Lots of Snow Still to Melt in the High Country of Colorado
The Flat Tops Wilderness has tons of winter snow still to melt. The high country trails are covered in deep punchy drifts. It may be several weeks before you can count on easy access. However, with that said, the Flat Tops are still worth exploring. The amount of snow up there is amazing!
Above Average Snow This Spring
It is no secret this past winter Steamboat Springs had a banner winter. We had above average snow all winter. What is perhaps a little less known is how our Spring increased the snowpack even more. A great example is on June 21, 2019, the Summer Solstice, 20 inches of snow fell on top of the Steamboat ski area. A rain/snow mix fell in the lower valleys.
With late season snow and cooler temperatures the snow up high is melting slowly. Typically, Colorado rivers peak with runoff the first or second week of June. Here we are late June and I don’t believe peak water is here yet… the high country snow is yet to melt with any significance.
Stillwater Reservoir Trailhead
Back at the Flat Tops we drove to Stillwater Reservoir where some of the more popular trailheads are. Trails to the Devils Causeway, Derby Pass, and the Bear River Trail are under 5′, 6′ and even 8′ snow drifts. Trails a little lower down from Stillwater like Smith Lake or the Mandell Lakes are not much better off. The drifts become deeper the higher you climb or the further you hike into the forest.
We had our 13 year old Golden Retriever with us so we are super cautious about what we ask Bentley to do on a hike. For sure, some dry ground can be found. South facing slopes will be your best bet the next few weeks. The cautionary note here is the open ground you find may not last long and may not lead you to where you hope to go.
What To Expect
If you go, arrive early in the morning while the snowpack is firm. Bring waterproof boots and gaiters for more stable footing and to keep your feet dry. If you’re not planning to camp on snow make sure to get out early. As the temperature rises the drifts will become punchy. You may post-hole home and that is not fun.
This week (June 23-29) the sun is shining and the high country temperatures will climb up in the high 50’s or low 60’s. Lots of snow will be melting and conditions will be changing by the day.
If you know what to expect you’ll have a fun day in the mountains. If you don’t know what you should know then you’ll be in for a snowy shock!