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


Snow line high, most lower trails are open!    05.04.04

Tumalo Falls Trailhead is now open for the season but, at this time most of the trails above (Bridge Ck , North Fork, South Fork, and upper Mrazek are mostly blocked by snow. With warm temps the snow line in this are should steadily rise over the coming weeks with full access estimated to be sometime around mid June. Road 370 will likely not open until sometime in July.

Snowline for most of the District is about 5,100 ft. on the Westside of Hwy 97 and 5,800 ft. on the eastside of Hwy 97.

Dutchman Sno-park and area has approx. 6-7 ft. of snow with the snow depth increasing with elevation to an estimated 9 ft. in the area around the Sisters. Snow conditions are good for winter trails activities out of Dutchman. Vista Butte, Swampy and Wanoga Sno-Parks are fast becoming fair to marginal for winter trail activities. All other snow parks are out of service from the winter trails perspective.

Hwy 46 snow plowing is now progressing from Lava Lakes to Mt. Bachelor with the normal opening scheduled for Memorial Day Weekend. The section from Lava to Elk Lake will open before that though.

Low elevation hiker, biker, and horse trails are in fair to great condition with most of the trails out of Phil's Trailhead cleared of snow and blowdown to about 5,000 ft. Be aware that sections of Storm King Trail are reported to have moderate amounts of logging slash on the trail. The new trails out of Phils Trailhead are now open. Be sure to pick up a new map of the area.

All Wilderness Trails and Trailheads are yet blocked by snow as well as the Pacific Crest Trail. There's anywhere from 2-8 ft. of snow on these trails.

Fall River Trail is cleared of blowdown. Most other trails have not yet been cleared but the blowdown levels are reported to be light to moderate in most cases.

I will be out of town for the next two weeks, but Steve Hayden will be sending out the weekly updates. Enjoy the spring!
--Chris Sabo, Trails/Wilderness


Weather for the last few days has been more typical for March   04.21.04

Well, since we didn’t really have a month of March this year, I guess it decided to pop in for an April visit. Weather for the last few days has been more typical for March with snow in the mid-higher elevations and mixed snow/rain for the lower elevations. This has caused a slowing to reversal of the receding snowline for the time being with some minor muddying of the lower elevation trails.

Present snowline is at about 4,800’ on the District’s west side and 5,400’ on the east side. Some patchy snow may be found in isolated areas below these elevations. Forecast calls for gradual warming and drying into the weekend.

Road access into Tumalo Falls may be opening next week with the last remaining patches of snow melting out of the parking lot. Trails above the parking area can be expected to be under varying depths of snow into June.
--Chris Sabo, Trails/Wilderness, Bend/Fort Rock RD, Deschutes NF


Spring is charging along and winter is fading    04.12.04

Spring is charging along and winter is fading (melting) away with above normal temperatures. Winter trail conditions have deteriorated at all of the lower and most mid elevation snow parks. Poor to marginal winter trail conditions can be found at Wanoga, Swampy and Edison. Meissner is only for the desperate skiers, and Skyliner, 6 Mile and 10 Mile are out of business for the winter season. Vista Butte and Dutchman Snow Parks are operational with adequate snow and fair to good spring conditions.

All lower elevation trails and many mid elevation winter trails are likewise either snow free or well on their way. Trail grooming is now limited very intermittent grooming on the snowmobile trails from Dutchman Flat to Moon Mt. and down to Happy Valley area. Again, that is at best 1 day/week to 1 day/ 2 weeks. Elk Lake Resort has closed for the winter trail season.

On the summer trails side of the fence, conditions are rapidly improving on the lower to mid elevation trails with the snow line rapidly receding.

Here’s a quick run down on some of the summer trail conditions:

Mt. bike trails in the Phil’s Trail area are mostly snow free below 4,800’. Tumalo Creek Trails out of Shevlin are snow free except for patchy snow above Skyliner Lodge. Mrazek bike trail is about 50% snow free.

All Deschutes River access trailheads along Forest Road 41 (just upstream of Bend) are snow free. Meadow Picnic, Lava Island, Big Eddy, Aspen, Dillon Falls, Slough, Benham Falls and Benham East Day Use sites area are fully accessible. The Deschutes River Trail from Meadow to Benham Falls East is 100% snow free and mostly firm and dry with only a few trees down across the trail. Dogs required to be on leash at all times beginning May 1.

Tumalo Falls trailhead is still partially blocked by snow and the gate yet closed 2 miles from the trailhead, but it could be open in another week. Expect trails above the trailhead to be under snow into late May.

Primary horse trails out of the Horse Butte area are snow free with only light blowdown across the trails.

Peter Skene Ogden Trail along Paulina Creek is snow free below 5,400’. Trails in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument above that elevation are yet under snow. The road to Lava Cast Forest is blocked by snow 8.5 miles from Hwy 97, but could be snow free by April 19. Lava Lands Visitor Center and trails will be fully open April 24.

Fall River Trail is snow free and is reported to be cleared of blowdown.

Wilderness Trails: All District wilderness trails are under 6-10 feet of snow and all Wilderness trailheads are inaccessible due to snow.

Pacific Crest Trail is under 6-9 feet of snow. All of the District’s PCT access trailheads are blocked by snow or the winter closure of Hwy 46.

Road access:

Most paved roads around Wickiup and Crane Prairie Reservoirs and into Cultus Lake Boat Ramp are reported plowed free of snow and accessible. Cultus Lake area is yet under mostly snow. Hwy 46 from Deschutes Bridge to Mt. Bachelor is yet closed and will not be fully accessible until Memorial Day Weekend. The Hwy will likely open into Lava Lakes later this month and later yet to Elk Lake from the south only.

Road 21 from Ten Mile Sno-Park into Paulina Crater is in the process of being plowed and will open in time for fishing season on April 24. Until then it will remain closed at the Ten Mile gate and persons found driving on the closed section are subject a citation.
--Chris Sabo, Trails/Wilderness

We received 2-16 inches of new snow on the District’s trails   04.01.04.

Late last week we received 2-16 inches of new snow on the District’s trails. Over the past few days, this new snow has melted off the lower elevations and settled into spring conditions once again at the mid-high elevations.

