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Trail Conditions, 2012: Northwest Trails Will Be Among the Last to Melt Out This Summer

How are high-country trail conditions in the West in the summer of 2012?

Largely open and snow-free everywhere except the Northwest—Washington and Oregon—where late snowfall and cool spring temperatures have left most high-country trails still clogged with snow for the second July in a row.

In phone conversations with rangers, we at The REI Blog are hearing that high-elevation trails from California to Colorado are mostly melted out and open for travel.

YFRangers in the Sierra Nevada, in fact, are concerned about drought conditions that have already reduced Yosemite Falls in Yosemite National Park to a trickle. The image of the falls at the right was captured from a Yosemite webcam at midday today. (Thanks to the Yosemite Conservancy for the cam.)

Our guide is sorted alphabetically by state:

CALIFORNIA

YFYosemite NP. Main: 209-372-0200, press 3 then 5. Tuolumne Meadows ranger office: 209-372-0309. Yosemite offers no page that regularly updates individual trail conditions. However, it does provide overviews for general conditions within the park and wilderness within the park, plus basic information on trailheads, guides to day hikes and backcountry trails, a basic backpacking planner and information on obtaining a wilderness permit. Note: Yosemite Falls in springtime shown at right.

Sequoia/Kings Canyon NP. Main: 559-565-3341; Wilderness information: 559-565-3766. General wilderness planner; trail descriptions; trail conditions.

Lassen NP. Main: 530-595-4480. General conditions; guide to day hiking; trail conditions.

Inyo NF (comprising 4 ranger districts in the eastern Sierra Nevada; headquarters are in Bishop). Main: 760-873-2400; wilderness information 760-873-2485. Homepage for general recreation reports for 4 districts. General guides to day hikes and backcountry trails for all 4 districts.

• Mono Lake Basin Scenic Area Visitor Center (Lee Vining). Main: 760-657-3044. The general recreation report includes basic trail conditions

• Mammoth Lakes Visitor Center. Main: 760-924-5500. Trail conditions
 
• White Mountain Ranger Station (Bishop). Main: 760-873-2500. General recreation report.

• Mount Whitney Ranger Station, located inside the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center (Lone Pine).  Main: 760-876-6200; Mount Whitney hiking permits: 760-873-2483. General recreation report.

Klamath NF (Trinity Alps, Marble Mountains of northern California). Main: 530-842-6131. General wilderness information; see Alerts & Warnings in right-hand column for conditions update.

Pacific Crest Trail Association. Main: 916-285-1846. Trail conditions.

Tahoe Rim Trail Association. Main: 775-298-0012. Trail conditions.

COLORADO

Rocky Mountain NP. Main: 970-586-1206; backcountry information: 970-586-1242. General hiking informationtrail conditions.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP. Main: 970-641-2337. General hiking information; info on hiking the inner canyon; individual trail conditions not available online.

White River NF (Vail/Holy Cross/Aspen/Maroon Bells region). Main: 970-945-2521. General wilderness information; general guides to day hikes and backcountry trails; trail descriptions ("quicksheets"); individual trail conditions not available online.  

San Juan National Forest NF (southwest Colorado; Durango, Weminuche Wilderness). Main: 970-247-4874. General wilderness information; general guide to day hikes and backcountry trails; individual trail conditions not available online.

IDAHO

Sawtooth National Recreation Area (central Idaho). Headquarters: 208-727-5000. Ketchum Ranger Station: 208-622-5371. Stanley Ranger Station: 208-774-3000. General recreation conditions; refer to the Quick Links in the right-hand column for recreation reports (including trail conditions) in the Sawtooth NRA and Ketchum Ranger District. General wilderness information; general guide to day hikes and backcountry trails; individual trail conditions not available online. NF (central Idaho). Sawtooth NF HQ (Twin Falls): 208-737-3200. Mid-July snowline falls around 9,000 this year.

MONTANA

Glacier NP. Main: 406-888-7800. General hiking information; general backcountry camping informationbackcountry guide (PDF); trail conditions.

Flathead NF (Bob Marshall Wilderness, et al.). Main: 406-758-5208. General wilderness information; general guide to day hikes and backcountry trails; individual trail conditions not available online.

NEW MEXICO

Carson NF (northern New Mexico). Main: 575-758-6200. List of hiking trails and multiuse trails; readers are instructed to contact local district offices for current hiking conditions.

Santa Fe NF (northern New Mexico). Main: 505-438-5300. List of multiuse trails; individual trail conditions not available online.

OREGON

Crater Lake NP. Main: 541-594-3000. Current conditions, including trail conditions.

Deschutes NF (central Oregon). Main: 541-383-5300. Detroit Ranger District (administering much of the Mount Jefferson Wilderness): 503-854-3366. Sisters Ranger District (Three Sisters and Mount Jefferson wilderness areas): 541-549-7700. Current conditions in general; general wilderness information; general guide to day hikes and backcountry trails; individual trail conditions not available online.

Wallowa-Whitman NF (eastern Oregon). Main: 541-523-6391; Wallowa Mountains Visitor Center in Joseph (Eagle Cap Wilderness): 541-426-5546. Current conditions in general; general wilderness information; general guide to day hikes and backcountry trails; find trail reports for various districts by scrolling down on the Alerts & Notices page. As of this writing the most recent updates posted are from May 29, so a call might be in order. I'm told snow is still widespread above 6,500 feet; Eagle Cap's summit, the highpoint in the wilderness, is 9,572 feet..

UTAH

Bryce Canyon NP. Main: 435-834-5322. General hiking information; individual trail conditions not available online. 

