New Fork Canyon as seen from above New Fork Lakes – the snow has almost disappeared from the canyon floor

Holy cow, the snow is melting fast! In the past week, many of the trailheads on our side of the range melted off completely and our overall snow line rose another 600’; it now sits around 8,600’. Lower elevation lakes are thawing quickly, with Boulder Lake leading the charge. As of May 1, Wildlife Habitat Management Areas – this includes Soda Lake, Half Moon, Scab Creek and others – are reopen to human traffic. The low country of the Wind River Range is ready to welcome us back, ahead of schedule even.

 

That being said, there are inherent environmental and personal risks that come with early-season travel in the backcountry. Freshly exposed trails can be wet, loose and extremely susceptible to erosion – this applies doubly to slopes. Whenever possible, travel on hard, durable surfaces such as rocks or snow. If this isn’t an option, stay on the center of the trail and embrace the mud. Going off trail tramples and destroys fragile fauna which is slow to recover. For example, the cryptobiotic soil crusts made up of algae and other living organisms that can be found in much of our high desert terrain may take several decades to bounce back from disruption. Remember, the future of our wild spaces is the responsibility of those who venture into them, so please, explore responsibly.

 

The Scab Creek Trailhead, surprisingly free of snow in early-May

 

Here’s the latest on the trailheads:

 

Big Sandy Trailhead (9,080’) – Snow Depth: 31”

Not much has changed with the situation at Big Sandy. Another six inches of snow has gone, but we are still a long way out from driving to the trailhead. This trailhead is usually the last in the Winds to open and it looks like the pattern will continue. I recently spoke with the trailhead supervisor for Big Sandy Opening and we agree on expecting accessibility by mid-June.

 

Scab Creek Trailhead (8,200’) – Snow Depth: 0”

To my surprise, I was able to drive to the Scab Creek trailhead this week with no issues. Even crazier is the fact that the peaks surrounding the area are free of snow up to 9,400’. I did not hike any significant distance from the trailhead, but it would be safe to guess the trail is mostly clear to the Wilderness boundary.

 

Boulder Lake Trailhead (7,300’) – Snow Depth: 0”

I have been hiking here for weeks now and it is great. The trails are clear and mostly dry for a few miles in each direction, including the steep ascent to Blueberry Lake. Plus, Boulder Lake is free of ice and the fish are biting. It’s go-time in the Boulder area!

 

Elkhart Park Trailhead (9,350’) – Snow Depth: 19”

As is to be expected, the road up to Elkhart Park is still holding snow and is impassable. We’ve had reports of vehicles getting within a mile of the trailhead, but not without some sketchy moments. Full accessibility is not expected until June.

 

New Fork Lakes Trailhead (7,900’) – Snow Depth: 0”

The New Fork Lakes trailhead can be deceptive. I was able to drive to the trailhead with ease, and there are only a few patches of snow on shadier aspects of the trail, but it still may be weeks until a trip up the canyon is enjoyable. Why? SO MUCH MUD. For one reason or another, this tends to be up there with the worst of the muddy trails, and continues as such until late May or even June. Either hold off on this trail or prepare to get dirty.

 

Green River Lakes Trailhead (8,040’) – Snow Depth: 0-4”

The snow in the Green River Lakes area really thinned out this week, and the road is clear of it. However, we strongly advise against attempting the drive. After the National Forest boundary, the route is essentially a mud pit. Even with 4WD and high clearance, please avoid trying to reach the lakes, for your own sake and for the sake of the road. Patience . . . we’ll be out there soon!

 

A beautiful little brown pulled out of the Upper Green this week

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, info@greatoutdoorshop.com. We look forward to hearing from you!

 

*Snow data gathered from USDA SNOTEL

 

Additional Resources:

Mud Season Hiking Dos and Don’ts, Appalachian Mountain Club

Bear Wise Wyoming, WY Fish & Game

Recreate Responsibly, Friends of the Bridger-Teton

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