The low elevation summer trails continue to improve with spring thaw and drying conditions. The Deschutes River Trails from Meadow Picnic to Benham Falls and Benham East are mostly snow free with the exception of snow patches on some of the northern and shaded aspects upstream of Dillon Falls. The trails continue to set up and dry out, though there are yet some “soft” and muddy areas. Road access to these trails heads is also nearly complete with only a few patches of snow/ice on the access road to Slough Picnic and Benham Falls. The 41 Road through to Sunriver above the Benham Falls access road is yet blocked by snow.

Just a reminder that May first to October first 2004, dogs are required to be on a leash at all times when in the Deschutes River Corridor from Meadow to Benham East. Until then we ask that dog users maintain control of their pets either by adequate voice control or using a leash; this is to reduce the chance of user conflicts during this heavy use period of these snow free trails.

Trails out of Phil’s Trail Head are also improving with the snowline now above 4,200’. Again, some trails will be soft and muddy in areas where the snow has recently melted off. Please avoid using these trails that show evidence of recent melt off and muddy conditions.

Trails out of the Horse Butte area are in good condition up to about 4,600’. Above that, snow will likely be encountered.

Tumalo Falls access is still limited to walking or biking on the access road for 2 miles. Snow will be encountered on the road as you near the falls parking area with Tumalo Falls Trailhead parking still under 12-16” of snow and all trails above there yet under snow. We may have the road to the trailhead open in two weeks, but even then expect the trails above that to be under snow until June.

Winter trails are in good condition above 5,500’ along the Hwy 46 snow parks, and 5,800’ in the Ten Mile Sno-park area. Ten Mile Sno-Park is yet usable at this time though there are bare spots showing on the 21 road above the gate and around the sno-park area. Meissner Sno-park has fair snow conditions. Wanoga and Swampy Sno-parks have fair to good spring snow and trail conditions. Snowmobile, ski and snowshoe trails out of Edison Sno-park are getting on the rough side with some bare ground showing along snowmobile Trail #2.

Elk Lake Resort is planning on closing for the winter season sometime in the next two weeks, so be sure to call before snowmobiling or skiing in.

Weather forecast for the coming week looks mostly mild with only a slight chance of showers Tuesday, then sunny with temperatures in the 55-60 degree range for the highs and lows in the 20’s and 30’s.
--Chris Sabo, Trails/Wilderness

Happy Spring!  03.23.04

What happened to winter? Seems this last month has been more like April and spring conditions throughout the month. Well, needless to say that shorts and t-shirts outnumbered ski and snowmobile suits at least 5-1 this past weekend. Lower elevation summer trails have really seen a rapid snow melt with most trails below 4,300’ either completely snow free or only having lingering patchy snow.

Mid and upper elevation snowpack has seen 12-20 inches of snow depth melt away over the past 2 weeks. Normally we see some gain in snow depth at most mid-high elevation areas during March. What we have been seeing is 18-24 hour melting of the snowpack at most elevations with minimal refreezing at night. This is looking like an early heads up for an early melt out and possibly challenging fire season.

From the general trails perspective, low elevation summer trails are melting out and setting up very well and winter trail conditions are definitely in spring mode at this point. Winter trail grooming has either been put on hold in some cases or is becoming intermittent do to the soft spring conditions.

Summer trailhead road access is also improving steadily with most of the Deschutes River Trailheads along Road 41 now accessible. Road 41 is yet blocked by snow just south of the Benham Falls West road but will likely be snow free in another 7 days. The River trails in this area are now about 90% snow free as well. The Phil’s Trails area is also melting out and setting up well at this time, but please avoid those trails that are just melting out with muddy areas. Again, Spring thaw is a time when trails can be in a soft and muddy condition and prone to excessive erosion when used too soon.

Road access to Tumalo Falls is still blocked by snow but this may open before mid April with the present thaw.

Seems spring vandalism is unfortunately in full swing this year with several local trailhead facilities and summer signing intentionally damaged during recent weeks. We ask that anyone witnessing or knowing anything about this activity contact local law enforcement authorities at: (541) 388-0170.

A last note here, don’t plant your tomatoes yet because there’s always those very cold days that come along in April and May to remind us this is Central Oregon.
--Chris Sabo, Trails/Wilderness

Spring Break Begins!   03.17.04

Spring Break Begins

With temperatures higher than normal for this time of year, snow conditions have definitely taken on spring conditions.
And the forecast for the next several days calls for more of the same. Winter trail users can expect possibly icy snow conditions in the evenings through late mornings and soft to slushy in the afternoon hours. Most District snow parks do have adequate snow coverage with the exception of Six Mile Snow Park.

Summer trail access is very limited with only the lowest elevation trailheads and trails accessible. The snow free trailheads are limited to Phil’s, Meadow Picnic, Horse Butte, and Peter Skene Ogden Trailheads. Lava Island, Big Eddy, Aspen, and Dillon Falls Trailheads along the Deschutes River are marginal for low clearance 2 wheel drive vehicles at this time due to stretches of icy snow. But another week of warm temperatures and they should be thawed out. Not far from these trailheads though, trail users can expect to find some patchy snow with snow depths increasing with elevation. Nearing the snowline, trail conditions will likely be getting soft and muddy. It’s these areas that are under the thawing process that are most sensitive to early use impacts and erosion. Please avoid these trails until they have adequately dried out.

With Oregon school spring break starting this weekend, we expect to see moderate to heavy use on many of the area’s winter and summer trails, snow parks, and trailheads. This will require trail users to pack a little extra patience and courtesy. Those snow parks that are normally busy during winter holidays will likely once again experience crowded conditions at times. Dutchman Snow Park and area will likely be most impacted with heavy use during this period. Trail and area users please reduce your speed, be courteous, and share the snow.

Bikers remember to yield to horse riders, hikers and runners and ride at a safe and courteous speed and under control at all times. Horse riders please avoid running horses on trails as it increases trail impacts and can be a safety hazard to yourself and other trail users. Trail users with dogs, please leash your dog where required and either have voice control of your pet at all times or maintain dogs on lease as a trail courtesy and safety measure for other trail users and wildlife.

