The whipping winds kept most of us inside for the better part of last week, but the sun stayed hard at work melting the snow. The next few days will bring lots of sunshine and temperatures reaching the upper 60s which will further accelerate melt-off. The snow line in the Wind River Range ascended 300 feet in elevation since our last report; it now sits at approximately 8,900’. Keep in mind, this elevation can vary depending on latitude and aspect; it is simply an average.
Lower-elevation trailheads are ready to rock and front country lakes are almost iced out. Traffic through our shop has seen a big uptick in the last two weeks, meaning the wait is over! The seasons are shifting, people are breaking the shackles of winter to explore, and the mountains are giving their first collective go-ahead.
It’s still full-on winter in the high country. Recent photos from around the Island Lake area (10,350′) show snowed-packed valleys and icy crags. This is normal. Larger loops into the high Wind River Range will remain covered or wet late into July, and, in some cases, longer. This time of year is perfect for day-hikes and shorter backpacking trips in lower terrain that will train your mind and body for summer treks.
Here’s what we learned about the trailheads this week:
Big Sandy Trailhead (9,085’) – Snow Depth: 22”
I have yet to hear any reports on the Big Sandy Trailhead, and that’s no surprise. This will be the last trailhead on our side of the Winds to open. It is still holding two feet of snow (double the amount we had this time last year) and that snow isn’t melting as fast as in the northern range. Of course, we’ll keep you posted, but I’m expecting at least four more weeks before Big Sandy Opening is a go.
Boulder Lake Trailhead (7,300’) – Snow Depth: 0”
Nothing new to report here; open and ready to explore! The trails are clear and dry a few miles past the trailhead in all directions. The lake is thawed.
Meadow Lake Trailhead (8,040’) – Snow Depth: 0”
Many people have been asking about the road to Meadow Lake lately, so I decided to take the drive. I’m glad to report back that the road is dry all the way to the trailhead, but becomes sketchy when continuing to the lake itself. Be warned, the drive here is not for the faint of heart, and high clearance is a must. The lakes in this area (Boulder, Burnt, Meadow) all look to be ice-free.
Elkhart Park Trailhead (9,350’) – Snow Depth: 12”
I was able to drive almost to the Skyline Drive Overlook — the last curve in the road before the trailhead — before snow and ice reclaimed the road. A higher-clearance, 4WD vehicle may have been able to make it further, but I wasn’t going to chance it. From the ridge, I was able to see that the southern half of Fremont Lake is free of ice and the northern half is soon to follow. Half Moon Lake is still mostly covered. This rate of melting snow and ice means Elkhart Park will open up earlier than expected, likely by early June. Great news for us hikers!
New Fork Lakes Trailhead (7,900’) – Snow Depth: 0”
Any patches of snow that remained in the first miles up New Fork Canyon Trail have disappeared. As I reported last week, snow in the lower canyon is virtually non-existent, but the mud tends to stick around here longer than in most places, so come prepared to get dirty.
Green River Lakes Trailhead (8,040’) – Snow Depth: 0”
I received a report just this morning that the road is clear and dry all the way to the lakes. One heck of a surprise, and a good one at that! That being said, if upcoming weather does re-muddy the road, we don’t recommend pushing through. This is in order to protect its integrity of the remainder of the season.
I mentioned in a previous report that wildlife is on the move this time of year, and it bears (haha) repeating. A long, cold winter means animals are more than happy to be out enjoying the delicious gifts of spring, including the tasty treats carried in by early-season hikers. When traveling in the Bridger-Teton National Forest and the designated wilderness therewithin you are REQUIRED to properly secure all food and other attractants (sunscreen, lip balm, etc.) against bears and other critters. This can mean a bear vault or a classic bear hang, but NOT a cooler, backpack, or tent. Bears that get a taste for human food tend to become aggressive in their pursuit for more, causing the Forest Service to have to resolve the issue. As the saying goes, “a fed bear is a dead bear,” so don’t be that person. Lock it up, pack it out!
Didn’t answer all your questions? 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
Mud Season Hiking Dos and Don’ts, Appalachian Mountain Club
Bear Wise Wyoming, WY Fish & Game
Recreate Responsibly, Friends of the Bridger-Teton