TraditionalMountaineering Logo (TM) representing the shared companionship of the Climb

Home | Information | Photos | Calendar | News | Seminars | Experiences | Questions | Updates | Books | Conditions | Links

USFS logo

Winter 2002 - 2003 trail tips from the USFS Bend - Ft. Rock District
Summer 2002   Winter 2002 - 2003  Summer 2003   Winter 2003 - 2004  Summer 2004   Winter 2004 - 2005


Memorial Day Weekend in the Oregon Cascades    05.22.03

Just a few trail and campground updates and clarification to last Monday’s report.

With the warming temps over the past week snow melt has accelerated. For the Memorial Day Weekend, most sites noted in the May 19th report as being snowed in will yet be snowed in with the exception of the area near Little Cultus Lake. Trail crew members have cleared blowdown around Big Cultus Lake from Winopee Lake Trailhead to Little Cultus Lake and also the Winopee Tie trail (primary horse use) from Cultus Corral Horse Camp to Winopee Trailhead. Little Cultus Lake has snow free access. The 600 Road (to Irish/Taylor Lakes) west of Little Cultus is likely yet blocked by snow and blowdown. No reports yet on Charlton Lake access.

The Three Sisters Wilderness is essentially snowed in at this time. If you plan on hiking in the Wilderness over the next few weeks plan on hiking over snow with it’s hazards. The Wilderness trails are not signed for use during snow and hikers have gotten lost trying to find their way along these snow covered trails. Go prepared! 

Elk Lake Resort is scheduled to open with full restaurant and boat rentals on Friday, May 23. Elk Lake is free of ice. Campgrounds and picnic areas around Elk and Hosmer Lakes are not yet open due to snow and day use parking is limited at Hosmer Lake boat ramp.

All District Westside campgrounds south of Elk Lake are open as are all District Resorts including Elk Lake Resort.

Again for clarification, the campgrounds, trailheads and day use areas north of Elk Lake to Mt. Bachelor are closed due to snow but Hwy 46 is scheduled for opening to highway traffic in either direction on Friday, May 23. Parking along this “snow zone” section of the Highway will basically be nonexistent for the weekend.

Newberry Crater is little changed with snow yet covering all trails, Paulina Falls and most other day use sites. The campgrounds in the Crater (with the exception of Newberry Group and the Horse Camp) do have a limited number of campsites plowed and open but expect to find some snow around them. Paulina Lake and East Lake Resorts are open and the Lakes are ice free.

A clarification to my Monday statement, “Snowmobilers be aware that winter motorized closures (Wilderness, Todd Lake, Bend Watershed, 25% of Tumalo Mt.,) are in full effect until snow melt is complete.” These are year-round motorized closures and not just during the snow season. You never know, someone not in their right (or left) mind may try to snowmobile to Broken Top in August.

Chris Sabo


Memorial Day Weekend Trails Report!   05.19.03

The big spring weekend is upon us and offers a variety of summer and winter trail activities. General summer trail conditions are looking good for the low elevation trails and snowed in for the higher elevation trails.

Lower elevation trails are in good condition and mostly cleared of blowdown along Fall River, Deschutes River, Phil's Trail system from Phil's Trailhead to Skyliner and its connections to Deschutes River trails , Osprey Point, everything north of Road 18 (Coyote Loop, Skeleton Cave Trail, and Arnold Ice Cave Trail), Lava Lands trails, Lava Cast Forest, Mrazek, Tumalo Creek and 80% of Peter Skene Ogden. The trail on the north shore of Cultus Lake is mostly snow free, but it’s reported to have heavy blowdown. A crew will be out clearing that trail this week and should have most of the trail from Winopee Lake Trailhead to West Cultus boat in camp cleared before Memorial Day Weekend.

Snow yet blocks access to all Newberry Crater trails, Swampy Lakes, most trails above Tumalo Falls, Sparks to Lava Lake, Todd Lake trails, Little Cultus Lake Trails, the Lemish to Charlton Lake trails, and 98% of the District Wilderness trails. The opening of these trails depends on the spring temperatures.

The last 10 mile section of Cascade Lakes Hwy (from Elk Lake to Mt. Bachelor) is being plowed and scheduled for season opening on May 23. Keep in mind that ALL trailheads, campgrounds and day use areas along this Hwy section will likely be blocked by 2-5 feet of snow and only Hwy 46 is being plowed here. This means that there is no parking plowed out along Hwy 46 from Dutchman Flat to just north of Elk Lake and you will only be able to drive thru. These snowed in sites include: Todd Lake, Todd Creek Horse camp, Sparks Lake and trailhead, Soda Creek campground, Broken Top/Green Lakes/Devils Lake/Wickiup Plains/South Sister Climbers Trail/Mirror Lake/Elk Lake Trailheads and Quinn Meadow Horse Camp. All trails in this area are also blocked by snow.

The winter trail activities are limited to access from Dutchman Sno-Park/Trailhead (Sno-Park permits not valid after April 30 and Northwest Forest Passes required May 1- November 15). Spring snow conditions are good for nordic skiing, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing from this trailhead with access to the higher elevations. Snowmobilers be aware that winter motorized closures (Wilderness, Todd Lake, Tumalo Mt., Bend Watershed) are in full effect until snow melt is complete.

Reports have been coming in of illegal off road activity (motorcycles and 4x4 vehicles) in the Phil's Trail area. These trails are non-motorized use only and violators are subject to a citation with fine of up to $5,000. Trail users seeing illegal activities in this area or on other non-motorized trails are urged to call law enforcement officials at (541) 388-0170 with a vehicle/person description, time, and location.

Be sure to secure any valuables left in your vehicle out of sight while parked at recreation sites. Better yet take valuables with you or leave them at home to help prevent vehicle break-ins.

Memorial Day Weekend is the first big weekend of the summer trail season and with good weather it’s expected there will be lots of folks out and about. Extra recreation and law enforcement personnel will out this weekend patrolling recreation sites and general forest areas. Please don’t hesitate to flag one down if you have a question or concern. The local law enforcement number is (541) 388-0170 or dial 911 for emergencies.
Chris Sabo

A few more updates on trail/road conditions.   05.07.03

Hwy 46 is now open from the south to Elk Lake. Hosmer Lake Boat ramp access is also plowed. There remains up to 3 feet of snow around Elk Lake and at last report it is yet frozen.

The remaining 10 miles of snowbound Hwy 46 from Elk Lake to Mt. Bachelor is scheduled to open May 23 in time for Memorial Day Weekend. That’s if the weather cooperates and we don’t receive a foot of snow just before the scheduled opening.

Snowmobilers beware that Trail 5/Hwy 46 is now being plowed in the Todd Lake to Dutchman area and not recommended for snowmobiling.

Road 21 into Newberry Crater is open to East Lake Resort; there remains 1-2 feet of snow in most of the Crater with only 2 campgrounds open and most other FS facilities blocked by snow.
--Chris Sabo

Snowmobilers busting the Wilderness!   04.21.03

Other than additional snow melt and recent rain there’s little change in the trail conditions. Snow conditions on the District’s Westside high elevation zones have been good for spring skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling. Snowmobiling is pretty much limited to the area out of Dutchman Sno-Park. Fair skiing and snowshoeing is still available out of Swampy and Vista Butte Sno-parks and good spring skiing out of Dutchman. All other snow parks are out of winter trail activities for the season.

