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Colorado experts: Need RMNP alternative, quick

Colorado experts: Need RMNP alternative, quick

May 29th, 2019, 03:25 AM
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Join Date: May 2019
Posts: 4
Colorado experts: Need RMNP alternative, quick

Long-planned camping week in RMNP second wk of June is probably going to be scrapped due to heavy snow on most trails ... unless 35 inches of snow at Bear Lake Trailhead melts in the next five days. We are driving in a van from NC, tent camping, and looking for a Plan B in CO. Two areas suggested to us are Gunnison National Forest and San Juan National Forest. We are looking for tent camping thatís either reservable or has a near-certainty of being open when we arrive cross-country and our main object is day hiking in forest/mountain/alpine meadow terrain ó unless itís buried in snow, which I realize may be an issue. Family of four, maximum length hike for a day is 10 miles. Car camping, not backpacking. Iím on the forest service websites but itís hard to get a feel for things, and we donít have a lot of time for research. Can any Coloradans or frequent visitors offer advice on places to go or places to avoid?
Collliefamily is offline  
May 29th, 2019, 05:49 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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I'd head south - Black Canyon of the Gunnison, San Juans, maybe even Mesa Verde.



I was down south earlier this month and there wasn't any snow - green, green, green. Summer was in full swing. Durango in particular was gorgeous.

Or, keep your plans and dress accordingly - waterproof boots, maybe Yak Trax. That's what we locals do.

Last edited by Melnq8; May 29th, 2019 at 05:54 AM.
Melnq8 is offline  
May 29th, 2019, 06:36 AM
Join Date: Jul 2004
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My first inclination is stick with your plans for RMNP, especially if you have a reserved campsite that might be snow free. I don't do enough car camping these days to know about finding a site that is "reservable or has a near-certainty of being open". But I suspect that will take some work and luck, especially the latter point these days.
The high country all over the state has a more or less similar snow depth right now, see map below current as of last night.

Snow at Bear Lake is at 30 inches now and it will really warm up in the next few days. No way will it all melt by mid-June but you can probably slog your way (tiring of course) through it with decent footwear as Mel suggests. Good boots, gaiters, a traction device. Even rent snowshoes if you had to. I've used snowshoes often in June when going up high. Finally many lower elevation trails in RMNP will be largely snow free, though perhaps muddy.

Snotel Snow Depth Map
Nelson is offline  
May 29th, 2019, 01:34 PM
Join Date: Aug 2008
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2nd week of June is not in 5 days, so I'm a little confused on the timing. What day are you currently planning to arrive in RMNP and do you have campground reservations? How many days are you planning to be in the park?

I'm inclined to agree with Nelson - it's not likely you are going to find somewhere that has great hiking conditions with all the snowfall, so stick with what you've planned rather than scramble to find an alternative. There are hiking options in RMNP at lower elevations, as well as some options in nearby national forests. You may even find that some of the tundra hikes are open whereas the forested hikes are snow covered - it's been years but I was there in early June once and some tundra hikes were wide open even though some of the hikes near Bear Lake were covered in snow.


That link has some volunteer trail reports but it's a week old. Keep checking for more current reports.
WhereAreWe is offline  
May 29th, 2019, 04:23 PM
Join Date: May 2005
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I agree, if you have a campground reservation in RMNP, it might be fine (glorious, even). Plenty of trails will be available. It's going to be pushing 90F in Denver this coming Monday.
sylvia3 is offline  
May 29th, 2019, 04:42 PM
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Thanks for all the tips! They are appreciated. We would arrive June 9 under the original plan and be there the following week. The park staff member I spoke with today said there are drifts on some lower-elevation trails but also clear trails, too. The extended forecast calls for a good chance of rain on many days, which isn’t fun but which would, presumably, melt the snow. She said it would be wise to rent/buy the traction devices you put on your boots, wear gaiters and be ready for ice and wet. We may do it. We also have started to mull Tetons as a plan B. Longer drive, but the ranger there said trails except for alpine are clear, just very scattered snow, and first-come camping is plentiful.
Again, thanks for the help!
Collliefamily is offline  
May 29th, 2019, 05:00 PM
Join Date: Aug 2008
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The forecast in summer calls for a good chance of rain pretty much every day. That's the way it is in the mountains, there are afternoon thunderstorms but the day is rarely a total washout.

I would research the Tetons as an alternative but you'd want to combine with Yellowstone if you have a full week. The Black Hills area is another option. But really, give it another week and check trail conditions in RMNP and I'm sure they'll be improved from today.
WhereAreWe is offline  
May 31st, 2019, 06:09 AM
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Thanks for all the advice, everyone!
Collliefamily is offline  
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