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The rundown of the run-up to the run-off.
This winter has dumped the highest snowfall totals in Northern Utah in over 20 years. While skiers and snowboarders have certainly reveled in its abundance, non-winter recreationists are likely starting to get a wicked case of cabin fever.
Hundreds of miles of trails are buried under hundreds of inches of “The Greatest Snow on Earth®” as Ogden looks toward spring. As snowblowers are returned to storage and lawnmowers are pulled out, residents and visitors begin chomping at the bit to get out on Ogden’s legendary trails.
Needless to say, high-elevation trails are going to remain snow-covered through late spring and into early summer this year. Naturally, trail lovers will be forced to stick to lower-elevation routes in and around Ogden this spring.
Here’s an important spring hiking safety tip: As hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians are looking to head up the mountain, the snowpack is looking to head down. Even well-designed trails with good drainage are going to see significant muddy sections due to spring rains and high run-off. It’s important to avoid muddy trails while hiking in the spring. Here's why:
Damage done to muddy trails can take the better part of the season to repair. Basically, if you’re leaving noticeable tracks, it’s probably too wet to hike/ride. On such days, it’s best to stick to hard-surface pathways like the Ogden River Parkway or Weber River Parkway. Exercise caution around the Ogden and Weber Rivers along these trails as run-off is likely to remain high throughout the spring hiking season.
Spring hiking in the Wasatch can get really wet, really quickly. As many locals will be quick to tell you, the weather in Utah can be unpredictable and can change fast. Even if you’re not expecting spring showers, it’s important to come prepared with proper clothing.
Waterproof boots, full rain gear, and a change of warm clothes are going to be your best friends for spring hiking. Depending on the trail, the temperature can drop several degrees from bottom to top, and it can get much colder as soon as the sun starts to set. It’s wise to come prepared even when the weather suggests otherwise.
The area’s first single-track dirt trails to dry out will be at Antelope Island State Park. Check the park's website for fee information as well as current weather and trail conditions, and insect hatches. Insect repellent is always a good idea.
Despite being surrounded by salt water, more than 40 freshwater springs produce enough water to support the island's abundant wildlife. Bison are the most famous residents and need to be treated with an overabundance of respect and caution. Give all wildlife plenty of space, and give the wild bison even more.
The Bonneville Shoreline Trails are likely to experience compression of trail users throughout the Spring. Expect more interaction with other trail users in more popular areas and show common trail courtesy. Just remember that mountain bikers yield to hikers, downhill yields to uphill, and everybody should yield to horses…and say “hello.”
Be prepared for wet or even icy conditions on north-facing sections. When you come to short, muddy sections, go through, not around. Keep your dogs on leash and under control, clean up after them, and deposit them in the trash at the trailhead and not along the trail. Stay on designated routes.
Waterfall Canyon is always one of the most popular hikes around Ogden and will be especially so this spring as the waterfall at the top will be experiencing unprecedented run-off. Give the waterfall plenty of space and don’t climb on the rocks around its base. Plenty of Search & Rescue operations have occurred due to falls, and loose rocks and debris will likely fall in abundance this spring.
As temperatures warm and snow melts, popular mid-elevation spring hiking trails such as Wheeler Creek, Pineview, and North Fork Park will become accessible. Like Ogden and Weber River trails, be careful around even small streams like Wheeler Creek due to excessive run-off.
Summer will arrive at some point, bringing access to legendary high-country trails like Brim Trail, Skyline Trail, and Upper Snowbasin. The explosion of wildflowers is likely to be amazing as we roll into Summer. Until then, keep those hiking safety tips in mind, and we’ll see you down low.
Visit Trails Foundation Northern Utah for a complete guide to Ogden-area trails and the people who build and maintain them.