We have received reports that a few “rebel” snowmobilers are riding in the well posted closed areas of Three Sisters Wilderness, Todd Lake and Tumalo Mt. motorized closures, and on the blue diamond trails. This is a “heads up” to those riding in those areas which are closed to motorized use anytime of year; violators are subject to fines of up to $5,000, jail time and can have their vehicles (snowmobiles/atv’s) seized. The negative impression your tracks and presence in these closed areas leave on motorized and non-motorized users alike creates negative social impacts for motorized users as a whole.

I’m including with this report a recent news release on the start of the new Golden Pass policy. If you have or know of folks that have one of the three types of Golden Passes, you can now pick up a free pass holder at one of our Forest Service offices or Northwest Pass Vendors. These holders allow you to properly display Golden Passes in vehicle windshields.
--Chris Sabo

Spring conditions progressing!   04.14.03

Spring thaw continues at a steady speed. More summer trail miles open up as winter trails melt away into memories. Summer trail clearing is under way to a limited degree and will increase as trail crew members return to work and volunteers reach further down the trails. Most lower elevation (< 4,800’) summer trails have now dried out enough for biking, hiking and horse use. Blowdown on these trails so far has been at light to moderate levels.

> Road access to Tumalo Falls Trailhead is now open for the season. Snow yet blocks trails just above the Falls.
> The new biker/hiker trail (Skyliner Trail) east out of Skyliner Trailhead is now open. Constructed late last fall by Central Oregon Trails Alliance volunteers it provides a 3.2 mile single track trail connection from Skyliner Trailhead to Whoops and Ben’s bike trails.
> Thank you COTA volunteers! COTA volunteers have been hard at work clearing and doing tread work on the Mrazek and Phil’s Trail systems as well. If you’re interested in helping COTA with volunteer trail projects, contact them at:
> Deschutes River Trails are in good spring conditions with a few blowdown left to be cleared.

Remember, dogs are required to be on leash on this trail. Bikers must be on their best behavior when using the primary hiker trail from Benham Falls to Meadow Picnic. An increase in user conflicts could result in a bike ban on the scenic 8.2 mile hiker section.

Starting sometime in late April, the footbridge from Benham Falls East to Benham Falls West will be closed for 3 weeks or more for reconstruction. The decking and railing will be replaced to provide a safer-splinter free trail experience. Thank you for your patience during this reconstruction period.

> A new hiker-biker trail from Sunriver to Benham Falls East will be constructed this summer.
> Lava Lands Visitor Center opens for the summer season starting April 19.
> Fall River Trail has been cleared by the Monday Hikers and is fully open. Thank you Monday Hikers.
> Peter Skein Ogden Trail is reported to have moderate to heavy blowdown. Trail clearing has commenced on the lower section and will progress over the next couple of weeks.
> Horse Butte to Swamp Wells trails are free of snow except for higher elevations. Trail reconstruction has begun on some trail segments and will continue over the coming months.
> All District Wilderness trails and trailheads are yet under snow. Starting this summer, dogs will be required to be on leash while on and near trails and high use areas in the Todd Lake, Broken Top, Green Lakes, Moraine Lake, and South Sister areas. Leashes have become a requirement in an effort to reduce conflicts between users in these high use areas. More details on this in future reports.

Starting April 18, Golden Age, Golden Access, and Golden Passport Card holders will be able to use their “Golden Cards” in place of the Northwest Forest Pass. A plastic sleeve to display these cards in the windshield of your vehicle will be available from Forest Service Offices and Pass Vendors in the next couple of weeks. Northwest Forest Passes are required at most of the open summer trailheads and will also once again be required at: Dutchman, Swampy Lakes and Edison Snow Parks starting May 1. State Snow Park Permits will no longer be valid at these snow park/trailheads until they are again required starting November 15. Stay tuned for more Fee Demo news over the coming weeks.

The winter trails program is tuning down and access is limited to Dutchman, Vista Butte and Swampy Sno-Parks. The overflow parking area just 200 yards west of Dutchman Sno-park has been plowed courtesy of Mt. Bachelor Inc. and is open to parking. Snowmobile trail 5 south of Devils Lake is not recommended as it has been plowed from the south to Elk Lake.

Hwy 46 is now open from Deschutes Bridge South. Road 40 from Sunriver West to Cultus Lake is now plowed and open. Hwy 46 is scheduled for full opening a day or two before Memorial Day Weekend. Road 21 into Newberry Crater is in the process of being plowed and is scheduled for opening in time for fishing season.
--Chris Sabo


Winter temps and a bit of snow has returned to mainly the higher elevations  04.02.03

Winter temps and a bit of snow has returned to mainly the higher elevations. Forecast is calling for more cold with a chance of a few inches of snow at the higher elevations and chance of showers lower elevations, through Sunday. Deschutes county road dept has commenced snow plowing on Cascade Lakes Hwy from the south. Many roads around Crane Prairie and Wickiup are free of snow to Deschutes Bridge. Cascade Lakes Hwy from Deschutes Bridge to Mt. Bachelor is yet closed and will reopen in segments until full opening for Memorial Day Weekend. Elk Resort is now closed for the winter season and will reopen in May.

The road to Tumalo Falls will open in the near future with a bit more drying.

Winter trail conditions are mostly restricted to Swampy, Vista Butte and Dutchman Snow Parks. All lower elevation and most mid elevation winter trails now lack adequate snow for winter activities. The overflow parking area at Dutchman may be plowed in time for this weekend. Mt. Bachelor will plow it if they don’t have too much new snow of their own to plow.

Lower elevation summer trail clearing is slated to begin on a limited basis in the next couple of weeks.

Starting April 18, Golden Age, Golden Access and Golden Eagle Card holders will no longer be required to purchase a Northwest Forest Pass. Their Golden Cards will be valid for entry to NWFP sites starting April 18, 2003.
--Chris Sabo

Oregon Spring Break Report  03.17.03

Some good news and some not so good for this upcoming Spring Break week. Of course good or bad depends on your preference for trails this time of year.

General winter trail conditions:
* Skyliner, Six and Ten Mile Sno-Parks are “out of service” (lacking any snow).
* Meissner and Edison Sno-Parks are marginal with poor snow conditions for winter trail activities and may join the above list before week’s end.
* Wanoga is getting close to marginal but we may make it through the first weekend with adequate snow access for snowmobiling to the higher elevation trails. With colder temps and some new snow we may make it through the second weekend. Lower elevation trails out of these snow parks are rapidly melting free of snow.
* Swampy and Vista Butte Sno-Parks have fair to good spring snow conditions for skiing and snowshoeing.
* Dutchman Sno-Park has good snow conditions but is likely to be extremely full early in the day (on the weekends especially). No overnight camping is still in effect at this sno-park. Starting next week we might have overflow parking at the “Y” just 200 yards beyond Dutchman Sno-Park. This is dependent on snow at Wanoga and availability of plowing courtesy of Mt. Bachelor Inc. We stress the need to park only within the legal areas of Dutchman Sno-park and not in the posted emergency “NO PARKING” areas or on the Highway shoulders. Citations will be issued and vehicles may be towed at owner’s expense to keep these areas safe for everyone. People using the Dutchman Sno-park area are encouraged to practice extra courtesy during this busy period with “challenging” snow conditions.

