mountains
The Osgood Trail (New Hampshire Appalachian Trail), White Mountains
Mt Sugarloaf, The Devils Path
Mt Sugarloaf, The Devils Path, Catskills

12 comments

  1. Nice to see the Catskills get some love! I’ve done a few trail runs on the Devil’s Path the past couple months and the roots, rocks, and mud were a blast.
    Sometimes the easiest way over the treacherous stuff is the quickest. I find the slower I go the more I have to worry about balance and slipping on the roots.
    Then again, an actual pack adds even another degree of challenge and balance control.
    And they sure like to gobble up poles! I’ve bent my aluminum ones a few times thru the years on hikes in the whites, but was always able to straighten them out.

  2. I love it! I hear AT hikers complain about the roots in Maine fairly often, but I think it’s part of the beauty of the trail up here. And also a byproduct of what makes the landscape so gorgeous in the first place– heavy glaciation leads to little soil above the bedrock, which means roots go out instead of down.

  3. Even on my local hikes, like in the Middlesex Fells, I have this experience of encountering tree roots and thinking “Yay!” and encountering wet rocks and thinking “Uuuuhhhhh”. I find that I like the experience of hiking over tree roots, especially on uphills.

    They are also beautiful. Hiking the Canadian Shield is similar, as Guthook describes above, since little soil above the rock means the roots have to be creative.

  4. That looks fun, but probably wouldn’t be if you’re trying to make miles. Makes for cool photos tho…

  5. It reminds me of the trails where I from. Though the roots are not to that extreme. We have a trail with sugarloaf in the name as well. Nice post

  6. My wife and I hiked 4 miles down the Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon and back this past May. We also hiked a lot in Sedona. My 1st impression of the trails was that they were in incredible shape and the reason was they rarely get much rain. Your biggest obstacle is the intense sun/heat. Our trails are so much harder to maneuver around.

  7. Those are some gnarly looking trails. I’m guessing they’ve sprained a few ankles in their time.

  8. I have a bad habit of stepping on wet roots with the arch of my shoe. This is the slickest part of my shoe, and has sent me off-balance a number of times. I need to remind myself to dance across them on my toes.

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