Who would have thought that by the end of May we’d be hiking at 10,000 feet in the Wind River Range?! Although the spring skiing is still here in full force, lots of us are really jonesing to start some summer backpacking trips. Over the last week, we’ve received lot of questions about current conditions in the Winds, particularly about the current snow level. As an average across the range, expect the snowline to start around 10,000 feet. Above that, expect spring snow conditions and iced-over lakes. The fishing will get good starting soon (wink, wink)! The good news is that the bugs aren’t bad… yet! Another few days of this warm, sunny weather may just trigger a hatch of mosquitoes in the high-country.
The rivers are in runoff, which means the base snow in the high country has finally started to melt. This handy interactive map from the Colorado River Basin Forecast Center gives a lot of great information about current river flows. High country access is closer than ever! With high temps in the mid-to-high 70s for the 7-day forecast, expect the freezing level to be around 11,000 feet. Here’s a great weather forecasting tool for the high peaks. Although the true high-country (above 10,500 feet) isn’t yet accessible, there are still plenty of trips available for backpacking, loops included.
Big Sandy Opening is accessible to Big Sandy Lake, expect snow on Jackass Pass (that’s set up enough to walk on) and past Clear Lake on your way to the Deep Lake area. Expect lingering snow-fields on top of Haystack and East Temple that will keep the rock wet. The southern aspects in the Cirque should be mostly ready; you will run into snow on Wolf’s Head, Warbonnet, the Warrior peaks, Watchtower, and Shark’s Nose. Snow on top of Pingora will soak the NE Face and most of the east ledge climbs. You’ll run into snow past Shadow Lake on your way into the East Fork Valley. Microspikes (or crampons) and and ice axe are recommended on Texas Pass, depending on your experience on snow. Remember to stop`at Big Sandy Lodge on your way out for a beer and a burger!
At Scab Creek trailhead, you should have no problem making it as far as Dream Lake, with patchy snow the closer you get to the Divide. There were quite a few downed trees between the trailhead and Toboggan Lakes, so expect those to be present as you stay low in the trees.
Boulder Lake trail is open, snow-free, to Lake Vera. Expect a few downed trees and some muddy trails between the trailhead and Ethel Lake. Keep a lookout for wildlife! A party I ran into coming from Blueberry Lake saw a mother black bear with two cubs. Respect the animals as they forage for food in this transitional time of year, and be sure to carry your bear spray.
Elkhart Park trailhead, the last holdout of the nine trailheads on our side of the Continental Divide, is open but hiking is not yet possible (snow-free) to Photographer’s Point. Expect some post-holing in the trees. The Sacred Rim day-hike is open and hikeable. Beautiful views! Titcomb Basin is a couple of weeks (at least) away from being accessible without skis or snowshoes. The interactive Wyoming Snotel map gives a good idea of snow melt rates. Lakeside Lodge and Halfmoon Lake Lodge are open, serving drinks and food to hungry backpackers after a long trip.
Spring Creek Park trailhead is accessible to the official trailhead. Expect muddy 4×4 roads to the unofficial trailhead. Access to Trapper Lake is possible.
New Fork Lakes valley is accessible for around 6 miles, expect snow in the north fork of the valley. Doubletop Mountain trail is accessible.
Green River Lakes has been sunny and beautiful for the last week. Last we heard, Granite Lake is accessible, but the traditional 3rd class route up Squaretop is still quite snowy. Expect to make it to Three Forks Park, but you will encounter snow as you make the climb towards Vista Pass.
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, your furry friends included. 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.