General summer trail conditions:
* Generally, lower elevation trails are free of snow and mostly lack muddy areas. Mid to high elevation trails (approx. 4,500-10,000’) are either in fragile-muddy conditions and prone to excess erosion from early use (and not recommended) or under snow. General winter blowdown on the snow free trails is light with only occasional down trees.
* Deschutes River trails from Benham Falls downstream to Meadow Picnic area are generally in good condition. Light blowdown is reported along with a few muddy areas. Be extra sensitive to any muddy sections on trails as they are prone to erosion from early use.
* Phil's Trail system reports on lower elevations are generally fair with a few muddy sections. Mid elevation trails closer to snow line are high on the mud scale and very fragile and prone to erosion with early use. Please avoid these trails as they become very “high maintenance” due to early use.
* Mrazek and Tumalo Creek II Trails are generally in fair to good condition at the lower elevations and muddy at the mid elevations. Higher sections of Mrazek are still snowbound.
* Lower elevations of Peter Skein Ogden Trail are free of snow and generally fair.
* Fall River Trail will likely have some sections of mud.
* Tumalo Falls Road may open to highway vehicles starting March 22. We are waiting to determine if the new gravel road and parking area have dried and set adequately this spring to avoid damage from early use.
* Early use on trails and unpaved roads can cause serious erosion, result in resource impacts and require high maintenance. These facilities during the “spring thaw” period can be soft and very prone to mudding by foot, hoof, and wheeled traffic. Please help to prevent these resource impacts and high maintenance by avoiding roads and trails that are reported or you find in muddy condition. Stepping or driving around the muddy sections only increases impacts. Thank you for helping maintain your summer trails and roads in good condition for everyone’s enjoyment.
--Chris Sabo



When we receive moderate to heavy snowfall (12-24 inches in a 24 hr period) in a short time period as we did just before the New Year and March 6-8, it’s important for winter recreationists to keep in the mind the potential hazards with negotiating around in the winter environment. With rapid snow accumulations many areas may not have enough time to develop a solid base. Without a base snowmobiles, skiers, and snowshoers are likely to find the going difficult to impossible off the groomed trails. Many trail reassurance markers (blue or orange diamonds) and other trail signing may become covered with snow as well making it difficult to find the trail.

Take extra care in planning your route to avoid ending up in a drainage or down a slope that you are unable to climb out of . Don’t over extend your limits or the limits of others in your party. In recent years, we’ve had and increasing number of rescues where especially snowmobilers have found themselves in the bottom of a drainage that they could not climb out of because of deep snow. A few have ended up spending a cold and life threatening night out before being rescued. Be extra cautious and watch out for “getting caught up in the moment”!

Backcountry avalanche conditions are likely to be “CONSIDERABLE TO EXTREME” during and just after periods of heavy snowfall. Backcountry users should be extra cautious during heavy snowfall periods and should consider avoiding slopes over 25 degrees during these periods.

Snowmobile and ski trail grooming is severely slowed or stopped during periods of heavy snowfall. Grooming equipment and exhausted volunteer groomer operators are pushed to their limits during these periods. Many trails may go ungroomed for several days and then it may take days to catch up after the snow lets up.

Often with heavy snowfall periods, snow plows are unable to keep up with falling snow and normally plowed roads become very hazardous or impassible. Snow parks may also go unplowed for a day or two as plow operators focus on main roads first. Be sure to get updated road conditions especially during heavy snow periods and carry adequate supplies in your vehicle including: extra food and water, clothing, blankets, shovel, tire chains, tow rope, etc.
--Chris Sabo


New snow melting fast!    03.10.03

What a nice surprise with the heavy snow (up to 3 ft.) we received at the higher District Westside elevations late last week.

Unfortunately the warming temps and rain on Saturday and Sunday settled and melted much of the new snow east of Dutchman Snow Park. Our lower elevation snow parks once again are either lacking snow or on the decline after last week. Skyliner, Six Mile, and Ten Mile Snow Parks are lacking snow for winter trail access and activities. Meissner and Edison are in fair to poor snow conditions with the remaining four Hwy 46 snow parks in fair to good snow conditions though presently experiencing wet snow conditions. That may not improve anytime soon with mild and possibly wet weather for the next few days. Some high elevation snow may fall later in the week.

The forecasts I’ve heard call for possibly heavy rain in the Mt. Hood - north areas this week. If we should experience moderate to heavy rain and warm temps here, we may see the slush and water hazards of a few weeks ago reappear. Winter trail users beware and go prepared.

Bend Municipal Watershed:

To continue on last week’s information regarding confusion over motorized closures on and around the Tumalo Mountain area we will venture down the northeastern drainages into the Bend Municipal Watershed. Recent news articles report on Bend’s drinking water as being the best in Oregon. Much of that may be due to management of the Bridge Creek Watershed just west of Bend. This is where much of Bend’s water supplies are tapped from; surface runoff and springs filtering through the watershed. It also happens to be that these areas in and around Bridge Creek watershed and Tumalo Mt. receive heavy summer and winter recreation use. Hiking, mountain biking, horse riding, hunting, nordic skiing, and snowmobiling are primary uses in this area around the watershed.

In order to protect the water quality of this municipal water supplies several restrictions are in place which limit use to human foot travel only within the Municipal watershed boundary. All other traffic by horse, bike, dogs and motor vehicles is strictly prohibited and enforced with fines up to $5,000 and/or jail time. This restricted use area is thousands of acres in size and again in place to protect water quality. Without these restrictions, expensive water treatment would be necessary and even then the water quality may not be what it is today.

Until recent years, winter access in this area was limited due to fewer snowmobilers and skiers and lower technology equipment. Today’s powerful snowmobiles and more aggressive riders has increased motorized use along these protected boundaries. Some riders knowingly venture beyond these posted areas with increasing frequency. It’s important for these riders to understand that the use of motorized vehicles in the watershed can result in increased pollutant levels and the possibility of having to install a very costly water purification system.

Even for experienced snowmobilers much of the terrain along the watershed boundary is difficult to impossible to negotiate. Couple that with riders that are unfamiliar with the area and challenging snow or weather conditions and you have a good chance of a snowmobiler ending up where they shouldn’t be; inside the watershed boundary. Much of the Bend Municipal watershed and Tumalo Mt. area should not be attempted by inexperienced riders or those unfamiliar with the area.

Those not familiar with the boundaries should only venture there with someone who is familiar with them. Or in the very least obtain as much information about the closures in the form of maps and then only venture along the boundary paying strict attention to the marked boundary. The miles of watershed boundary are well posted for summer use and winter boundaries are presently being improved with additional signing. Even then some boundary sections may appear confusing due to dense forest and varied snow depths. It’s easy to get turned around here and riders should avoid the area if they have any doubts about their ability to travel safely or legally in the area. Some remote sections may not be fully signed for winter use yet.

To those few snowmobilers who choose to violate special motorized closures (i.e. municipal watersheds, Wilderness, ski trails, etc.) remember the tracks you leave behind leave a negative impression on those who find them. Avoid setting a bad example for the responsibly legal snowmobilers that follow. And is the possibility of being caught with associated fines, vehicle seizure, and jail time really worth it? Be a responsible user of public lands!
--Chris Sabo

No snow low to crowded conditions high!   03.03.03

Since last week’s report we’ve had 2-6” of new snow that has helped at least maintain the snow conditions. We’re still well below normal snow depths at all elevations and the lower elevation trails out of Skyliner, Meissner, Edison, Six Mile and Ten Mile Snow Parks either in the “no snow” or fair snow condition categories. The mid to high elevation areas are in fair to good conditions and holding with recent new snow. More details in attachment!