Thanks and have a safe spring break.
--Chris Sabo, Trails/Wilderness


By the calendar we are yet in winter mode, but the temps feel more like May!   03.09.04

By the calendar we are yet in winter mode, but the temps feel more like May! Even with this temporary touch of spring, most District summer trails are for the time being, under patchy to 14 ft. of snow.

The lowest elevation summer trails are showing increasing signs of thawing and along with this thawing process is the dreaded mud period. This is the between seasons (winter-summer) condition when the trail surface is soft and most prone to early traffic erosion (aka muddy). In this muddy condition, early hiking, biking or horse travel is not only unpleasant but can cause erosion damage. In an effort to avoid the muddy sections, trail users walk or ride off on the side of the trail often times trampling vegetation and creating wide areas in the trail or entire new trail reroutes. For these reasons we ask that trail users please avoid these freshly thawing trails until they have sufficiently dried out and set up. With a little patience and warm weather these trails will be in good condition and ready for summer type activities over the coming weeks and months.

On the winter trails front, we are momentarily experiencing spring like conditions that can make for icy trails in the morning and soft to slushy snow conditions in the afternoon. Other than the warm temps. most winter trails are in good condition with adequate snow coverage on about 90% of our snowmobile, nordic ski and snowshoe trails. Be aware that warm temperatures can make it difficult to “set” a good track when trail grooming. Lowest elevation winter trails out of Six Mile Snow Park are not winter useable.

For backcountry users, keep in mind the effects warm temperatures can have on snowpack stability. Warm temperatures can increase the avalanche hazard on some slopes, slopes that during cold weather may not normally release. Backcountry users should take extra precautions during these periods of unseasonably warm temperatures.
--Chris Sabo, Trails/Wilderness



Conditions are still good for winter adventures   03.01.04

With 8-10” of new snow at the higher elevations since last week, winter trail conditions are remaining good at most snow parks. Winter trail grooming is yet in full swing on most of the District’s snowmobile trails and most of the Meissner nordic ski trails. A big “thanks” to those club volunteers from Moon Country Snowmobile Club, Sisters Sno-Go-Fers Snowmobile Club, LaPine Lodgepole Dodgers Snowmobile Club and Tumalo Langlauf Ski Club for the thousands of grooming miles and thousands of grooming hours they have performed and continue to perform this winter.

Some melting of the lowest elevation summer trails has taken place, but in most cases access on these these trails is still very limited. We should see continued thawing of these trails as we approach spring, but keep in mind that during the initial stages of this thawing process trails may be on the soft and muddy side and prone to erosion damage by early use. If you are looking at getting an early start to biking, hiking and horse riding on our local trails, please be sensitive to this erosion issue and limit use to those trails that have had time to dry and set up.

For those non-snow area users that have been or wish to hike, mountain bike, horse ride on BLM Lands East of Bend in the Dry Canyon and Badlands Wilderness Study areas, please see the special closure notice below issued by BLM.

The Bureau of Land Management is issuing a temporary closure on March 1, 2004 to all uses for a portion of Dry Canyon adjacent to highway 20 and a second closure at Badlands Rock within Badlands Wilderness Study Area. The reason for the closures is the presence of nesting prairie falcons, a species which is very sensitive to human disturbance. The closure will legally expire on August 31, 2004 but biologists will likely make an earlier determination on an expiration date based on when fledging actually occurs. The Dry Canyon closure area blocks thru passage from the upper end of the canyon down towards the canyon mouth, so all uses including hiking and mountain biking won’t be legal for the closure period. The Badlands Rock closure includes an area ¼ mile around the summit of the rock.

For more information on these temporary closures, please contact Bill Dean, BLM Wildlife Biologist at 416-6887, or by email at
--Chris Sabo, Trails/Wilderness


Winter trail conditions are good at most District snow parks  02.23.04

Winter trail conditions are good at most District snow parks. Some of the lower to mid-elevation ski trails have begun to ice up in some areas. We are approaching that time in the winter trails season when we will start to see the lower elevation trails reaching their peak snow depth and about early-mid March they will likely start on their spring thaw. Higher elevation trails will likely continue to accumulate snow depth into late March and even early April.

Don’t let the approaching longer days with occasionally mild temperatures lull you into lessening your winter preparedness. There are still ample winter conditions to get people into life threatening situations. In the past week we have had a few people get stuck on a snow bound road with Deschutes County Sheriffs Search and Rescue personnel finding them and helping them out. This past weekend we also had 2 additional serious injury snowmobile accidents resulting in Air Life trips to the hospital. For information on snowmobile safety please view the following website.

For all users of winter and summer trails please remember, always go with a safe attitude and prepared for the unexpected. Avoid getting so caught up in the moment that safety goes out the window; that’s when accidents are most likely to happen.
--Chris Sabo, Trails/Wilderness


Up to 30” of wet snow has fallen in the Broken Top area in the last 5 days    02.18.04

New snow but also rain has caused some possibly soggy and mushy snow conditions on the winter trails. Up to 30” of snow has fallen in the Broken Top area in the last 5 days.

Avalanche Safety
For backcountry users in avalanche terrain, avalanche awareness should be a priority with each backcountry visit. We’ve heard a few reports and seen snow conditions on a few occasions this winter that indicate “watch out” situations relating to avalanche hazards. There have been at least a couple of reports of backcountry skier tripped avalanches in our local area; fortunately these were smaller slides that resulted in no injuries. But just a heads up, that the potential for serious injury or death is there nevertheless.

As we get further into the winter season and near spring, it’s important to keep in mind the snow pack history that has been developing and changing over the past few months. Under the right conditions, potentially weak bonded layers created earlier in the season can cause large fatal slides later in the season. This “history” can provide the backcountry user valuable information about the possible stability of the snow pack before they hit the backcountry, but it in no way should it be considered a substitute for doing on-the-snow assessments as you travel the backcountry. Clear cold weather last week began creating a surface hoar layer and with the 1-2 ft. of new snow over the past few days, this is yet another bit of important information backcountry users should note in that “history” for present and future trips.

Gaining information on local snow pack history can be difficult as we don’t have a formal avalanche center in the local area. Lack of funding and the fact that we may not be considered an “avalanche prone” area are a couple of reasons for this. This is even more reason for backcountry users to be fully prepared and capable of reading the present avalanche conditions as they travel the local backcountry.

