Friday, May 25, 2007

Conditions are ripe for backcountry play

Low snow conditions means excellent access for Memorial Day weekend

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum resident Susan Noyes and her 15-year-old dog, Hoppy, hike along a trail in the Trail Creek area Wednesday afternoon. Trail users in the Wood River Valley and in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area near Stanley will have a number of trails to choose from this weekend due to low snow conditions. Photo by David N. Seelig

Hikers, mountain bikers and trail runners, rejoice. A slew of local trails are calling your name.

This year the Memorial Day weekend promises to be an excellent one in terms of accessing snow-free recreation opportunities on public lands throughout the Wood River Valley and to the north in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area.

"Compared to last year that's certainly the case," said Joe Miczulski, recreation specialist for the Ketchum Ranger District.

While snow-covered areas do certainly persist throughout the area, they're generally found on passes above 8,500 feet and on higher elevation, north-facing slopes, Miczulski said. Throughout the area, the Forest Service is asking people to use judgment and turn back where conditions become muddy.

In the spirit of giving you the dirt, here's a rundown on conditions provided by local Forest Service offices on local trails and roads in the Ketchum Ranger District and the SNRA.

Ketchum Ranger District

On the Ketchum Ranger District of the Sawtooth National Forest—which covers much of the public lands within the Wood River Valley—trail users can expect the following conditions this weekend:

- Adams Gulch: Sunnyside, Citizens, Lane's and Shadyside trails are open. Eve's Gulch and the upper portion of Adams Gulch trail approaching Fox Peak are still partially closed by snow and have muddy conditions.

- Greenhorn Gulch area: Cow Creek and all lower elevation portions of Greenhorn, Mahoney, Lodgepole, Mahoney Ridge and Imperial trails are open. However, snow patches and muddy conditions are still present on these trails at the higher elevations, including the junctions of Mahoney to Red Warrior and Imperial to Greenhorn. On the Lodgepole Trail, people are being asked to use judgment and turn back where conditions become muddy.

- Proctor Trail: Bicyclists are asked to not use this trail. It is open to hikers and equestrians.

- Lake Creek: All lower portions are open. In the event of high water, people are being asked to use Hulen Meadows to access these trails rather then the Lake Creek Trailhead.

- Chocolate, Oregon Gulch and Fox Creek area: These loops are drying out quickly. While the lower portions of trails 149, 149A and 301 are open, upper trails 183 and 149C connecting to the East Fork of Baker Creek Road are still under patchy snow. People are being asked to use judgment and turn back where conditions become muddy.

- Bear-Parker: Open with several small isolated snow banks at the top. Though the area is recommended for bikes, those on foot and horses, it's not recommended for motorcycles yet.

- Deer Creek Area: The Main Deer Creek, North Fork and Kinsey Creek trails are open. There are a few small logs across Main Deer Creek trail. The Curran Creek trail is not recommended due to a steep, eroding stream bank at the first crossing. Work is scheduled for the Curran Creek trail in late July.

- Pioneer Cabin-Corral Creek: Open with scattered snow banks across the trail for the last two miles. A few small trees are across the trail at the top.

- Warm Springs Ridge, Rock and Roll Canyon, Johnstone, Long Gulch and Summit trails: Not recommended yet. All of these trails are reported to still be holding snow in shaded areas at higher elevations and are wet and vulnerable to damage.

Sawtooth National Recreation Area

While many trails in the SNRA remain snowy and muddy on north-facing areas, the following are either snow free or contain significant stretches of snow-free hiking:

- Hell Roaring Creek-Hell Roaring Lake: The trail is open all the way to Hell Roaring Lake.

- Bench Lakes Trail: While the lowest of the Bench Lakes is accessible, the last quarter mile has patches of snow.

- Boundary Creek trail: The trail is open all the way to the top of the main ridge.

- Fishhook Creek: The trail is open.

- Stanley Lake Creek: Lower portions of the trail are open.

- Elk Creek-Elk Meadow: Lower elevation trails in this area are open. People are asked to be cautious of high water, and stay away from muddy areas.

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