A note on higher elevation areas and overlaps between motorized and non-motorized users. From reports in the field there seems to be increasing confusion with snowmobile use on Tumalo Mt. Approximately 75% of Tumalo Mountain is OPEN to snowmobile use. The 25 % of Tumalo Mt. that is CLOSED to motorized use is the northeastern most quarter of the Mountain. Most of this closed area lies within the higher elevations of the Bend Municipal Watershed which is closed to motorized use, bikes, horses, and dogs year round. The main Tumalo “bowl” is divided in half with the northern half being closed to motorized use for non-motorized user safety. The southern half of “the bowl” is open to snowmobile use. The very summit of Tumalo Mountain is also open to snowmobile use.

The increase in confusion over Tumalo may be from the overall increase in winter use of the Mountain. Skiers, snowshoers, snowboarders and snowmobilers are accessing Tumalo’s slopes and summit with increasing frequency. It’s not uncommon to see dozens of these users combing the slopes on a weekend day. Advanced gear technology and increasing interest in getting off trail and into the backcountry are two key reasons we are seeing more users in this area. Tumalo’s close access and backcountry experience are most appealing to skiers, snowboarders and snowshoers. Snowmobilers are seeking the hill climbing and off trail powder challenges it offers.

With more people seeking the off trail backcountry experience, user encounters are likely to occur with increasing frequency. All winter users of the area are asked to practiced user etiquette whether on or off trail. Also, please become better informed where certain boundaries (motorized closures) exist and respect these closures.
--Chris Sabo


Snow conditions have improved at the mid to upper elevations over the past week. Due to the potential for safety and social conflicts with snowmobile use, snowmobile operators please remember the following:

> Always ride under control and within reasonable speeds for the conditions.
> Slow down when passing or in close proximity to others. 10 mph when near pedestrians i.e.. skiers, snowshoers, or dog teams. Recommended speed when in and near snow parks is 5 mph.
> Use hand signals for slowing, stopping, or turning.
> When approaching other snowmobilers on trails, indicate with a finger count how many snowmobiles in your group are behind you.
> Avoid riding on ski trails as most are closed to snowmobile traffic.
> Be familiar with snowmobile closures in the area you are riding. Common motorized closures include: Wilderness areas, municipal watersheds, skier/snowshoer only snow parks and trails, ski resort permit areas, special non-motorized areas. etc.
> Don’t operate vehicles under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
> Don’t litter, this includes any snowmobile parts.
> Don’t stop in the middle of a trail and keep to the right when riding, especially on curves.
> Avoid riding on bare soil and over vegetation.
> When in snow parks, PARK SMART and as efficiently as possible and respect “No Parking” zones. They are there for everybody’s safety and emergency vehicles.
> Abide by state and local snowmobile regulations. In Oregon anyone operating a snowmobile on public lands must carry a driver’s license or a snowmobile operator’s permit. Operator permits are issued after attending a snowmobile safety course through snowmobile safety instructors. Check with your nearest snowmobile club.
> For safety reasons snowmobile operation is not permitted on or within the right of way of highways. This includes Hwy 46 to Mt. Bachelor. Highways not plowed during winter are typically open to snowmobiling.
> Be sure your snowmobile is properly registered and displaying valid registration tags. Carry a temporary registration when waiting for the tags.
> Snowmobiles must always be operated with headlights on.
> Maintain your snowmobile within the legal sound limits.
> Always take a good trail map, proper safety equipment and essentials.
> Do inform and educate other snowmobilers that may not be familiar with safe and legal snowmobile operations.
--Chris Sabo

GOOD NEWS - NEW SNOW!   02.18.03

Four to eighteen inches of new snow at mid-upper elevations is nothing but good news.

Although with the new snow, be aware that the avalanche hazards have increased to some degree. Some isolated backcountry slopes at present may be in the “Considerable” hazard category at present. Avalanche hazard can change from day to day and even in a matter of hours. It is important to remember that nearly all of our winter trails are on terrain that is not steep enough or prone to slides. Most human caused avalanches occur on slopes of 30-45 degrees. 

Off trail backcountry users like snowmobilers high-marking or backcountry skiers, snowboarders or snowshoers accessing steeper terrain should be knowledgeable in recognizing avalanche terrain and hazards and avoid these areas when slope instability is present.

Most District snow parks have received enough new snow the past few days to improve snow and trail conditions to “good” conditions. Six Mile and Skyliner snow parks are yet lacking snow for winter activities. Ten Mile is “marginal” with 3-5” of snow. Lower elevation ski and snowmobile trails out of Meissner, Edison, and Wanoga snow parks may yet be in only fair to poor conditions.

Forecast through Friday is calling for additional snow or showers at mid to upper elevations, which should further improve trail conditions for the coming weekend.

Low elevation summer trails not covered by snow are likely to be muddy and susceptible to erosion damage by early season users.
--Chris Sabo

Here’s the latest on the winter trail conditions.  02.13.03

Forecast this weekend is calling for a chance of precipitation at most elevations and the question is what form that precipitation will fall. I’m hoping for the cold white precipitation. Not much change in the present conditions with lower snow parks either lacking snow or at the minimum for snowmobiling and skiing and upper elevation park (Dutchman) with fair trail activities.

We are expecting overflow crowd conditions at Dutchman and open Parking sites will likely be nonexistent after 8 or 9 am each day. Strongly suggest parking at lower lots especially for the large motor homes with trailers. The Overnight Camping ban will be strongly enforced at Dutchman Snow Park. More winter details in attached document.
--Chris Sabo

Spring like weather making for poor winter trail conditions!    02.03.03

For all you winter sports lovers I’ll try to make this short and as painless as possible.

Last weeks warm rainy weather hit the snowpack at most elevations pretty hard. We lost 12” (maybe more) of snow at most elevations and in the process many water/slush hazards developed in area above Dutchman Flat. A few snowmobilers and 2 snow-cat operators found out the hard way what it’s like to get caught in one of these normally springtime hazards. A couple snowmobilers lost a boot each when they pulled their feet out of slushy holes after their snowmobiles ended up in the wet concrete like slurry.  See photos of the spring conditions

With the recent rains we have lost enough snow to provide further access to winter trails at Skyliner, Ten Mile and Six Mile Sno-parks. Snowmobile and ski trail (Meissner area) grooming has either gone on an intermittent schedule or postponed until snow conditions improve. Sections of snowmobile trail out of Edison/Wanoga are showing bare areas.

On the bright side we did receive about 3 inches of new snow Saturday morning at the higher elevations (6,200 ft.+). Though only a few inches it did improve the conditions in the open areas somewhat; in the trees it’s still on the crusty side. Mid and lower elevation winter trails benefited little from their 1-2” dusting.