Read more . . .  Go to Questions, avalanche avoidance; Maps, known avalanches; and News, Avalanches.

Winter Trail Courtesy
Unfortunately, trail user conflicts do occur in areas of high use and in areas of mixed uses i.e.. motorized and non-motorized use. Conflicts can also develop in areas of similar uses as with skiers and snowshoers, dog users and non-dog users, and even ATVs and snowmobiles. Two important facts to keep in mind with these conflicts is that it’s only a small percentage of any group that causes the conflicts and that the vast majority of users are practicing sound trail etiquette. Whether it’s snowmobiling, skiing, snowshoeing, mountain biking, hiking, horse riding, etc. remember most users are being courteous and only a very small percentage of any group are causing the conflicts and safety concerns. While it may be hard at the moment of a negative contact with another trail user, remember to avoid judging all users of any one group from the discourtesy of one or two individuals within that particular user group.

To help reduce or prevent user conflicts it’s important for each trail user to be aware of other types of users you may encounter in any given area and know the proper etiquette for each of these uses. Trail etiquette information is often available on trail maps, in trail guide publications, National Forest Websites and often posted at snow parks and trailheads. Please seek out this information before venturing down the trail and help make everybody’s visit a safe and pleasant one.

Final word, backcountry safety is ultimately the user’s responsibility. If you have any doubts about the stability of a slope, avoid it and select an avalanche safe route through the area.
--Chris Sabo, Trails/Wilderness

President’s Day Weekend Trails Report Summary   02-09-04

Here’s a quick summary on updates for this coming holiday weekend. I hope to have the full meal report out tomorrow evening.

This weekend is typically one of our busiest winter trails weekends and if weather and snow conditions are even fair we expect all District Sno-Parks to be near, at or over capacity. With that in mind, visitors to the snow parks and trails need to practice extra patience and use extra caution when in the snow parks and on the trails. Parking capacity in the snow parks is limited and when the designated sites are full, users will have to try another snow park. Parking in the posted “No Parking” areas is subject to a citation. These no parking areas are posted for safe traffic flow into and out of snow parks. When vehicles park in these restricted zones it prevents safe traffic flow and has led to accidents in the past. It can also restrict emergency vehicles from entering/exiting a snow park when access and time are critical.

Trail congestion and safety are other concerns and all recreationists need to be extra courteous and cautious when on and off trail.

Motorized users should use additional caution with speed and remain in control at all times. Slow down for pedestrians and other snowmobilers, especially in congested areas.

Nonmotorized users need to be courteous when encountering motorized users on snowmobile trails (orange diamonds) and stay to the right to allow snowmobiles to pass safely; or avoid the heavily used snowmobile trails and stick to the blue diamond skier and snowshoe trails. Respect winter area dog closures either by leaving your pet safe at home or going to the dog permitted areas. Practice Canine Courtesy by maintaining control of your dog with a leash or if required in harness; and clean remove dog waste from trail and snow park areas. Along with the expected increase in recreationists, Forest Service, County Sheriff, and State Police will have extra patrols out in the Sno-Parks and on the trails.

For the basic rundown on present snow and winter trail conditions, most District snow parks and trails are in good to great condition at this time. The only Sno-Park in question at this time is Six Mile Sno-Park near Newberry Crater. Right now it has marginal snow and could be lacking snow before the weekend. Compared to last Pres Day Weekend though, overall we have 200-300% of the snow depths we had last year this time. Snow conditions can change from day to day depending on weather. As the forecast is calling for mostly mild and sunny over the next few days we could see some thaw/freeze conditions resulting in some icy morning conditions to soft afternoon conditions. There is some chance of snow later into the weekend.

Summer trail activities on the District will be extremely limited to only the lowest elevations, and even then you will likely encounter at least patchy snow/ice before hitting solid snow blocking the summer hiker, biker, horse trails. Road/trailhead access will mostly be on roads that are plowed which are normally limited to snow parks.
--Chris Sabo, Trails/Wilderness


This Week’s summary winter trails report    02.03.04

After some rain/snow mix during the middle of last week we have mostly seen winter trail conditions improve with 6-30” of new snow across most of the District. With the new snow and forecasts for additional snow over the next few days and into the weekend, trail and backcountry users should keep in mind that we could be into another of those heavy snow periods when getting around on the trails can become quite difficult and possibly hazardous. Extra caution is recommended during these periods of heavy snowfall. Avalanche hazards can also increase and backcountry users should take necessary extra precautions when traveling in avalanche terrain. Constantly assess the avalanche hazards along your route and avoid avalanche terrain when conditions dictate.

Road users should also take extra precautions when traveling along plowed and unplowed roads. A small group of people driving on snow covered secondary roads became stuck in deep snow and spent a cold night out before hiking for several hours to an area that allowed cell phone coverage. The group was not dressed for the conditions and poorly prepared to spend time out in winter conditions. Just a reminder to avoid unplowed roads when possible and go prepared to spend possibly several nights out should you decide to travel these roads.

A reminder on winter dog use:
Many of the Bend/Fort Rock Ranger District’s Snow Parks and winter trail areas are closed to dogs November 1 – April 30. They include Meissner, Swampy, Vista Butte, and Dutchman Snow Parks, winter trails and areas out of these snow parks.

District snow parks and winter trail areas that are open to dogs include:
Wanoga, Edison, Skyliner, Ten Mile and Six Mile. When using these open areas with a dog it is strongly recommended that you have your dog on a leash, especially when other area users are present. Voice control is often not a sure thing when other users and dogs are present. Dog confrontations and fights are not that uncommon in these open areas. A recent dog fight between an unleashed dog and a dog sled team resulted in the loose dog (friendly or not) going to the vet with serious injuries. A loose dog mixed in with a dog sled team is almost always likely to be seriously injured, possibly fatally. So please, help prevent confrontations and leash your dog when using these dog open areas.
--Chris Sabo, Trails/Wilderness

Note: Here’s how the Bend/Fort Rock Ranger District Winter Trails Report works. The interesting, informative and informal Trail Tips, printed above, are passed along from Chris Sabo. The more formal Report, in PFD format, is a weekly update on winter trail and some backcountry conditions. It includes snow and trail conditions at specific sno-parks, special closure information, trail openings and closures, general trail grooming information, winter resort, special safety reminders, general avalanche information and occasionally avalanche hazard warnings. General summer trail conditions are also touched upon although, this time of year the majority of summer trails are inaccessible due to snow. There’s usually a short summary of conditions or special “reminders” on the cover page with the more detailed information in the attachment.  Have a safe holiday season! --Webmeister


Snow/trail conditions have improved at most elevations   01.27.04

Snow/trail conditions have improved at most elevations with 2-16" of new snow over the past few days. Forecast for next few days calls for more precipitation.

