As of Monday we’ve officially crossed into Summer Solstice, and therefore our core backpacking season in the Wind River Range. The high temperatures are super-heating the snowpack and are melting 2-4 inches off the snowpack per day. For the northern half of the range (Elkhart and north), expect a snowline hovering between 10,200 and 10,500 feet. In the southern half, 10,500 to 10,600 feet seems to be where the snowline is holding.
With that warmer weather, expect that bugs will be out; and they are hungry! Head nets and bug dope (DEET) are going to be your best friend for the next month or so. Both will keep you from making a substantial donation to the local blood sucking population. Pay particular attention to where you camp. A breezy campsite away from stagnant water will help a bit.
The fishing is really starting to take off. Surface water temperatures are still holding in the upper 40s so subsurface flies will continue to be king. Leech patterns are pulling in fish like a vacuum. Where the water picks up at the inlets and outlets, try your luck with a Hare’s Ear or Prince pattern; the fish still seem to be turning their nose down at dry flies. Where you do see the occasional rise, an Adams or mosquito pattern will suffice. As the mosquitoes do start to hatch in greater numbers, expect to see fish zeroing in on insects that are unlucky enough to land on the water surface. Be aware that there are creel limits in the high country.
Remember folks, it’s still very early to be accessing the Wind River high country. You’re going to run into drifts in unexpected places, and that’s true on an average snow year. We’ve been lucky thus far, but the snowline north of Elkhart is still holding snow in the realm of 10,200-10,400 feet. It’s melting fast, but be aware of fast-flowing creek crossings on trails without foot bridges. The snow above 11,000 feet is just starting to melt, making for some potentially dangerous fording and wading. Pole Creek, past Hobbs Lake, come immediately to mind.
The reports coming out of Big Sandy Opening have been overwhelmingly positive. Expect to be able to hike into the Cirque snow-free. Muddy trails will be present where runoff water and rain water has collected. Hailey Pass and Washakie Pass are still a couple of weeks away from being snow-free, and know that drifts in leeward aspects will hold snow for much longer. Texas Pass will hold snow well into July, but MicroSpikes and trekking poles will go a long way to those looking to hike up and over to Shadow Lake. Stop by Big Sandy Lodge for some hot food after a long trek in the mountains!
Scab Creek is completely open, with some muddy trails and a cold creek (South Fork Boulder Creek) crossing the closer you get to Dream Lake. The mouth of Bonneville Basin is open to the base of Mount Bonneville. Some easy-picking brookie fishing can be had in the slack water where the trail crosses Boulder Creek.
Boulder Lake is open and accessible to Lake Isabella. Pipestone Lakes should be iced off but expect intermittent snow drifts. Boulder Creek Road got a facelift and is in great condition. Be on the lookout and drive slow as you get closer to the trailhead. Be aware that Boulder Creek in the canyon is closed for the rainbow trout spawn until July 1st.
Elkhart Park is still holding out on us a bit, but you can make it to Little Seneca Lake before you hit large amount of snow. Lester Pass is still snowed-in. The Pole Creek Trail is drifted in as you approach Pole Creek Lakes and Cook Lakes are still under a couple of feet of snow. Hat Pass on the CDT is still under substantial amounts of snow, as are all the high passes in the northern part of the range. Lakeside Lodge serves some of the best food on this side of the range, and Tara makes a mean cocktail!
Spring Creek can be a bit of a wild card, but Borum Lake is still thoroughly snowed in, as is the trail past that to Elbow Lake and beyond.
Out of New Fork Lakes trailhead, you can expect to hike the trail to Palmer Lake, but snow will prevent snow pat that to the higher lakes in the area. The New Fork River in the valley will be running high and fast, but the Doubletop Mountain Trail will be dry until you hit Doubletop Mountain; expect snow from Rainbow Lake and beyond.
As we trend to the very northern part of the Winds, Green River Lakes is quite the bustling hub. Expect to make it to the end of the valley, but not past Vista Pass. Slide Lake is open, as is the Clear Creek Natural Bridge. The National Forest around Green River Lakes is seeing an unprecedented amount of traffic due to the high concentration on dispersed camping. Please do your part to pack out any and all trash, as well as not creating new campsites and fire rings. It is our responsibility to treat our public lands with respect, and that means burying our waste (human and animal, dogs included), packing out our trash, and putting out our fires. Please be responsible stewards with this beautiful area.
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. Follow us on Instagram (@greatoutdoorshopwy), Twitter (@wrrconditions) and Facebook, and be sure to tag us in your Wind River pictures! Our staff is ready to help you plan a Wind River trip or to help with any questions you may have along the way.