Most summer trails below 4,500 ft. have thawed of snow but many are in a soft muddy condition. While tempting for hiking, biking and horse riding activities we recommend not using them until they are dry and firm enough to prevent erosion from early use during this muddy “thaw” stage. All River access roads from Meadow Picnic to Benham Falls East are snow free.
--Chris Sabo

Prescription for avalanche danger  01.28.03

Winter continues to recede and until we receive new snow expect snow conditions to be in the “less than favorable” or poor category for nordic skiing and fair to good for snowshoeing and snowmobiling, depending on temperatures.  With the rain, saturated snow we presently have and freezing temp snow conditions will likely be quite hard and icy in the mornings and towards dusk and possibly through the day if temps should remain cold on any particular day.

Another interesting thought to our present snow conditions is what could possibly develop down the road in the form of backcountry avalanche conditions if and when we do get back to decent snowfall.  There’s a high probability that this rain saturated snow layer will freeze creating a solid ice layer.  While this future ice layer may become quite solid the question will be how well will additional snowpack bond to this potential ice layer.  Under a variety of snow and weather conditions this bonding may likely be very weak creating increased avalanche conditions with near future snowfall.  Just a heads up for those backcountry users who are likely waiting for the next good snowfall; be sure to thoroughly check for snowpack stability before you ski, snowboard, snowmobile or snowshoe in avalanche terrain. 

Also, be aware of the existing potential for wet slab slides with present wet pack conditions. (Note: See TraditionalMountaineering's Avalanche Avoidance.)
Chris Sabo

Snowshoeing in the National Forest   01.21.03

Snowshoeing - the act of using large, sometimes slow and cumbersome snow floatation devices on one’s feet. A form of personal transportation over snow that dates back to the “ancient ones”. In addition, a rapidly growing winter sport in Central Oregon as well as many other parts of the World that is popularity is largely due to the advancements in snowshoe technology. This technology allows people to slap on a pair of lightweight snowshoes and with little more skill than knowing how to walk, travel miles across a winter wonderland.

In many of our local and traditional cross-country skiing snow parks, snowshoe use may range from 30-40% of the overall use on blue diamond trails. During periods of icy trail conditions, snowshoe use may exceed skier numbers as many skiers shy away from the hazards of skiing on icy trails. Also true, many skiers are taking up snowshoeing as well for the variety or due to concerns of injuries related to cross-country skiing. Whatever the reasons, snowshoeing popularity has taken on a growth spurt in recent years that provides people an inexpensive and relatively easy way to enjoy the wonders of a snow-covered winter.

The downside to this recent snowshoe boom are the increasing user conflicts reported between snowshoers and skiers using the same blue diamond trails. Cross-country skiers often report of snowshoers walking over ski tracks, which destroys the narrow tracks that skiers are dependent on for sliding enjoyment and control. In addition, all it takes is one snowshoer walking on a ski track to create a disharmony with many skiers that snowshoers in general may not be well received on the traditional ski trails. So old and new trail etiquette comes into play to maintain the peace between these like-minded trail user groups. The following are the basic “rules” of the blue diamond winter trails, which apply to skiers and snowshoers alike.

When on a marked blue diamond trail, each user group should create a separate “broken” or tracked trail and not follow in the other user group’s tracks. This goes for skiers as well as snowshoers. It is not fair to snowshoers who have broken tracks in fresh snow to have skiers follow behind and possibly take over the broken snowshoe track. Likewise, snowshoers who walk on a broken ski track can make it unpleasant as well as hazardous for skiers and has resulted in skier accidents with injuries. Its best if the skier and snowshoer tracks are at least 2 feet apart. Most blue diamond trails are cleared 8-10 feet wide.

When approaching another skier or shoer keep to the right and on a hill:
-Yield to descending traffic
-Know the trail difficulty symbols and ski or shoe within your abilities.
-If you should fall, take a moment to repair the damage to the track
-If skiing or snowshoeing on a snowmobile trail, stay as far right as possible when snowmobiles approach.
-Respect the rights of all winter users. Do not interfere with or harass others.

People may judge all skiers, snowshoers, or snowmobilers by one individual’s actions.

New Snowshoe Trails:

Recent additions to the hundreds of miles of winter trails on the Deschutes National Forest are designated snowshoe trails at Swampy Lakes and Meissner Snow Parks along Hwy 46 just southwest of Bend. There are now 3+ mile loops at each snowpark with another 4+-mile loop scheduled for opening at Edison Snow Park in February. For those not up to the full loops there are easy short loop opportunities as well. These winter trails have been designed and constructed specifically for snowshoers by snowshoe volunteers and the Bend-Fort Rock Ranger District. They give snowshoers a great hiking experience through pine and fir forests with views as far away as Mt. Bachelor, Broken Top and South Sister. Snowshoers of all skill levels will find these snowshoe trails a pleasant change from the often faster pace and busy conditions found on the traditional blue diamond ski trails.

The snowshoe trails are well marked with blue diamonds containing a yellow snowshoer symbol in the center. These trails are narrower and contain twists and turns that make them more interesting to snowshoers and difficult for skiers. So grab an updated skier and snowshoer trail map at the Swampy or Meissner information board and enjoy your hike on the new trails.
--Chris Sabo

Trail grooming on winter trails involves the efforts of a small team of volunteers

Winter has been struggling with more like Valley weather and rain at most elevations the past few days. We have received a few inches of heavier/wet snow at the higher elevations. Forecast is sounding like mostly mild temps with precipitation lessening into the week.

We’ll highlight this week’s report with the trail grooming information below.

Trail grooming on winter trails involves the efforts of a small team of volunteers putting in 4-16 hours/day behind the controls of a snowmobile or sno-cat. Each winter volunteers with local snowmobile and ski clubs groom what amounts to 11,000 to 13,000 miles of snowmobile and ski trails on the Deschutes National Forest.

Moon Country, Sisters Sno-Go-Fers, LaPine Lodgepole Dodgers, Walker Rim Riders and Mt. Jefferson Snowmobile Clubs and Tumalo Langlauf Ski Club volunteers under permits with the Deschutes National Forest groom snowmobile and ski trails on a somewhat set schedule when weather and snow conditions permit. At times these volunteers are working in some of the harshest of winter weather to keep trails groomed for winter enthusiasts. Also, at times snow and weather conditions are so severe that even grooming equipment and volunteers cannot get around on the trails for several days.

Under good winter conditions, volunteer availability, and lacking equipment breakdowns, most of the Forest’s snowmobile trails are groomed at least once a week and many ski trails out of Meissner Sno-Park are groomed 2-3 times per week. This amounts to some 600-800 grooming miles each week and with an average grooming speed of 5-6 miles per hour, this is where a number of winter trail club members spend their free time. There’s also the time these volunteers spend on maintaining this equipment which is typically in the hundreds of hours each winter; and under deep snow conditions breakdowns are common.

Funding for these grooming programs is generated through trail users themselves. And that funding only covers equipment costs and supplies as again, it’s volunteers doing the actual work. Snowmobile trail grooming funds are generated from a State snowmobile gas tax refund and a portion of ATV and snowmobile registrations administered through Oregon Department of Transportation.

Oregon State Snowmobile Association then receives a budget from ODOT to operate the grooming program. OSSA provides a grooming budget for the individual snowmobile clubs to operate on each year. Ski trail grooming at Meissner Snow Park is funded primarily through fund raising and donations collected by Tumalo Langlauf Ski Club. A snowmobile for Meissner grooming was also funded through an Oregon Parks and Recreation SIMS Grant.