Just a safety reminder for all users to be aware of other users on/off the trails and for snowmobile operators that may tend to ride on the fast side to slow down. During the Martin Luther King Weekend on the Bend/Ft. Rock Ranger District there were 5 injury (broken bones) snowmobile accidents which were mostly attributable to either inexperience and/or speed.

Another serious injury snowmobile accident occurred near Odell Lake last Saturday that may have also involved riding too fast for the conditions.

Remember, share the trails safely. Have a safe week!
 --Chris Sabo, Trails/Wilderness


Snow conditions have settled considerably from the extreme snow conditions just 10 days ago    01.12.04

This weekend is a holiday weekend for some (Martin Luther King) and we will likely see moderate to possibly high use at some snow parks. Remember, only the early arrival is guaranteed a parking space at Dutchman.

On the Dutchman note, additional warning/caution signs have been installed on the snowmobile trails in the Dutchman area to remind users to be extra cautious of other users in the area. Snowmobile and ATV riders, please pay special attention to the presence of others as you play and travel through the area and slow down for skiers, snowshoers and other slow movers. Proper trail etiquette is especially critical during busy periods.

Snow conditions have settled considerably from the extreme snow conditions just 10 days ago. In some areas snow conditions have become wet/slushy during the day to icy/crusty during the evening through morning hours. No major change is forecasted over the next few days.

All trail and boundary signs have been dug out and raised after the Holiday storms/extreme snow and trail grooming operations are mostly back to normal. Thanks to the all the volunteer trail groomers with Moon Country, Sisters Sno-Go-Fers, and LaPine Lodgepole Dodgers Snowmobile Clubs and Tumalo Langlauf Ski Club for their extra efforts in trying to keeping up with the deep snow conditions over the past few weeks. Remember, during these periods of heavy sustained snowfall trail conditions can become impassible even for the trail groomers. Also, directional and other trail signing can become buried making navigating difficult to impossible at times. Use extra caution during these extreme snowfall periods.

A reminder on the special winter dog closure that is effect November 1 through April 30 of each year on the Bend/Ft. Rock Ranger District. Dogs are not permitted in area on the north side of Cascade Lakes Highway from Meissner Snow Park and ski trail system west to Todd Lake. This closure area includes: Swampy Snow Park and trail system, Vista Butte Snow Park and trail system, entire Tumalo Mt., Dutchman Snow Park and trail system, Dutchman Flat, Todd Lake, the section of Cascade Lake Hwy from Dutchman Flat west to Road 370 as well as the area around these trail systems. The only exception to this is working dogs in harness (not a leash) are permitted on groomed snowmobile trails within this closed area. A permit is also required to be in possession for these special working dog activities; permits (free) are available at the Forest Service Offices in Bend. Violators of this closure are subject to a $200 fine.

Dog friendly snow parks and winter trail systems include: Edison, Wanoga, Skyliner, Ten Mile and Six Mile. Call BFR District Office (383-4000) for more doggie details.

All summer trailheads (except maybe Phil’s Trailhead) are blocked by snow. The Deschutes River Trailheads are included in these snow blockages, though some have attempted Meadow Picnic and have gotten stuck in snow.

Have a safe week!  --Chris Sabo, Trails/Wilderness


Lacking time this week for the full meal deal winter trails update; here’s a short appetizer!  01.08.04

Rain at the low to mid elevations and snow in the higher (6000’ plus) elevations. That will make for heavy wet snow conditions on many of our winter trails below 5,500’. Water/slush hazards may develop along some trails so winter users beware.

I just returned from skiing in the Ball Butte/Moon Mt. area and snow conditions are yet on the deep side with snowmobilers struggling to avoid getting stuck when off the beaten track. The snowmobile trail groomer was able to make it all the way around Moon Mt. on Trails 7 and 8. Nordic ski trail breaking is challenging to difficult and many trails in the Dutchman area have not been broken as of 4 pm on 1/8. At 5 pm light to moderate snow was falling in the Dutchman area, it was mostly raining to wet snow at Swampy and raining at Wanoga and Meissner.

We’ve resurrected nearly all of the snowmobile and ski trail markers and 90% of the Wilderness boundary signs. Tumalo Mt./Bend Watershed boundary signs are next to be found and raised over the coming days. We’ve likely lost just a few signs until spring.

I did not see any evidence of avalanche or instability in the snow pack around the Ball Butte area, but the visibility was poor. Did sense some minor whumping in the snow pack as I skied along the flats which is an indicator of settling in the snow pack and also an indicator of some possible instability. One 2-3 ft hasty pit showed no weak layers but that doesn’t indicate what may be found deeper down or on the next slope. Backcountry users should do their own assessments and act on the side of caution whenever in doubt.

I will have a more complete winter trails report out next week. Have a safe weekend!
--Chris Sabo

Winter Snows Require Caution and Consideration on National Forest Roads and Trails

Snowy winter roads and trails in the Deschutes National Forest pose special safety challenges to winter forest users. Many roads and trails are used jointly by skiers, snowmobilers, and log truck drivers. All have to be on the lookout for the safety of each other.

Most drivers know about winter highway safety. And most cross country skiers and snowmobilers know about safety in crowded areas such as Dutchman Flat and Edison Butte. But there are other, lesser known areas in which road and trail use by different users requires special caution and consideration.

This winter, as in most winters, snowmobilers and logging operators are using some of the same roads. South of Crane Prairie Reservoir, for example, two companies are thinning the forest to reduce fire fuels at the Snoop and Tun Timber Sales. Logging over snow has a low impact on the forest ecosystem. These companies are plowing and hauling over stretches of Forest Road 42 and adjacent national forest roads. The public is advised that log trucks are operating on Road 42 between its junctions with Road 43 and Road 46 (Cascade Lakes Highway), and other adjacent Forest roads 4270 and 4290--4292. Signs mark the roads that lead to and from logging operations.

