New Fork Canyon Trail, three miles from the trailhead

UPDATE: New snow fall over the weekend returned snowline back down to around 9,400′. Reports show a couple new inches of snow at Elkhart Park and much more over 10,000′.

Oh, how good it is to see green again! Aspen trees are budding, grasses are sprouting, and warmer days bring about the omnipresent, bittersweet smell of sagebrush. This time of year is incredible for the rate at which we see nature changing. Bleak, dormant trails I hiked just a week ago now feel like rambles through the Pacific Northwest. The force with which mountain streams are rushing takes some of the mystery out of geologic history; it’s no wonder such majestic canyons were carved out beneath their feet.

 

When it comes to the condition of the trails, it looks like we are a week or two ahead of last year. The mud is already setting up on lower trails, making for pleasant early-season day hikes, though this may have changed again with the last couple days of rain. We’ve had a handful of warm, sunny days that sprung the flora to life and rose water levels in high streams. The color of the streams is still relatively clear, meaning melt-off hasn’t started in earnest among the high peaks. That snow is staying put above 10,000′ elevation, but we should see that start to change shortly.

 

Keep in mind that the weather this time of year is temperamental and highly unpredictable. Don’t let a sunny morning fool you; within minutes, the winds can bring in heavy cloud cover and lay down a new blanket of precipitation. Trails can go from solid to mud-pit just as fast. Whenever you hit the trail, go prepared with extra layers, your best rain shell, and a willingness to turn back if need be. It’s not the best weather we could ask for on Memorial Day weekend, but hey, it’s Wyoming!

 

Boulder Creek roaring through Boulder Canyon

Here’s the latest on the trailheads — expect ALL to be muddy after the last couple of days:

 

Big Sandy Trailhead (9,085’) – Snow Depth: 0-6″

The SNOTEL data is telling us that Big Sandy Trailhead is free of snow, but firsthand reports tell me it is inaccessible. Many points along the approach road are covered in snow drifts, and a number of downed trees add to the struggle. Mid-June is still our estimate on when the road will be snow-free and the downed trees will be taken care of. We’re so close!

 

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

Scab Creek Trailhead has been open for a couple of weeks now, and with the rapidly melting snow it’s fair to assume you can hike a few miles out from it. I have yet to hear a firsthand account from the trail as it is lesser used than others, but with the snowline at ~9,800′, that equates to about 4 miles of open trail, though shady sections approaching snow line could still be holding snow.

 

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

This weekend I was able to hike well past the beaver pond, about 4 miles up the canyon, no problem. By the looks of it, the trail was clear well past that point as well. There are a few sections of flooded and/or muddy trail along the way, but these particular sections tend to stay that way well into summer. Hikers should be able to make it to Ethel Lake, if not further, barring the potential for fallen trees further up the trail.

 

Elkhart Park Trailhead (9,350’) – Snow Depth: 0″

Elkhart Park is just opening up. The road to the trailhead is clear with the exception of one easily avoidable treefall. That said, the trailhead sits high and the trail is very shaded, so expect a good amount of loose, posthole-y snow immediately after the trailhead. Expect to wait another two weeks or so before enjoying a hike out of Elkhart Park.

 

Spring Creek Trailhead (8,200’) – Snow Depth: 0″

Spring Creek is melted and ready to hike, though you can’t get much further than Glimpse Lake due to fallen trees which haven’t been cleared from our major wind event in 2020. The few miles of trail up until this point are well worth it for the vistas of Fremont Lake and the Wind Rivers, but as of now Spring Creek is only suited for shorter dayhikes.

 

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

I was able to make it to the wilderness boundary on New Fork Canyon Trail this weekend. You can make it a few miles further without encountering snow. The mud situation has likely been made worse by the rain since I was out there, but the trail was setting up surprisingly well for late May. Wildlife is abundant in the canyon; in just a few miles I spotted a bald eagle, a great blue heron, and plenty of furry critters. The lake is totally ice-free and the campsites are filling up quick.

 

Green River Lakes Trailhead (8,040’) – Snow Depth: 0″

Green River Lakes is finally a go, which we can tell from the hoards of RVs and lifted vans headed that direction. The rain this week is sure to saturate the road again, but the snow is gone. Trails are still wet, especially lower down near the lakse, but people have been hiking past the upper lake.

 

I have started to receive questions about the Wind River High Route, so I want to clarify a couple more things. The closer you get to the center of the range, the longer the snow is going to hold. For those looking to cross high alpine passes, you can expect snow through July and into August in some places. Our “prime” backpacking season doesn’t start until mid- to late-July and lasts for a few short months into late September. Going earlier or later can mean increased risk of unbearable bugs and/or snow or otherwise inclement weather. Trips to the Divide are well worth it, though, so either hang in there or break out the crampons.

 

Even small mountain streams can hold big fish

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 7PM. You can reach us by phone (307) 367-2440 or send us an email, conditions@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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