Mt. Bachelor’s and other ski resort nordic ski trail grooming is totally separate from the rest of the Forest’s trail grooming programs and this report does not include facts and figures from commercial resort grooming.

So when you’re out on the winter trails and come across a trail groomer setting a trail, be sure to give them a wave and thank them for their efforts and dedication.

For more information on The Deschutes National Forest winter trails program: You can find information on grooming hotlines and winter trail club websites.
--Chris Sabo

Nearly all winter trails are adequately snow covered  12.30.02

These past few days have given the winter trails program a much needed boost. At this time all District snow parks are operating with anywhere from 6-75” of snow. Nearly all winter trails are adequately snow covered. We have received so much snow in the past week that getting around on trails, in the backcountry, and even on the roads and snow parks has been a challenge for many trail users.

The avalanche conditions during this period has also become a concern and for the immediate future backcountry avalanche conditions will likely be in the moderate to high ratings. When avalanche conditions are in the “Considerable to High” ratings, backcountry travel is not recommended and should be avoided. Rapid heavy snowfall and changeable temperatures are a couple of warning signs that the avalanche hazard is likely rising and a serious “heads up” for backcountry users. Just yesterday a backcountry skier was killed in an avalanche in the Crystal Mountain area in Washington; recent heavy snowfall likely caused the avalanche hazard to rise when skiers triggered the slide. (Note: See TraditionalMountaineering's Avalanche Avoidance.)

Be aware that we have had heavy “snow loading” in the trees. When this occurs, trees may be holding thousands of pounds of snow in their crowns causing excess stress that could result in tops breaking out or trees “uprooting”; especially with moderate to strong winds. Also be aware that without warning trees can suddenly release accumulated snow from branches in the form of “snow bombs” that may weight well over a hundred pounds and cause serious injury should you be struck by one. (TM note: Last year saw the tragic death of a snowboarder covered by snow release in a tree-well just off-trail.)

Snowmobile and ski trail grooming is now in full operation; when weather and snow conditions permit that is. During these periods of heavy snowfall, grooming becomes very difficult to impossible in some areas and it may take awhile for volunteer groomers to catch up
Along with heavy snowfall, we have had full parking conditions at most District Sno-parks with most exceeding their parking capacities this past weekend. We expect those high numbers again this coming weekend. It’s a good time to practice patience and improve defensive winter driving skills and efficient parking techniques. Also be aware that heavy snowfall creates difficulties for snow plowing operations and snowparks may not be fully plowed out during these periods. Plowing main roads takes priority over snow parks during heavy snow. Snow plowing is further hampered by vehicles in the snow parks and vehicles may become snowbound in snow parks. So bring tire chains and snow shovels and be prepared to dig yourself out if necessary.

For more winter trail details and info on the present “Heavy snow warning”, see the Winter Report. In looking at last December 28, 2001 winter report, we’re not that far behind last year now in snow depths at the snow parks. After some adjust for snow settling likely to take place over the next few days, overall we may be at 70-80% of where we were last year today. Let’s hope it keeps improving.

Nearly all the District’s summer trails are presently under anywhere from 4-90” of snow. Winter has arrived...
--Chris Sabo

Winter continues a slower than desired approach  12.23.02

Winter continues a slower than desired approach with a few more inches of snow falling at mid-upper elevation trails these past few days. Limited grooming has begun on the District’s west side snowmobile trails as well as the Meissner nordic ski trails. Many of the normally groomed trails will not be groomed though until we receive another 1-3 feet of snow on them. Winter trail activities have not begun in the Newberry Crater area trails due to inadequate snow.

Skyliner, Six Mile and Ten mile Snow Parks still lack adequate snow for winter trail use. That situation can change in a short time though.

The new 3.25 snowshoe trail out of Swampy Sno-park is scheduled to open December 28. We should have updated trail maps available at the Snow Park about that time.

With the Holiday vacation period upon us the snow parks have begun to fill up on weekends; especially at Dutchman Snow Park (full even on weekdays). Please plan on a bit more time and patience when driving to your destination and be extra careful on the often icy roadways. Slow down and allow extra distance between you and the vehicle ahead of you. Also plan on an optional snow park destination if you are heading to one of the more popular; should you arrive and find it full you may have to try your second choice. When you do arrive at your snow park destination be sure to stop off at the information board and read up on the special safety notes and regulations that are in effect for the area. Also pick up a trail map at the map box before hitting the trail.

Access to many of the Deschutes River Trailheads is becoming difficult due to icy road conditions and additional summer trails are becoming snowbound for the winter. Generally the Deschutes River Trails, Shevlin Park and lower Phil’s bike trails are last to be blocked by snow.

The road to Tumalo Falls just beyond Skyliner Snow Park has been closed for the winter months.
--Chris Sabo

The snow conditions are finally reaching improved depths!   12.17.02

The snow conditions are finally reaching improved depths for winter trails use. I will have a more complete report on the individual snow parks in the next couple of days but in general we have adequate snow (20-28”) at Dutchman for skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. Swampy Snow Park has 6-16” snow depth for skiing and snowshoeing, Wanoga Snow Park has 6-14” snow depth for snowmobiling with recommend stay on trails and roads and watch for low snow hazards (rocks, stumps, etc.); Meissner and Edison are yet marginal to not adequate with 4-8” snow depth. Skyliner, 10 Mile and 6 Mile Snow Parks do not yet have adequate snow.

Trail, wilderness and watershed motorized closure, and hazard signs are yet being installed in the high country area out of Dutchman Snow Park and most signing should be in place before the busy holiday period. But always remember, THERE ARE ALWAYS ON AND OFF TRAIL HAZARDS THAT RECREATIONISTS MUST BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR. Conditions will change day to day!

With the start of the Holiday break this weekend we expect any snow park that has adequate snow to be very busy through the holidays. This is especially true for Dutchman Snow Park and trails. Parking is at a premium at Dutchman any weekend and the parking lot is expected to be full each weekend through May 2003. Plan ahead and especially the for the larger vehicles with trailers it is recommended to park at Wanoga or Edison Snow Parks. Overnight camping is not permitted at Dutchman Snow Park.


There are a few new winter trails that will be open this winter including about 7 miles of snowmobile trail connecting Triangle Hill on Bend/Fort Rock Ranger District to Upper Three Creek Snow Park on Sisters Ranger District. This trail is snowmobile trail #88 and will provide a great loop opportunity with trail # 8 (Rd 370) for those riding in that area. This trail now has orange diamonds marking it but the junction signs are not yet in place nor will you find it on this year’s Moon Country snowmobile map. Temporary signs will be in place in the next couple of weeks. This trail will be groomed periodically by Sisters Sno-Go-Fer Snowmobile Club volunteers.

We also have 1.8 miles of new nordic ski trails in the Meissner trail system including approx. 1.5 mile of “Wild Strawberry” trail and a quarter mile extension of Knotweed. Wild Strawberry will provide a windy roller coaster type ski on rolling terrain with a “More Difficult” rating. Great for skiers looking for some aerobic variety in their ski tour. This trail has been constructed and blue diamonded by Tumalo Langlauf Ski Club volunteers and will be regularly groomed by club volunteers. Temporary junction signing will be in place in the next week or with adequate snow. Updated ski/snowshoe trail maps will be out in the near future.