Drivers of all vehicles and are cautioned to exercise extra care on these roads where different kinds of motorized vehicles are operating. With the increased hazards of winter conditions, and remote distances from emergency services, it is very important to be alert.

Safe use of these and other roads in the Deschutes National Forest depends upon extra caution and consideration by all who use them.
--News Release from the Deschutes National Forest


Happy New Year Snow Report!  12.31.03

Snow, snow, snow... How do you report on what we’ve had in the past few days. I say it’s great and some folks don’t agree. Challenging may be a happy medium. Driving conditions are definitely on the challenging side along with trail conditions. Both conditions are improving slowly as snow plows clear the roads and snow cat and human powered groomers set tracks in the deep fluffy snow. Be aware that this process won’t happen overnight and may take several days before most of the ski, snowshoe and snowmobile trails are again reasonably usable. Also take note that more snow is in the forecast over the next few days and this could once again create very challenging winter conditions.

Winter safety becomes an increasing priority during these periods of EXTREME snow conditions. Keep in mind that people and equipment are physically stressed when encountering deep snow. Breakdown, fatigue, injury potential, getting lost will increase substantially during these periods. So, know your limits and the limits of others in your group as well as your equipment and use extra caution. Trail signing may be covered by snow as well so pay close attention to where you are at at all times. Avalanche hazards also increase substantially during and just after periods of heavy snowfall. Backcountry users venturing forth in avalanche terrain should take extra precautions when traveling in these areas and when in doubt avoid slopes that have any possibility of releasing.

A note on Holiday Crowds, expect them at the snow parks and on the trails through this weekend. Last Saturday nearly all District Sno-Parks were at or exceeding parking capacity. Please pay close attention to directional and parking instructional signs in the sno-parks and park as efficiently as possible. Dutchman Sno-park is not recommended for large vehicles with large trailers. It is very limited in large vehicle parking capacity. Large vehicles and trailers please use Wanoga and Edison Sno-parks to base out of. They have more than enough snow to access all trails. Even Six Mile Sno-park has plenty of snow for snowmobiling out of.

Thanks, and have a safe and Happy New Year!
--Chris Sabo

Happy Holidays!  12.24.03

Since last weekend’s heavy snowfall we have dug out, raised signs and are ready for the busy Holiday period. Most District snow parks have good snow conditions with only Skyliner and 6 Mile Sno-parks lacking adequate snow for safe winter trail activities. All winter trail signs except for a few new replacement signs are in place however, be aware that signing can be damaged by storms, falling trees, and covered in heavy snow or ice making them not visible. Always go prepared with a reliable map and compass and/or GPS.

Some Holiday reminders on winter trail etiquette and safety:

This is a very busy time of year at the snow parks and on the winter trails so remember to take with you extra patience when visiting the congested winter areas on the Deschutes National Forest. These areas include most of our snow parks.

Stop and read the information at the sno-park information boards. Some of this information includes important safety tips, special area restrictions and trail etiquette.

Before venturing out to the winter trails with your dog, check to see if the area you are heading to permits dogs during the winter months. There is a winter dog closure in effect (Nov 1-April 30) of each year along the North side of Hwy 46 from Meissner Sno-Park/winter trails to Todd Lake. This closure includes: Meissner, Swampy, Vista Butte, and Dutchman Sno-parks, trails and the extended areas including, Tumalo Mt., Todd Lake, and Dutchman Flat/Hwy 46 along Dutchman to Road 370. Motorized trail users (snowmobilers and ATVs) be aware that there is often heavy recreation traffic on and off most of the winter trails on the Deschutes National Forest. Always operate in a safe and responsible manner when around other users including: skiers, snowshoers, snowboarders, dog sled teams, skijourers, and other snowmobilers and ATV riders.

Slow down when approaching others, at trail intersections, around sno-parks, etc.

Motorized trail users please be informed and respect motorized vehicle closures. On the Bend/Fort Rock Ranger District they include: Swampy Sno-Park and Ski/Snowshoe system, Meissner Sno-Park, Three Sisters Wilderness, Bend Municipal Watershed including north half of Tumalo Mt. Bowl, Todd Lake, Mt. Bachelor Permit area (except the snowmobile trail to Sunrise Lodge) and all Blue diamond ski trails on the Dutchman trail system.

Plan on extra driving time due to heavy traffic and oftentimes icy road conditions. Adjust your driving for the conditions. Forest Service, County Sheriff, and State Police winter patrols will be extra vigilant during heavy recreation traffic periods. If you have a concern please flag one of these officers down or you can contact Deschutes County Sheriff and Forest Service Law Enforcement dispatcher at 541-388-0170.


Each year, Deschutes County Sheriffs Search and Rescue has several missions involving winter recreationists. It’s very important for trail and backcountry users to be well prepared with the essential equipment and mental/physical conditioning to match your outing. The following are reminders on how to help prevent emergencies from happening to you:

Be sure you and other party members are in good mental, emotional and physical condition to match your outing. Know your limits and the limits of the people in your party and stay within them. It’s better to turn back and try again another day than to end up with a serious injury or search and rescue mission on your hands. Have a preplanned “trail plan” and be sure to review it with others in your group. Notify reliable family or friends of your plans and intended return time, and also what they should do should you not return as planned. Be sure to contact them upon your return. Keep in mind that while most of our trails are well signed and relatively easy to negotiate on, it’s important to carry map and compass (and/or gps) and know how to use them. Sometimes, trail signs are damaged or missing from winter snows or vandalism. And let’s face it, some of us have difficulty finding our cars in a near empty parking lot let alone our way back to the trailhead. Take extra food, water, and clothing along with other “emergency supplies” (The Ten Essentials) to help get you through a cold night should you or someone in your party become lost or injured. While cell phone communications may be a great technology when is working, it’s useless when it’s not due to poor reception, dead battery or broken electronics. Don’t rely solely on a cell phone as emergency equipment; be sure and go fully prepared to survive on your own for a day or two should you become lost or injured. Obtain a weather forecast and watch for changes in the weather. Cascade mountain weather can/will change in short order; what started out as a mild - sunny day on the trail could turn into a cold rainy or snowy fight for survival.

