The first few weeks of spring continue to bring us inclement and unpredictable weather at all elevations. The winds have been whipping and we saw our first true afternoon thunderstorm in the valley last Thursday. A few new inches of snow fell above 8,500’, which isn’t great news for those of us anxiously awaiting the start of our hiking season, but is wonderful news for the backcountry itself. The rain and snow has pushed precipitation totals closer to 30-year averages – the range overall is holding about 90% of its median snow-water equivalent as measured since 1991 – meaning less chance of wildfire and other devastating symptoms of drought. We’re not out of the woods yet (pun intended), but we’ll take what we can get.
The weather for the week ahead is on par for Wyoming springtime: showers, flurries, wind, and more wind. It may not seem like it, but this does mean we’re one step closer to hitting the trails. Rain combined with high temperatures will begin to consolidate and slowly melt off the snow at lower elevations. We’re all playing the waiting game, but that just means it’s the perfect time to re-open the gear closet, dial your setup, and start filling in the gaps. Luckily, we know of an awesome little outdoor gear shop right in the heart of Pinedale. Come check us out!
For those of you eager for open water, you’ll be happy to know Boulder Lake is in the process of losing its ice cover. When I went out there on Wednesday, the ice had pulled a good few hundred feet from the western shore (near the dam), and it’s receding fast. The fishing from shore should be awesome in the next couple of weeks.
Here’s the latest on the trailheads:
Big Sandy Trailhead – Snow Depth: 37” (Average)
The southern portion of the Winds avoided the worst of this week’s storms, meaning the snow around the Big Sandy area has continued to melt. According to the SNOTEL data, snow depth is 3” less than this same time last week. We’re still quite a ways from having a car-accessible trailhead, but we’re on course for accessibility by mid-June.
Elkhart Park Trailhead – Snow Depth: 26” (Below Average)
We received a report this week that there is still at least a foot of snow covering the first few miles of road after the National Forest Boundary. Snow has been steadily melting at the trailhead, but much more slowly than at other trailheads given its elevation. We expect the road to be passable by mid-June.
New Fork Lakes Trailhead – Snow Depth: 14” (Average)
The area around New Fork Lakes got a healthy dose of snow last weekend, around 5-6”, and it was well needed. This will push trail accessibility back by a week or two, but it’s for the best as the lakes have had a relatively dry winter. We are hoping for open, if muddy, trails by the first week of June.
Green River Lakes Trailhead – Snow Depth: 13” @ USFS Boundary (Well Above Average)
The northernmost reaches of the range got the brunt of this week’s storms, bringing the snowpack around Green River Lakes to 123% of average. However, because of the trailhead’s low elevation, the rain and rising temperatures in the week to come will accelerate the melting process. The road should still be open by late-May.
Please note as the weather begins to warm up, wildlife is on the move. Our friends at the U.S. Forest Service recently reported that bears with cubs are emerging from dens in Teton County. It’s safe to assume that the same is occurring in the high country of the Winds. If you’re heading out on an early season trip into the backcountry, go prepared with proper systems for hanging or otherwise securing your food and other attractants (think anything with a strong scent). Remember, bear spray is a last line of defense and IS NOT a substitute for taking precautions to avoid an encounter in the first place.
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!
*Snow data gathered from USDA SNOTEL
Bear Wise Wyoming, WY Fish & Game
Recreate Responsibly, Friends of the Bridger-Teton