Volunteers are now in the diamond installation phase of 11 miles of new designated snowshoe trails. These 11 miles are broken down into double loop (short and long loop) trails at Meissner, Swampy, and Edison snow parks. The Swampy loop trails should be fully marked in time for Christmas. Meissner is next to be marked and then Edison. New snowshoe symbol blue diamonds will distinguish the snowshoe trails from regular blue diamond ski trails. These trails were designed and are recommended for snowshoers only as they are narrower and windier than ski trails and will have difficulty ratings of Easiest to More Difficult.

Updated ski/snowshoe trail maps will be out in the near future. These snowshoe trails have been designed and constructed in cooperation between the Deschutes National Forest and local snow shoe volunteers. If you are interested in volunteering with the “diamonding” phase of this project, please call Chris Sabo at 383-4795 for more information.
--Chris Sabo


Well the big question around here these days is, WHEN will we see enough snow to get rolling with winter sports? Nobody really seems to have a specific answer but one thing I’m sure of is sooner or later the snows will come. Sounds like some winter weather is in the forecast for this week and though the temps aren’t looking all that cold yet there is precipitation in the forecast. When winter does arrive the higher snow parks will of course be the first to feel it.

At the top of the list for first snow-snow parks on the Bend/Fort Rock Ranger District is Dutchman at milepost 22 on Cascade Lakes Hwy. During early season snows Dutchman is often the only snow park with adequate snow to nordic ski, snowmobile, snowshoe or snow play out of. What this creates is a lot of user pressure on a small snow park that is usually overcrowded even during normal winter weekends when all the other District snow parks in operation.

Reports from other parts of Oregon and Washington are that Dutchman Snow Park at present seems to be about the only Snow Park with any snow and at 10-12” of hard and icy snow (Dec. 9) is not recommended for most winter activities. But yet, the desperate snow lovers still come from far and wide around the Northwest (as well as local) to Dutchman Snow Park, only to be disappointed at it’s meager snow cover. Keep in mind that Mt. Bachelor Ski Area is separate of this report and their snow conditions will vary with snow making equipment.

Keep in mind that when the next snows do arrive to our local mountains, we may only see adequate depths at the higher elevations. If this is the case you can expect the limited parking at Dutchman Snow Park to be taken early each weekend day and when the lot is full, parking at the entrance and exit of the Snow Park as well as along the Highway is not permitted for safety reasons and illegal parking will result in citations. It’s during these limited snow periods that winter recreationists dependent on parking at State Sno-Parks need to practice extra patience. Tempers have been known to escalate to verbal and near physical conflict during these periods; so please keep courtesy in mind should you find yourself in these crowded situations this winter. And when there is adequate snow for skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and snow play at the other Snow Parks strongly consider them as your first choice and avoid the congestion at Dutchman.

Also keep in mind that Dutchman Sno-Park is closed to dogs and camping during the winter trails season to reduce conflicts and make efficient use of the limited parking. All Snow Park areas and trails systems on the north side of Hwy 46 from Meissner to Dutchman are closed to Dogs from November 15 to April 30 each year. There are exceptions for working dogs in harness with a permit (call 383-4000 for more info on these exceptions). Dogs are permitted at Wanoga, Edison, Skyliner, Six Mile and Ten Mile Snow Parks and trails; and please have physical or verbal control of your dog at all times and on a leash while in the dog permitted snow parks. Again, except for Dutchman camping is permitted at all other District Snow Parks.

Additional Dutchman Sno-Park area information:

Dutchman Sno-Park (Hwy 46 - Milepost 22 from Bend, elevation 6250’)

Access to 150 miles of groomed snowmobile trails, cross district trail access to Sisters and Crescent Ranger District snowmobile trails, snowmobile warming shelters, Elk Lake Resort, and 19 miles of easy to most difficult ungroomed nordic ski and snowshoe trails with a connecting trail to the Swampy Lakes ski trail system. Also skier and snowshoer access to and from Mt. Bachelor groomed nordic trails and nordic center. Snowmobile trail grooming by Moon Country and Sisters Sno-Go-Fers Snowmobile Club volunteers will commence when conditions permit. Moon Country Snowmobile Club info and grooming hotline: (541) 410-4219.

Dutchman Sno-park is very congested and parking is limited during winter holidays and weekends. The lot fills early on these days. When snow conditions permit larger vehicles and larger trailers are recommended to use Wanoga or Edison Sno-parks. The lower and mid-elevation snowmobile trails offer good access to the upper elevation trails and areas.

Overnight camping (occupied vehicles or around the immediate snow park area) is not permitted at Dutchman Flat Sno-Park. Please camp at the lower snowparks to avoid overcrowding at this congested area. Overnight parking (unoccupied vehicles) is not permitted from Tuesdays 6 pm to Wednesdays 6 am and Thursdays 6 pm to Fridays 6 am to allow for complete plowing of the snow park. Vehicles may be towed at owners expense. The Dutchman area is shared use (motorized/non-motorized uses) and is often busy on winter weekends with snowmobiling, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding, and snow play.

All recreationists need to practice extra patience and adhere closely to trail etiquette. Skiers and snowshoers are to stay to the right side when using snowmobile (orange diamonds) trails. Ski trails (blue diamonds) are closed to snowmobile use; though in most areas between the trails snowmobile use is permitted. Snowmobilers, please slow to 10-20 mph when passing skiers/snowshoers and not faster than 5 mph while in the snow parks.

Also, obtain an area trail map and familiarize yourself with the areas closed to snowmobiles/atvs. These areas include: Three Sisters Wilderness, Todd Lake, part of Tumalo Mt., Bend Municipal Watershed and the Mt. Bachelor Ski Area. Snowmobile access to Mt. Bachelor’s Sunrise Lodge is permitted from the east via a snowmobile trail. Snowmobiles are not permitted to operate on the shoulder, inside bank, or slope of Highway 46 from Bend to Dutchman Snow Park. Obtain other information, laws and regulations on snowmobile or ATV operation from your local DMV or Forest Service Office.

Remember: do your snow dancing daily! If you can’t ski or snowmobile you might as well dance for snow....
--Chris Sabo


Well I’ve got some good news and some not so good news! The not so good is if you’re a snow lover we’re on a loosing streak and the forecast for this week is looking grim. The good news is if you like your trail’s experience tends more on the snow free side you’re in luck for now as we’ve gained some bare ground this past week with mild temps and sunshine. Even the higher elevations have been mild in temps causing a receding of the meager snowpack.

Winter trail conditions are poor to nonexistent at all sites with only Dutchman and above having a marginally continuous snow cover. And even there we are not recommending snowmobiling due to minimal snow conditions and nordic skiing is crusty and icy with no lack of logs and vegetation showing. Most of the snow poles marking the sections of trails in the open areas are not in place due to lack of snow to hold them up.

Now on the “summer” trails side of the coin the picture is rosier; at least at the low and mid elevations. Great hiking, biking and horse riding conditions only on the cool side. And you may encounter an occasional tree down.

The winter road closures of Rd 21 into Newberry Crater, Hwy 46 beyond Dutchman Flat, Rd 370 from Hwy 46 to rd 4601 are still in effect.