If traveling in avalanche terrain, be knowledgeable with recognizing the avalanche danger signs, carry a transceiver, shovel and probe pole, and know when to avoid the potential hazards. Obtain current trail and field conditions from local land managers. Also inquire about special closures or regulations (vehicle, , and dog restrictions) that may affect your trip.

Be trail smart!
--Chris Sabo


On Saturday evening, winter came in earnest to the Central Oregon Cascades.

In a 24-hour period, between 5 and 20 inches of snow fell on the trails in the Bend-Fort Rock Ranger District, making for good skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling. 
Many mid- to upper elevation winter trails were impassable for a short period.

The high-elevation backcountry received even more snow. About 40 inches of new snow over a two-day period heightened avalanche risk, but most skiers couldn't venture far off the trails because of the heavy accumulation. Its very important for backcountry users to keep in mind that especially during periods of moderate top-heavy snowfall over a short duration, avalanche hazard often increases rapidly. This was quite likely the case with two winter backcountry fatalities in Washington state over the weekend. Use extra caution, especially during heavy snow periods and steer clear of avalanche-prone slopes.

Most winter trails in Central Oregon have good snow coverage. Skyliner and Six Mile sno-parks have about 6 inches of snow, while Tumalo Mountain has between 5 and 8' feet of snow. More snow is expected this week.

Trail grooming by ski and snowmobile club volunteers has begun, at Meissner, Dutchman and Ten-Mile sno-parks. The snowmobile groomer for the trails out of Wanoga and Edison is temporarily out of commission for repairs.

The next three weekends will likely be crowded ones at most sno-parks in the region. No-parking zones will be enforced.
--Chris Sabo


Current Conditions and Snowshoe Trails!   12.10.03

Fair to good snow fell over the District’s mid-higher elevations improving winter trail conditions over last week’s rain. Forecast is further improving with additional snow in store at these elevations for the next few days. This will hopefully improve the presently marginal snow conditions at the District’s lower elevation snow parks. At this time, winter trail grooming is still on hold until we receive additional snow to permit safe grooming. 

Some quick trail highlights here to promote use on the Bend/Fort Rock Ranger District’s specially designated snowshoe trails. With adequate snow depth, 10 miles of snowshoe specific trails have been constructed, signed and mostly mapped at Meissner, Swampy, and Edison Sno-Parks. Each trail system offers a short and long loop opportunity with access to a warming shelter. These trails were planned and constructed mainly by snowshoe volunteers with snowshoers in mind. The terrain, scenery and experience of each trail system varies to meet the variety of snowshoe enthusiasts.

The Meissner Snowshoe Trails provide a mixed fir, lodgepole pine and ponderosa pine forest experience with forest openings and even a distant view of Broken Top and South Sister. This trail system has approximately 3.5 miles of easiest to more difficult shoeing terrain and is closed to dogs. The long loop reaches out directly to Meissner warming shelter. This trail system is fully in place though minimal snow depth will add to the difficulty and provide many tripping hazards along its course. Temporary blue junction signing is now in place and will be replaced with traditional brown reflective trail signs in the near future.

The Swampy Snowshoe Trails provide a mainly lodgepole pine forest setting with some open forest. The system is approximately 3.7 miles in total length of easiest to more difficult terrain and is also closed to dogs. Access to Nordeen Shelter is available by hiking out an additional 1 mile round trip on the Nordeen Ski trail loop. This snowshoe trail is fully operational though low snow conditions may exist. Temporary blue junction signing is now in place and will be replaced with traditional brown reflective trail signs in the near future.

The Edison Snowshoe Trails total 3.5 miles and provide a more unique snowshoe experience as they wind up and over ancient lava flows that mingle through old growth ponderosa and lodgepole pine forest. Due to varied undulating terrain and navigating along precipitous rocky ridges, these trails with a short and long loop opportunity are rated more to most difficult. Also due to their rocky nature, they are recommended only with adequate snow depth which may range from 2-3 feet.

As of December 7, there was only 6-8” of snow on these trails. Watch out for air pockets in the snow pack during less than optimal conditions. A short ½ mile round trip detour on the Light Bulb ski trail loop will take you to Edison warming shelter. Dogs are permitted in this area so be sure to follow good canine courtesy by controlling your pet with a leash or on perfect voice control; and remember to remove dog waste from the sno-park, trails and shelter areas. Final signing and trail maps of this system will be in place before Christmas.

These new snowshoe trails are marked with blue diamonds that display a yellow snowshoer symbol in the center; and the junction signing indicates snowshoe loop on them. These snowshoe trails do cross the area nordic ski trails several times, so be sure you stay on your intended route. As these trails are narrow, windier, and contain possibly steeper terrain with little to no turning opportunities they are not recommended for skiers and would likely be very difficult for most skiers.

And a reminder to snowshoers that may use any nordic ski trails, please avoid snowshoeing on a broken ski track as it makes skiing difficult and hazardous for skiers and has resulted in skier injuries. Be courteous of all other trail users and abide by posted trail etiquette.

Thank you Jim, Curtis, John, Dick and other volunteers that helped with the planning, layout and construction of these first snowshoe trails on the Deschutes National Forest.
--Chris Sabo

Seasonal route closure in effect in the Badlands Wilderness Study Area  12.10.03

A local trail note requested by the Prineville District BLM: Seasonal route closure in effect in the Badlands Wilderness Study Area. The annual winter motorized closure of routes 4, 5, 6 and 7 in the Badlands Wilderness Study Area is currently in effect. These routes are open to hiking, horse-riding and other forms of non-motorized travel and will re-open on May 1, 2004. Route 8 remains open to all uses year-round. Maps are available at Badlands WSA trailheads and from the Bureau of Land Management’s Prineville District office.

Be aware of water/slush/avalanche hazards in the high country!  12.03.03

When it rains, it pours water/slush hazards into the high country.

What was setting up to be a fantastic Thanksgiving Weekend turned around half way through to become a soggy one. Most of the District snow parks were in good to great shape snow wise last Tuesday through Friday; then the weather changed and so did the conditions; for the worst.

