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Sierra snowpack and trailhead report


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If you've been reading the news, you know that the snowpack in some parts of the Sierra is 5% of normal. That's a disaster.

It's so dry that we're seriously considering taking a few backpacking trips this spring that head up into the Sierra high country. Normally, we're not excited about sleeping on snow, spending ten hours of darkness in our tent, or slipping and sliding over ice and mush for much of the day.

But this year, those seems like high class problems. There is no snow in the Sierra, particularly if you head further south. We called four different ranger stations in the last twenty-four hours to discuss the conditions on the trails in their area. Here's what we learned:

Beasore Road out of Bass Lake in the Sierra National Forest is open and clear all way to Globe Rock. The side roads to the various trailheads in that region may also be clear, but nobody from the USFS has bothered to drive them yet. This road generally doesn't open up until late May or June. It's March. Snow levels are at about 8500 feet or so. They suggested that hikers might be more worried about mud than snow.

On the East side, many roads and trailheads are open in the Hoover Wilderness. Snow begins at about 8,000 to 8,500 feet, and doesn't really get to full coverage until about 9,000 feet. Kirman Lake, Buckeye Canyon, and most of those East side trailheads are at least open.

Emigrant Wilderness snows levels are lower, down to about 7,500 feet, so the roads and trailheads are not open. 108 is closed at the snow park 7 miles past Dodge Ridge. Crabtree Road is closed at Dodge Ridge.

Donner Pass snow level in the Tahoe NF is much lower, down to 6,500 feet or so. If you want to hike this area, you'll be hiking on snow.

Of course, all of this could change if we were blessed with a couple of massive snowstorms...that don't seem to be on the horizon.

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I've been checking the Whitney Portal forum (http://whitneyportalstore.com/) from time to time, as people post trip reports that give an idea of the southern Sierra snowpack. It looks like there's still a decent amount of snow at Whitney Portal (~8500 feet), so although the winter may have been insanely dry, that doesn't mean it's quite summer yet. Still, I'm expecting that May will be more like a normal June, with the snow consolidated or gone, and maybe even swarms of mosquitos.

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  • 1 year later...

What a difference a year makes. In 2016, a year later the snowpack is a little more than 100%.  The reservoirs are coming up.  More to come.

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