That’s the long and short of the report for this week! Get to snow dancing if you haven’t started yet...
--Chris Sabo


If you’re a winter trails enthusiast keep snow dancing and plan on shopping or some other non snow activity this weekend because the snow conditions are limited with fair to poor for nordic skiing and not recommended for snowmobiling.  And the weekend forecast is looking dry and mild with further lessening of the snow pack.  Now if you’re still working on the fall trail activities like hiking, biking and horseback riding it’s looking like a good holiday weekend, just plan on an extra layer or two to stay warm and keep in mind that the sun sets around 4 pm these days.  

The only Deschutes National Forest snow park with barely adequate snow (12-16”) is Dutchman Snow Park and the snow for nordic skiing is crusty and not adequate for safe snowmobiling.  All other snow parks lack any or adequate snow for winter trails activities.  Several snowmobilers have found out the hard and expensive way what its like to ride on minimal snow.  Unseen rocks and logs just under the snow can cause serious snowmobile damage and rider injury; even experienced riders have found this out.  In addition, there hasn’t been enough snow yet to install the hundreds of snow poles that mark many of the high country trails and wilderness and watershed closure areas.  Do take note that even though many of these snowmobile closure signs are not in place yet, it is RIDER RESPONSIBILITY to know where you are in relation to these closures and you can be CITED for riding in the unmarked closures.  We will install the trail marker poles and remaining signs when we have adequate snow to do so.  Until then, if you should decide to ride be prepared for the dangers and added rider responsibility.

Be aware that many of the winter road closures like Hwy 46 beyond Mt.  Bachelor, Road 370 to Todd Lake and beyond, and Road 21 into Newberry Crater are in effect.  These roads are gated and closed to highway vehicles for the winter season.  Additional road closures around the Hwy 46 and Road 45 snow parks (Meissner to Dutchman and Edison Snow Parks) go into effect December 1.  These forest roads become snowmobile and ski trails during the winter season.

Stay tuned for weekly updates on the hopefully soon to arrive winter trails season. 
--Chris Sabo


The past week has brought warmer temps and a small amount of rain or snow at the higher elevations (6,000’ and above). This has resulted in melting of most of the mid elevation (4,500’-6,000’) snow we received November 8-10. Forecast for the next few days calls for mild temperatures and no precipitation which is not the best of news for the remaining snowpack and the marginal winter trail conditions. However, it does mean improved conditions for the lower and some mid elevation summer trails for the immediate future anyway.

On another winter note more details on the new District snowshoe trails that will be in place this winter. With the help of volunteers from the Pacific Crest Association and other snowshoers we will have in place this winter 11 miles of snowshoe trails. These 11 miles of snowshoe trails are broken up between Meissner, Swampy, and Edison Snow Parks.

Meissner Snow Park will have a 3.5 mile loop opportunity of easiest snowshoe trail that takes shoers to Meissner warming shelter with a variety of mountain views, forest cover and open forest scenery along the way. The Swampy snowshoe trail is a 3.75 mile loop rated at easiest and will take shoers on a forest hike with opportunity to possibly see chickarees, pine marten, porcupine, coyote, snowshoe hare to mention a few of the local forest inhabitants.

Edison snowshoe trail will offer a 4 mile loop opportunity with a “more difficult” rating. This trail will take the shoer through rolling and a bit more challenging terrain over ancient lava flows and through open stands of old growth ponderosa pine mixed with denser lodgepole pine. Due to the lava flows this trail will require at least 3 feet of snow coverage before it can be safely traversed and even then care should be taken to avoid potential drops along the trail
Each of these snowshoe trail loops includes a tie trail to provide a shorter loop opportunity for those low on energy or time. For first time snowshoers keep in mind that the difficulty rating for these trails will change depending on the snow conditions. With fresh deep snow or an untracked trail, the going will likely be more difficult. These trails are not machine groomed but are “human groomed” or tracked. Updated trail maps will be available in December in the Deschutes National Forest Website, as well as at area snow parks and Forest Service Offices.

These snowshoe designated trails are being constructed in order to provide the exploding increase in snowshoe use a place and experience more ideally suited for the slower pace of snowshoeing. This will also help to reduce the growing “trail tension” between skiers and snowshoers that develops when ski tracks are damage by snowshoe tracks. These “snowshoe designated” trails are designed primarily for snowshoe use and not recommended for skiers as they are narrower with more twists and turns.

The blue diamond ski trails are still open to snowshoers and proper trail etiquette including avoiding snowshoeing over a ski track or skiing in a snowshoe track is required to maintain good feelings between the groups. Dogs are not permitted from November 15 through April 30 in the Meissner, Swampy, Dutchman, and Vista Butte areas but, they are permitted and welcomed in the Edison, Skyliner, and Newberry Crater areas. More details on dogs and winter in future trails reports!
--Chris Sabo


Winter has begun to arrive at the high to mid elevation trails. Along with its arrival many of the summer trails are now snow covered and inaccessible; likely until next summer.

We’ve received up to 10-12 inches of snow at 5,000 ft. and 20-24” at 6,200 ft. on the west side of the District and 6 -8 inches in Newberry Crater floor to 2 inches at Ten Mile Snow Park. All Three Sisters Wilderness trails are snow covered and most District wilderness trailheads are no longer accessible by vehicle as Hwy 46 (Mt. Bachelor to Deschutes Bridge) and Road 370 to Broken Top TH are closed for the season. The Road to Paulina Peak is closed and likely the road into Newberry Crater will be closed by Deschutes County in the next day or two. More snow is in the forecast over the next week.

Dutchman Flat area has received 20-24” of snow and the Meissner area ski trails have about 8-12”. Skyliner Snow Park has 2-3” of snow and the road to Tumalo Falls may close for the winter in the next few days. More details on the winter trail conditions will be out in the next few days.

Snowmobiling is not yet recommended as there are many hazards i.e. rocks, logs, stumps, etc. that are not adequately covered and the snow has not yet developed a solid base. Each year early snowmobilers find these hazards the “hard” way when they ride on minimal snow depths. If you decide to ride on minimal snow, be sure you are not riding over and damaging vegetation or disturbing and turning up soil.

Many snowmobile and some ski trail markers and signs at and above Dutchman Flat will not be in place until we have adequate snow to install them
Again, those seasonal road closures at this time include:

Hwy 46 from Mt. Bachelor to Deschutes Bridge
Road 370 from Hwy 46 to road 4601 and it’s not recommended that people try to drive from Three Creek Lake to Tumalo Falls due to deep snow.
Paulina Peak Road
Newberry Crater road 21 may close in the next day or two.
Tumalo Falls road may close in next few days.

Starting December. 1, all of the gravel and dirt roads in Meissner, Wanoga, Swampy, Edison, Vista Butte, and Dutchman Snow Park areas close for the winter season. Most of these roads become snowmobile and ski trails thru the winter months.

Many other forest roads may be closed as well due to deep snow. If you plan on driving any of the mid to higher elevation roads on the District it is recommended that you take extra food, water, warm cloths, blankets, fire starter, flashlights, plenty of fuel, shovel, tow rope, chains, cell phone, etc. as well as know when to turn around before it’s too late and you become stuck. Each year during these early snow periods several people spend a cold dark night or more out on little traveled roads when they push the limits of their vehicles and become stranded in the snow.

Be sure to let reliable persons know your travel plans and what to do should you not return as planned.
--Chris Sabo