Friday, April 27, 2007

Warm weather creates mixed bag on local trails

With many trails still closed, Forest Service asks trail users to stay off muddy areas

Express Staff Writer

Two mountain bikers head out from the Adams Gulch Trailhead, northwest of downtown Ketchum, with their dogs on Wednesday afternoon. Although a number of Wood River Valley backcountry trails are open and snowfree, many more still remain mud- and snow-clogged. The U.S. Forest Service is asking trail users to respect signs indicating trail closures and stay away from muddy areas. Photo by David N. Seelig

Spring can try the patience of Wood River Valley trail runners, mountain bikers and other backcountry trail users.

In an average year, most area trails aren't snow and mud free—and therefor open—until at least late-May, said Renee Catherine, trails coordinator for the Sawtooth National Forest's Ketchum Ranger District.

With below-average snowfall during the 2006-2007 winter, many of those trails are already open, Catherine said Thursday.

"We've got this whole labyrinth of trails open," she said.

Still, many trails remain snow-covered and muddy, and deciding whether to ride a trail or not comes down to one thing, Catherine said.

"If you leave a muddy track, turn back."

The difference between muddy trails in the summer and the spring is distinct. In the spring, inch-wide lateral bicycle tracks can lead to water channeling and long-term rutting that is difficult to correct.

"Right now we've got saturated conditions," Catherine said. "Now is the time to make or break them."

Fortunately, most trails currently unsuitable for use are signed as such by Big Wood Backcountry Trails volunteers.

This time of year, patience is definitely a virtue, she said. Within several weeks, most area trails now closed should be open and ready for use.

The Forest Service doesn't use enforcement or a special closure to keep users off sensitive trails in the spring.

"It's definitely an honor system," Catherine said.

The following conditions exist on local trails:

Adams Gulch: Sunnyside, Citizens and Lane's Trails are open. Harpers Trail is open as an out-and-back trip. Eve's Gulch, Shadyside and the upper loop of Adams Gulch trail and the upper portion of Adams Gulch Road remain closed.

Heidelberg Hill (Wanderers Way): is open for three-quarters of a mile, up and back. The north side from the ridgeline into Adams Gulch remains closed.

Greenhorn Area: the Cow Creek Trail is open for 2.5-miles, out-and-back. Lodgepole, Mahoney and Greenhorn trails are also open for about two miles. Sawmill trail is still holding snow, mud and ice, and is closed.

Trail Creek: Trail Creek Trail is open; portions of Corral Creek and Aspen Creek trails are open.

Proctor Trail: Open.

Lake Creek: Open for about two miles as an out-and-back option. A two-track trail is open, with access from the Lake Creek Trailhead. Cross the steel bridge and follow the new trail that leads up to the bench.

Fox Creek area: Fox Creek, Chocolate Gulch and Oregon Gulch remain closed.

For regularly updated Wood River Valley trail conditions, go to the Big Wood Backcountry Trails Web site at, and click on the "Trail News" link.

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