Abstract Previous studies at Yakima Training Center (YTC), in Washington State, suggest freeze-thaw (FT) cycles can ameliorate soil compacted by tracked military vehicles [J. Terramechanics 38 (2001) 133]. However, we know little about the short-term effects of soil freezing over a single winter. We measured bulk density (BD), soil penetration resistance (SPR), and steady-state runoff rates in soil newly tracked by an Abrams tank and in uncompacted soil, before and after a single winter at YTC. We similarly measured BD, SPR and saturated hydraulic conductivity ( k fs) in simulated tank tracks at another site near Lind Washington. Average BD was significantly greater in tank ruts at YTC and in simulated tracks at the Lind site than in uncompacted soil soon after tracking and did not change significantly during the winter of 1997–1998. Measurements of SPR were strongly influenced by soil moisture. When soil was moist or tracks were newly formed, SPR was significantly higher in tank ruts than in uncompacted soil from the surface to a depth of about 10–15 cm. The greatest average SPR in compacted soil was observed between 4 and 6 cm depth. We observed less difference in SPR between tank ruts and uncompacted soil near-surface at YTC as the time after trafficking increased. We observed highest SPR ratios (compacted rut:undisturbed) in fresh tracks near the surface, with lower ratios associated with increasing track age or soil depth, indicating that some recovery had occurred at YTC near-surface. However, we did not observe a similar over-winter change in SPR profiles at the Lind site. Rainfall simulator data from YTC showed higher steady-state runoff rates in tank ruts than over uncompacted soil both before and after winter. However, more time was required to reach steady-state flow in tank ruts and the proportion of runoff was slightly lower in May 1998 than in August 1997. At the Lind site, k fs was lower in newly compacted soil than in one-year old compacted soil or uncompacted soil. Our data suggest that indices of water infiltration such as steady-state runoff rates or k fs, are more sensitive indicators of soil recovery after compaction than are BD or SPR.