Welcome back to the Dan Bailey’s Trail Report! We’re having a quite warm spring this year, and everyone is very ready to get outside and go enjoy this incredible place we call home. Low level snow is melting out quickly, and many of our area trails are dry and in good shape.
Before we get into trail specifics, let’s go over a few things that apply across the board.
It’s still spring. It’s still reasonably early in the spring. Keep in mind that yes, it might be 80 degrees in town, but there is still going to be snow in the high country. With the warmer temps we can expect this snow to be reasonably unstable, especially in the afternoon. If you’re moving around in the high country, do so in the morning before the snow has a chance to warm up. Wet slide avalanches are a very real concern this time of year. Just be smart, be careful, and be aware of your surroundings.
On that note, as our snow melts and the day and night time temps warm, keep in mind where all this melting snow is going. All our mountain streams are full from spring runoff. If you think the stream is too high to cross, back off and don’t attempt the crossing. We have an awesome long hiking season ahead of us. Don’t ruin it by getting injured, or worse, by attempting a stream crossing that is gushing.
Since we’re talking about water… Many of our favorite lower level trails are still muddy. As the snow melts it’s going to run off into the trails and low lying areas. If you encounter a muddy stretch on the trail do us all a favor - don’t go around it. Yes, your shoes are going to get muddy. So what, you can wash them off at home. If you walk around muddy areas you are widening trails and contributing to trail erosion that no one wants to see. If trails are super muddy, might be time to find another one!
As the mountains spring to life, you’ll begin to see wildflowers starting to show up. Yes, they’re amazing! We all love wildflowers, and we have months of them ahead. As pretty as they are, try to leave them alone. That instagram photo of you walking through the field of flowers isn’t going to get as many likes as you’d think, and leaving them untouched to be enjoyed by all is the best way to share this beauty.
The last thing we’ll mention is bears. This is the time of year when they are waking up and moving around. Always practice being bear aware - make noise in areas when you don’t have much visibility, carry bear spray and know how to use it, and be aware of your surroundings. Bear spray is the most effective way to stop an aggressive bear, and it’s really important to know how it works and how to use it. Be sure to carry it in a place that is easy to reach and grab, not in your pack. The odds are OVERWHELMING that you will never need it, but better to be prepared than not!
The Suce Creek loop is now completely free of snow. This is a fun one that we missed out on last year due to bear activity on a carcass in the first mile or so. Be watching for wildflowers, and enjoy the view!
The gate is open at Snowbank and many of the trails are drying out nicely. The first several miles of most of the trails up Mill Creek are dry, except for north facing aspects and low lying areas where water might be running. Passage Creek Falls is a great option, as is Jomaha, or East Dam Creek. As mentioned above, be mindful of stream crossings. They’re at their most challenging right now because of spring runoff.
UPDATE: From our friend Steve Caldwell this afternoon - "East Mill this morning - dry trail for at least the first 4-5 miles. Heads-up: large grizzly on a carcass ten yards off the trail 3 miles past the bridge. Feeling pretty lucky right now."
The gate at the bottom of Hyalite Canyon is now open for public use! We would exercise some caution on the drive, just in case there is a slide or rock fall on the road. Many of the trails up the canyon are clear for the first mile or so, but you can generally expect mud and wet conditions in heavily forested and north facing areas. You will encounter more snow the higher up you go. If you’re headed up here to try to reach one of the many lakes, you might want to push that back a few weeks. The high country is still pretty iced over.
The trail is clear of snow and reasonably dry to the falls. We’ve been receiving a lot of questions about Pine Creek Lake. Don’t plan to go to Pine Creek Lake quite yet, unless you’re prepared for what can be a hazardous creek crossing about a mile above the Falls, wet slide avalanche concerns, and are familiar with the route, because it’s mostly snow covered. We’ll keep you posted as conditions change to Pine Creek Lake; one of the most popular destinations in SW Montana for good reason.
George Lake Trail
From our friend Sarah with the Livingston Bike Club: "We rode (MTB) GL two days ago-Wednesday afternoon and finished just before it rained heavily. It was NOT muddy (just a bit slippy) and the trail is free from snow at least up to and past Big Bertha. There’s some downed logs 50feet past the crest of the BB switchback. We might bring a saw over the weekend. There’s a dangerous half bucked log lower down that slid down the hill over season that needs another chop."
South Fork Deep Creek
The first two miles are mostly dry and clear. Expect snow travel to reach the saddle. There is still a good bit of snow higher up on the trail.
Have you been out recently and have a report to share? We want to hear it! Having updated information is important, especially at this point in the year when things change on a daily basis. If you have any info or pictures to share, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. Our goal is to make this report as accurate and community focused as we can to become a useful resource for everyone to use and enjoy.
A big thanks to Shane Rickert and Leann Mitchell for sharing their images for this week's report!