Uinta-Wasatch-Cache NF (northern Utah). Phones: 801-466-6411 (inside REI's Salt Lake City store); 801-342-5100 (Provo); 801-236-3400 (Salt Lake City). General conditions; individual trail conditions not available online. General wilderness information; general guide to day hikes and backcountry trails; individual trail conditions not available online.

WASHINGTON

Mount Rainier NP. Main: 360-569-2211; Longmire Wilderness Information Center: 360-569-6650; White River Wilderness Information Center: 360-569-6670. General wilderness information; wilderness trip planner (PDF); lists of day hikes and of all trails in the parktrail conditions.

PCTNorth Cascades NP Complex. Park and Forest information center (Sedro-Woolley, Wash.): 360-854-7200; Wilderness Information Center: 360-854-7245. Wilderness trip planner; a combined list of park trails plus separate lists for day hiking, backpacking and backpacking loop trips; trail conditions

Olympic NP.
Main: 360-565-3130; Wilderness Information Center: 360-565-3100. Wilderness trip planner; general trail guide; trail conditions.

Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. Johnston Ridge Observatory: 360-274-2140. Road and trail conditions.  

Mount Baker Snoqualmie NF (Glacier Peak Wilderness, the Enchantments, et al., in northwestern Washington). Recreation Information Desk at REI Seattle: 206-470-4060; Office: 425-783-6000; 800-627-0062. Road and trail status homepage; click on any of the links to located individual trail (and road) information for any of the 8 regions within this large forest.

Okanogan and Wenatchee NFs (Pasayten Wilderness and other public lands east of North Cascades NP). Main: 509-664-9200. Intermittently revised trail conditions.

Note: For the first summer since 2003, the customary Pacific Crest Trail route can be traveled on the west side of Glacier Peak, thanks to the completion of a new bridge across the Suiattle River in the Glacier Peak Wilderness. In other words, no more detour. Rah! The REI Blog filed a report and slide show on bridge repairs last year.

WYOMING

Yellowstone NP. Main (recorded information) 307-344-7381; backcountry information: 307-344-2160. General conditions; general trip planner (PDF); backcountry trip planner; individual trail conditions not available online. 

Grand Teton NP. Main: 307-739-3300. General hiking information; day hiking trailhead guide; wilderness trip planner (PDF); a blog that offers route reports including general trail conditions; individual trail conditions not available online. 

Bridger-Teton NF (west-central Wyoming). Main: 307-739-5500; Wind River Range: 307-367-4326. General wilderness information; general guide to day hikes and backpacking trails; individual trail conditions not available online.

GENERAL REFERENCE

• National Park Service units by state.
• National Forests by state.
• Bureau of Land Management (BLM) homepage.
• Incidents (such as wildfires) on public lands.

FOOTNOTES

• In California, a major trail challenge this year has been clearing fallen trees caused by a major windstorm that blasted the Sierra Nevada on Nov. 30, 2011. Blowdown covered many miles of the Pacific Crest Trail and John Muir Trail (see PDF maps of impacted trails in Agnew Meadows, Rush Creek/June Lake, Devils Postpile and Mammoth Lakes Basin), and much effort has been spent to clear the trails of downed timber. In the popular Reds Meadow area alone (site of Devils Postpile National Monument, near the town of Mammoth Lakes, Calif.), more than 2,800 trees have been cleared to open roads and trails.

• A key issue for backpackers in the Sierra this summer could be water availability. Seasonal streams are already drying up, one Yosemite ranger tells me. So consider filling water containers with above-average frequency when in the area. The same ranger tells me most Pacific Crest Trail through hikers—between 600 and 700, per her estimate, moved north through Tuolumne Meadows last week. 

• Not every park or forest in the West is listed. This is a selective list focused on areas with high-elevation trails (generally 5,000 feet and higher). So, for example, Utah's hot-weather parks (Zion, Arches, Capitol Reef and Canyonlands) are not listed.

• Not every park or forest mentioned in this list offers regularly updated trail reports. We note those that do by putting the words trail conditions in boldface type.

• Many forests, and even some parks, operate on shoestring budgets and lack the staff to maintain online trail reports. In such cases, give office personnel a call at the phone numbers provided. They consistently make good-faith efforts to provide current information. Just please understand the people answering phones are often office-bound and do not have first-hand knowledge of trail conditions. Ask if a wilderness ranger might be in the office when you call and see if you can speak to that person.

• We assembled this list on the presumption that official government sites are likely to be the most reliable and consistently updated information resources. Some nongovernment sites we find useful include:

• SummitPost, principally a mountaineering site
• Washington Trails Association
• New England Trails Conditions
• Pinedale (Wyo.) Online, for info on trails in the Wind River Range

If you know of others that have benefited you, please feel free to share. How are trail conditions in your favorite hiking spots?

Finally, a list of new guidebooks that have recently reached REI:

book• Hiking Colorado's Front Range (2nd edition), by Bob D'Antonio
Colorado Adventure Guide, Northern Edition, by Charlie Nuttelman. 
• Hiking Glacier and Waterton Lakes National Parks (4th edition), by Erik Molvar
• Hiking Wyoming's Wind River Range (2nd edition), by Ron/Beth Adkinson
• Best Hikes Near Salt Lake City, by Lori J. Lee
• Sedona Rocks! A Climber's Guide, by David Bloom and Erik Wolfe
• Best Climbs: Cascade Volcanoes, by Jeff Smoot
60 Hikes within 60 Miles: Minneapolis and St. Paul, by Tom Watson
• Best Tent Camping: New England, by Lafe Low 

Trail photos © by T.D. Wood.

Posted on at 4:38 PM

Tagged: national parks and trail conditions

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