Trails and trailheads below 9000 feet continue to melt as the warmer days look to be sticking around; in general, you can expect the snow line to be hovering around 8700-9000 feet, depending on the aspect and elevation. Over the last few days, the northern Winds received around 12 inches of new snow over 11,500 feet, adding to the base that the rivers will draw from in the coming months. Here in the valley and foothills, we received a little over three inches, with most of that coming down as sleet and graupel which melted immediately and ran into the river system. The snow cover left over from the winter in the low country has melted quick; we’re waiting patiently on the high country to start melting for the summer backpacking season.
Although the snow will surely deter many from hiking this time of year, the National Forest below 9000 feet is generally dry and in good hiking shape. Keep in mind that wildlife is out and about after a long winter. Just yesterday I saw a few moose and elk that seem to be moving higher into the mountains. I saw traces of just about anything else you could think of: cats, bears, deer, antelope, etc. This is a migratory period for a lot of these animals back to their summer forage grounds. Give them a wide breadth, PLEASE DO NOT try and pet or feed them….
As of today, there are a few campgrounds that have been opened for the summer. Many others are still closed but will be open as Forest Service staff gets around to getting the gates open and making sure things are in good shape. Please respect closures if they are in place.
Remember that May is a volatile month of the year; things can change very rapidly in the mountains if we’re not paying attention. What starts off as a nice day can turn nasty quick, and we should all be prepared so as not to stress the limited resources of the fine men and women of our local search and rescue.
For those of you not aware, Wyoming’s mask mandate was lifted back in mid-March. Things are slowly returning to normal here in Pinedale as the local population gets vaccinated and prepares for a summer full of people. For Sublette County, there are no required mask mandates. No matter how you feel about the issue, you are free to wear or not to wear a mask in local businesses.
Over the past week, the road to Green River Lakes has opened. Be prepared for muddy roads; high clearance is recommended this time of year. The trail is open, but wet, most of the way to the end of the first lake, and up Clear Creek trail. The trail on the west side of the lake was heavily affected by the blowdown; the Highline was cleared up to Beaver Park last fall. Creeks are beginning to swell with spring snow melt, so watch your footing in stream crossings and prepare yourself for cold water!
The New Fork Canyon trail is clear about a mile-and-a-half past the upper lake. The trail is mostly dry, but some intermittent streams and snow melt are keeping the trail muddy in the flood plain above the lake; the trail is tree-free all the way to the upper canyon. The Doubletop Mountain trail looked mostly melted out, but you will encounter snow by the time you get to the top of the ridge; light blow-down on the trail.
Elkhart Park is still snowed in; in fact, the trailhead itself received about four inches of snow out of this last storm, pushing its snow depth total back up to 18 inches. The road continues to slowly melt, so expect to start seeing snow when you reach the switchbacks in the road past the first overlook. Skis or snowshoes are recommended for backcountry travel.
Boulder Lake trail is melted out for a few miles past the trailhead. Travel to Blueberry Lake is possible, but keep an eye out for wildlife. No reports of trees across the trail that will impede travel, but keep an eye out for trees that may have fallen this Spring.
Big Sandy Opening is still snowed in, with the most recent snow depth reading being 13 inches. The Lander Cutoff Road is open and clear, but expect snow once you turn left onto the Big Sandy Opening road. Past the small bridge, the hollow there tends to flood early with the presence of a cold spring, and the entire meadow floods. Be patient, it will open soon!
Although the Forest Service trail crews did a fantastic job last Fall clearing the trails affected by the blow down, there are still many areas that have not be fully cleared and will be impassible until the true scope of the event can be ascertained. Trail clearing will be an ongoing process this summer. Most all of the trailheads on our side of the divide have been initially cleared, but with the wind event happening in the Fall, the crews could only do so much before the snow fell. There will be many areas where the trail is gone because of the blow down. Please be aware that the winter free-thaw cycle may have loosened trees that may not have initially fallen over the trail and there may be trees that have fallen with the melting of the snow. Keep an open mind when planning your trip!
As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any gear or itinerary questions regarding the Wind River Range or surrounding area. We’re open seven days a week, from 8AM to 6PM. You can reach us by phone (307) 367-2440 or send us an email, firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you!