Winds vs. Yellowstone late June
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Adrian Swanson
(storunner13)

Locale: Upper Midwest
Winds vs. Yellowstone late June on 05/07/2013 13:05:28 MDT Print View

3 of my companions and I are planning our annual backpacking trip. Past years have taken us to the Grand Canyon, Glacier, and the Grand Gulch area in SE Utah.
This year, we discussed doing a long hike in the Wind River Range in WY. However, we assumed that the snow would be a problem in higher altitudes, and therefore limiting our ability hiking from peak to peak on the west side--which I hear is a fantastic part about the Winds.
Is anyone familiar with the area that can account for the snow melt / passability of the Mid to Nothern section of the winds?

If it is indeed as we assume, we'll hike Yellowstone instead. If the terrain is good, I'm thinking we'll look to cover 80-100 miles in 6 days. Any insight on where we should do our backcountry hike? I'm thinking Northwest..or maybe the southern part?

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: late June, Winds and Ystone on 05/07/2013 20:16:12 MDT Print View

I cant speak to the Winds in late June.

The issue you'll run into in Yellowstone that time of year is stream crossings. Places like the Lamar, Bechler, and upper Yellowstone will be quite big. It'd be tricky, but possible, to plan a ~90 mile route which would avoid said hazards. There are also numerous bear closures in late June.

Pushing your trip back 3-4 weeks will put you solidly into skeeter season, but make other aspects simpler to manage.

Joe S
(ThreeRidges) - M
Winds on 05/07/2013 20:26:53 MDT Print View

I was out in the Winds in July/August and it was amazing. But call the folks in Pinedale at the Outdoors shop, they were very helpful to me in 1989, and I'm sure can give you the lowdown on conditions.
http://www.greatoutdoorshop.com/index.htm

Adrian Swanson
(storunner13)

Locale: Upper Midwest
Winds / Yellowstone on 05/08/2013 10:14:23 MDT Print View

Yeah--I was worried about dangerous river / stream crossings in Yellowstone. I'll have to do some more research. It seems that every option has a downside...

And I think I'll give that outfitter a call to pick their brain. Maybe my concerns about the high altitudes are unfounded...

Adrian Swanson
(storunner13)

Locale: Upper Midwest
Lower Yellowstone on 05/08/2013 10:18:41 MDT Print View

Would backpacking in lower Yellowstone be any better? Near Lake Shoshone? My crew is OK with some big stream crossings, but I wouldn't want it to be a huge hassle that might put a damper on the trip.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: Lower Yellowstone on 05/08/2013 12:33:25 MDT Print View

Shoshone Lake is a worthy destination. The geyser basin in particular can occupy most of a day.

Weaving that into a 100 mile route is more difficult. The upper Bechler fords are really rowdy and probably not doable without a boat in June. Bear closures along the southern margin of Yellowstone Lake make that route not possible, as well.

One alternative which would be high quality is a point-to-point from Old Faithful past Shoshone Lake, along the Snake River, and south ending at Turpin Meadows south of the park. A side excursion to the Thorofare (where the Yellowstone River meets Thorofare Creek) is worthwhile and unlike later in the summer you wouldn't be dodging pack trains and mule crap all day. There is a bridge over the Yellowstone just south of the park, near Hawks Rest.

The problem with that route is you'd have to cross the Snake at least once. I lack the personal experience to say how realistic that is.

Adrian Swanson
(storunner13)

Locale: Upper Midwest
Yellowstone on 05/08/2013 14:37:12 MDT Print View

Thanks, Dave.

I read some of your comments on this thread (http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?forum_thread_id=63854) though I understand the different time of year changes things.

I'll dig a little deeper and pick some routes where river crossings are few. I've also found the details on bear restrictions (that I had looked at before, but not as closely as I should have). Thanks for pointing that out. It looks like Heart Lake area would be closed when we'll be hiking--so we'd have to stick to the South Boundary trail if we wanted to travel. Mist Creek west of Pelican valley is also closed--so it would be an out-and-back on the Lamar River trail--or hike into the Shoshone Nat'l Forest out of the park.

The South Boundary trail is open--but I can't find too much info on it--have you hiked there? It seems to be a lot of mountain ups and downs--worthwhile part of Yellowstone?

How strict are the bear restrictions on the trails? Would slipping along the Snake River trail (closed through June) be ok if we don't schedule our campsites in the area?

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: South Boundary on 05/08/2013 15:38:36 MDT Print View

The South Boundary is mixed high montane forest and meadows. I quite like it as it's a rather unique biome, but it won't provide too many huge views. The Snake River valley is pretty darn cool and more open.

It's worth asking about bear restrictions, but if the BC office tells you no expect a fat ticket if you do it anyway and get caught.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife

Locale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
Winds vs. Yellowstone late June on 05/08/2013 16:20:31 MDT Print View

I'd check the snow levels in the Winds in early to mid June before discarding that idea. (I haven't kept up on this year's snowpack because I'm not even trying to go this year.) Stream fords can be an issue in the Winds, too--the USFS builds bridges only where the fords are unsafe for horses in low water! Nancy Pallister, the guidebook author, says that Pole Creek and Middle Fork Boulder Creek are the two most dangerous stream crossings in high water. However, they can be detoured (for example, cross Pole Creek just below Cook Lakes). Last year, late June would have been just fine. In addition to the usual snowpack sites, as already mentioned, the Great Outdoors Shop is a good source--thanks to their shuttle service, they see a lot of hikers coming out.

More alpine terrain, less bureaucracy--just my $.02!

Edited by hikinggranny on 05/08/2013 16:21:15 MDT.

Adrian Swanson
(storunner13)

Locale: Upper Midwest
Winds and Yellowstone on 05/09/2013 07:50:09 MDT Print View

Thanks again David. And you too Mary!

I think I now know some of the questions I should be asking. I'll make some calls soon to area outfitters to see what conditions are too be expected and report back.

Thanks for helping a novice help understand the area!

Ethan Hazzard-Watkins
(ethanhw) - F

Locale: Vermont
Winds snowpack on 05/14/2013 19:00:32 MDT Print View

I recommend this site:

http://www.wrds.uwyo.edu/wrds/nrcs/snowprec/snowprec.html

It shows current snowpack conditions as a percentage of average for the various river basins that drain the Winds. Right now it looks like things are below average across the board, and as low as 50% of average in some areas. In terms of what that means on the ground in a certain area on a specific date, I'd suggest keeping an eye on the post-trip reports section of BPL as well as calling the local outfitters that have already been mentioned.

I also highly recommend Nancy Pallister's book which you can order here:

http://www.mcreynoldscpa.com/BeyondTrails

I've done off-trail routes both of the last two summers based on info in Pallister's book, and both trips were spectacular. 2011 was a very snowy year, and we spent a lot of time walking on snow even in late August. 2012 had much lower snowfall and the conditions were ideal.

I hope you have an amazing trip, wherever you end up!