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Trip Reporters Talk Snow and Ice

Posted by cwakenshaw at Jan 07, 2022 11:51 AM |
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One of the best sources of information and inspiration during winter are trip reports from hikers who are out there seeing conditions first hand. Here are some of the things trip reporters have been finding out on trail during the start of winter.

Hiking during the winter poses a special set of challenges, and checking road and trail conditions becomes even more important as snow and ice cover the mountains and foothills. Conditions this winter have been especially dicey with a huge snow event that closed four major mountain passes and cranked the avalanche risk to high. And things change fast. In an instance storms can roll in, rivers can overflow their banks, roads can close and fallen trees can block trails. 

One of the best sources of information and inspiration during this time of year are trip reports from hikers who are out there seeing conditions first hand. We've got a few tips for how to write a helpful trip report during the winter and some trip reports illustrating what's going on with trails so far this season. 

A small snowman on a snow-covered picnic table along a hiking trail.
Winter trip reports are a great source of joy and inspiration. Photo by Cascade Yeti. 

Winter Trip Report Tips

If you're writing a trip report for a winter trail, there are a few details that can be extra helpful to your fellow hikers.

  • What were the roads like? Road conditions change quickly during the winter. Including an overview of the drive can help others go prepared. 
  • How's the trailhead? Including some details about the parking situation can help a lot. Is the trailhead covered in snow or clear, and are facilities like bathrooms and drinking fountains open and functioning? 
  • Any obstacles on trail? Fallen trees, washouts and other obstacle are common in the winter and can occur unexpectedly. Trip reporters are often the first ones to relay this information to the public. 
  • Is there snow and ice on the trail? Describing the location, type and amount of snow on trail is great information to include for those reading your report. Describing the snow gear you used is also helpful. Did you need snowshoes, traction devices or regular hiking boots? 

A herd of Roosevelt elk crossing the Quinault River.
A herd of elk crossing the Quinault River. Mike Groenewegen.

Tales from the Trails

Icicles and elk: The road to the Enchanted Valley trailhead was blocked by some fallen trees, so this trip reporter walked in along the road, spotted a herd of elk crossing the Quinault River and ended at a frozen log bridge flanked by a curtain of icicles. From their report: “Saw 3 bald eagles soaring overhead, a herd of elk galloping through the Quinault River, and was able to take in the streams and waterfalls along the road that aren’t as fully realized while driving.”

Ice everywhere: Trip Reporter Dream Delay encountered a lot of icy spots along the Walt Bailey to Cutthroat Lakes Trail. From their report: “Mud, frozen mud pits, ice, ice logs, rocks, boulders, high steps, iced high steps, iced rocks, you name it.”

Winter driving: Getting to the trailhead can be the most difficult part of a winter hike. Trip reporter cbarth describes a snowy drive to High Hut Snowshoe and the importance of knowing your vehicle’s limits. From their report: "Experience driving in winter conditions is important to assess whether your vehicle can make it/needs chains/should turn around." And this report for Dalles Ridge Snowshoe reminds us that just because the highway is clear of snow that doesn’t mean the trailheads will be. They had to go to their third option because the first two trailheads were snowed in.

A unique piece of ice hangs from a tree branch hanging over a stream.
A cool ice formation over Bear Creek. Photo by Wafflesnfalafel. 

Slippery trails: On a local neighborhood trail, this trip reporter spotted some cool ice formations hanging above Bear Creek. They also came upon some icy patches on the trail that were quite slippery. From their report: “there are a few bits with exposed ice over the trail which are darn slippery currently and once the rain comes there will be considerable mud.”

Backup plan: This trip reporter illustrates the importance of having an alternate trail planned in case your first choice doesn’t work out. When their intended destination turned out to be closed, they headed to nearby Sharpe Park where they had a great hike in a snowy landscape. From their report: “This was first time hiking there in the snow. I have been there in all seasons to experience the changes and the snow transformed it into an added dimension.”

A person lays in the snow making a snow angel.
Doing a snow angel at Ueland Tree Farm. Photo by RideDive. 

Snow angel: At Ueland Tree Farm this trip reporter and their family were the first to walk on the fresh snow. They had such a great time on their hike they even made a snow angel. From their report: “A fabulous location for a wintery jaunt through the forest with the entire family.”

Deep snow and navigation: At Mount Spokane State Park, this trip reporter encountered a snowy landscape that required some navigation skills since the trails were covered. And the snow-covered building they came across looks truly magical. From their report: “Staying on the beaten path was easy, but once I got off of it I was sinking down 1’-2’ in areas without tails.”

Write your own trip report to help your fellow hikers stay informed about winter conditions.