Seasonal Roads And Campgrounds Opening Slowly This Year
While there has been some melting this month, there’s still a lot of snow in Utah’s mountain passes. As a result, several scenic drives and popular campgrounds won’t be open in time for Memorial Day weekend. KPCW’s Leslie Thatcher has more.
UDOT spokesman John Gleason says they expect to have the southern and eastern facing seasonal roads open for the weekend including Wolf Creek Pass and East Canyon. It’s reported that Wolf Creek still has about 3 feet of snow on it.
“Wolf Creek pass is one of the seasonal roads that we’re trying to plow in time for the Memorial Day weekend,” Gleason said. We also have East Canyon up further north than that and everything outside of Wolf Creek and East Canyon, we’re really waiting for Mother Nature to take its course and melt a little bit more of the snow pack up there before we go in with our equipment our plows and graders and get those seasonal roads open.”
UDOT generally has a number of the seasonal roads open by this time of the year but because of an unusual amount of snow this winter, Gleason says it’ll be later than usual. The UDOT website reports that some 15-20 feet of snow were reported this winter at Guardsman Pass, the Mirror Lake Highway and the Alpine Loop.
UDOT pulls out its heavy equipment to both plow and grade the snow packed roads. While 3 feet of snow is a lot to clear – it’s not like the 10 feet of snow that’s on the Mirror Lake Highway.
“I know they have graders that go up there they do have plows that help to finish the job but there are other machines that are involved as well,” Gleason said.
It’ll be several more weeks before the road to the Uintas gets opened this summer.
“Best guess for Mirror Lake Highway is going to be mid-June - maybe a little bit longer just depending on how much runoff happens, where the snowpack lies in the next week or two and will continue to monitor the situation to see when we can get up there and safely plow the roads and get those open as quickly as possible.”
U.S. Forest Service Seasonal Recreation Technician Jordan Risely says there is some camping available in the local mountains, up Mirror Lake Highway, but it’ll be cold.
“There's lots of rain forecasted and yeah, our lows are dipping into high 20s, so yeah, I'm sure there’ll be a little bit of snow.”
All of the lower campgrounds up to and including Cobble Rest are open and there are others on the north side of Highway 150 from Evanston.
“The way it's looking right now, you can't get past Cobble Rest even - there's so much snow,” said Risely. There's like a barrier wall of snow right after Cobble Rest which is only about 15 miles up the highway. Then from the other side, they're getting to Hayden's Fork campground, so we're thinking maybe like by mid-June we might get it cleared out.”
To reserve a campground, you have to go online to recreation.gov. The Forest Service doesn’t keep track of reservations, that’s done by a third party provider. But he says there are a number of sites available even without a reservation -- if you come early.
“About a 3rd of every like a 3rd of the number of our sites in every campground are first come - first serve,” he said.
Going south will be warmer, but even some of the favorite places in the Manti-La Sal national forest near Moab won’t be accessible due to the heavy snow and late thaw.
In all locations, rivers and creeks are high and moving fast. Use caution and always keep an eye on children and pets near water.