It wouldn’t be Spring-time in Wyoming without two beautiful 70+ degree days followed by five days of snow! Our short term forecast is looking a little bleak for backpacking in the Winds, but for those with an adventurous spirit there are still plenty of options. On a more positive note, Memorial Day is going to be beautiful! Spring in Wyoming can be fussy, but when looking at a weather forecast, remember that mountain weather can change relatively quick; what you’re seeing on the National Weather Service’s website can vary greatly from what we’re experiencing on the ground.
Fortunately, the warmer temps we’ve been experiencing haven’t yet tipped the rivers into runoff, but we’re getting close. This doesn’t have much bearing for those who are wanting to backpack and fish in the high country, but it’s a useful indicator of the melt-rate of snow above 10,000 feet. Take a look at this interactive map from the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center to see when to expect peak river flows. Remember that runoff is a good thing, and the health of the entire Wind River ecosystem relies on the purge that comes with high water flows.
The current snowline is hovering around 9500-10,000 feet depending on where you are in the range. According to the Wyoming Snotel Map, Gunsight Pass (9800 feet) and Hobbs Park (10,000 feet) are the only two gauging stations still reading a snow depth.
Now for what you came here for: trail conditions! The latest news from our friends at Big Sandy Lodge is that the trailhead is open. However, reports from Wes Morris at Big Sandy Lodge is that the road is washed out. It’s advised to let the water recede and allow the road to dry out before attempting to make it to the trailhead.
Scab Creek continues to be open and dry, although the rain/snow in the coming days will muddy the trail a bit. Expect to be able to make it a few miles past Toboggan Lakes with occasional patchy snow.
Out of the Boulder Lake trailhead, be aware that Boulder Creek is running high and fast. Expect soggy and muddy conditions here, with patchy snow as you make it to Lake Ethel and beyond. Snow-free trails up to Blueberry Lake and snow from Lovatt Lake onwards. Be aware of downed trees around Blueberry Lake. Although you’d be hard-pressed to find a stretch of Boulder Creek thats slow enough to fish, please note that Boulder Creek above the lake is closed until July 1 for the Rainbow Trout spawn.
Elkhart Park Snotel Station officially reads 0 inches of snow at 9400 feet. Expect patchy snow on the road getting to the trailhead, and also patchy snow on the trail. I wouldn’t expect to get all the way to Photographer’s Point snow-free. Bank on another 2-3 weeks before accessing Seneca Lake and Island Lake. Be sure to stop by Lakeside Lodge or Halfmoon Lake Lodge for food and a beer after a long backpacking trip!
Spring Creek trailhead is snow-free. Expect muddy trails and numerous downed trees along the trail and possibly the road.
New Fork Lakes trailhead is open and the road is in great shape getting to the trailhead. Expect hikeable trails 4.5-5 miles from the trailhead. Good conditions hiking up Doubletop Mountain Trail for about 2 miles.
Green River Lakes trailhead is accessible and the road is in good condition. Expect to be able to make it to the Clear Creek Natural Bridge, but not much past that. Around 5 miles of the Highline Trail is snow-free and hikeable, but don’t expect to make it far up the Porcupine Creek Trail before running into a raging creek and lots of drifted snow; the same goes for the trail up to Slide Lake.
As a very important side note… CLEAN UP AFTER YOURSELF. This means scattering cold fire rings, NOT burning your trash, packing out what you pack in, and (I can’t believe I have to say this one) PROPERLY dispose of your waste. As more hikers, backpackers and climbers access the Winds, the idea of using the Wilderness responsibly falls more squarely on our shoulders as a collective user group. Use common sense and the seven Leave No Trace principles, so that other users can have an untainted experience and future users can experience the beauty of our wild backyard.
We do share the Wilderness with lots of other creatures. Make sure to do you part in not allowing bears, moose and marmots in the Wind River Range to become habituated to humans by hanging your food and practicing proper food storage. This is true above, as well as below, treeline.
If you have any questions regarding trip planning or gear, feel free to give us a call at (307) 367-2440 or email email@example.com. We carry a full stock of rental backpacking and mountaineering equipment, as well as fishing setups, bear spray and bear-proof containers, fuel and a full assortment of books and maps. Visit us online www.greatoutdoorshop.com to see trip reports, current conditions, or to browse our online store. Our staff is ready to help you plan a Wind River trip or to help with any questions you may have along the way.