Positive point is we got some much need moisture that will help out next year and this moisture will help create a solid snow base in the higher elevations. Though be aware, this could come back to bite us later as this will setup a potential sliding layer that could create some very interesting and deadly avalanche conditions in the weeks or months to come. Just a bit of developing snow pack history for backcountry users to keep in the back of their minds when venturing forth in the coming weeks.

For the next few days though, conditions are definitely on the soggy snow side and we are basically down to adequate snow conditions only at Dutchman, Vista Butte and Swampy Sno-Parks.

Water and slush hazards have developed in the suspect drainages in the high country with a few snowmobilers finding out what it’s like to pull a snowmobile out of watery concrete; not fun. Where there is adequate snow, low snow hazards do exist. All other district snow parks are out of snow-ness at this time
--Chris Sabo  

Thanksgiving Holiday Winter Trails Update!  11.24.03

Latest Bend Fort Rock District Winter Trail Highlights for November 24, 2003  --  2" to 10” of new snow since last week’s report.

Though barely adequate snow depth, Dutchman area is now operating with snow for skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling. At present we need to tress the early season conditions with low snow hazards abounding; especially for snowmobiling. Several snowmobilers have caused serious damage to their machines with potential for injury very high from hitting unseen rocks, logs, stumps, signs, etc.

Expect Dutchman Sno-park and area to be very crowded over the coming holiday weekend. At this time with most other sno-park facilities lacking enough snow, crowded conditions with no parking availability can be expected early each day at Dutchman. Unless it rains (hard) this is a guarantee!

Dutchman Flat area high use warning program going in effect over coming weeks. Over the coming weeks we will be increasing posting for snowmobilers to slow down and ride with additional caution in the high use areas from Dutchman Sno-park to Dutchman Flat, to Todd Lake, to Moon Mountain and to Tumalo Mountain. Please be extra aware of all other users on and off trail including: skiers, snowshoers, dog sled teams, skijourers (skiers being pulled by dogs on snowmobile trails), as well as fellow snowmobilers and ATVs. Patrols will be stepped up and operators found to be endangering others will be cited.

The road into Tumalo Falls from Skyliner is now closed to highway vehicles. Enough snow now covers the road and parking area to make it very icy and hazardous.

Area road closures around Meissner, Wanoga, Swampy Lakes, Vista Butte, and Edison Sno-parks go into effect starting Monday, Dec. 1. These roads are used as snowmobile, ski, and snowshoe trails through the winter months until April 1. Violators are subject a citation. Please respect this closure and help make for a quality winter trails experience for all.

Ten Mile Sno-park is reported to have 6-8” of snow with marginally adequate snow for snowmobiling and skiing on the main roads at this time. This is not considered to be enough snow for off trail or secondary road winter use. Please stay on the main road until additional snow accumulates.

Winter weather forecast calls more snow on and off through the week with hopeful promise for additional winter trail and sno-park facilities opening in the near future.
Winter Dog closure along Hwy 46 sno-parks is now in effect through April 30. Special skijoring and sled dog permits are available at Bend/Fort Rock Office and soon at other vendors.
--Chris Sabo


Winter conditions starting up!  11.17.03

The transition from summer to winter trails has begun to move a little faster with up to 12” of new snow estimated at the higher elevations over the past few days. 14-16” of snow is reported on Dutchman Flat; fair skiing/snowshoeing conditions on the Flat but marginal to poor in the trees. Not yet enough snow for safe snowmobiling. Mt. Bachelor Inc. reports 26” of total machine made and natural snowfall with a planned opening of this Friday. Although there were reports of nordic skiing activity at lower elevation snow parks, with the minimal snow at those locations skiing is not yet recommended.

Forecasts call for more snow later in the week which will hopefully bring us closer to opening of winter trail activities. Until then, please be patient and avoid injuries and ski/snowmobile damage as well as damaging impacts to soils and vegetation from skiing and snowmobiling on minimal snow depths.

Snow park info boards are being installed this week and as we receive more snow, high country winter signing will also be installed. These signs designate winter trails and motorized closure areas i.e. Wilderness and municipal watershed boundaries, ski trail closures, etc.

Also be aware of the winter dog closure that is now in effect on the north side of Cascade Lakes Highway from Meissner Snow Park to Todd Lake.

Remember that early winter snowfall means super crowded conditions at Dutchman Snow Park. This snow park will likely be extremely busy and full this Thanksgiving Holiday. If there is adequate snow at the lower elevation snow parks, plan on visiting them.

Road closures now include:
Cascade Lakes Highway from Mt. Bachelor to Deschutes Bridge; Road 370 from Cascade Lakes Hwy north to road 4601; Road 21 into Newberry Crater from 10 Mile Snow Park.  Other high-mid elevation roads may be closed by snow now or will be closing in the coming weeks. Be aware of winter road closures that will be taking place starting December 1 in the Meissner, Wanoga, Swampy Lakes, and Edison Snow Park areas. Starting December 1 many of the roads in these areas become snowmobile, ski, and snowshoe trails.

Many high and mid elevation summer trails are now closed or blocked by snow and over the coming weeks more will follow the trend into winter hibernation.
--Chris Sabo


Still not enough snow to play in!  11.12.03

Fall or Winter?

Seems the weather is sitting on the fence trying to decide which direction to head; winter or bring back some more fall like conditions. The ground sure could use a good soaking before the snow sets in. An inch below the surface and it seems to be bone dry in many areas; and that’s down 2 or more feet in some cases. Weather forecasts seem to be changing direction somewhat from day to day but sounds like the next few days will be somewhat unsettled with milder temps than we’ve had.

Winter trails prep and summer trails shutdown are progressing along with the remaining 3-4 trail crew folks and a number of volunteers getting out on projects in both programs. A few more winter warming shelters are yet scheduled for stocking with additional firewood, some winter trail clearing, sign and information board installation and winter trail map revisions are in progress. I plan to start the winter format of the weekly trails report next week. This report will include updates on snow depths at the District Sno-parks, special events being held at the sno-parks, road closures, etc.

At this time there is little to no snow reported at the sno-parks. Dutchman has 6-8” which is very marginal to not recommended for skiing (and then only on the flats) and not enough snow for snowmobiling nor ATVs. The other sno-parks don’t have enough to report on yet. Though some folks have been attempting to snowmobile and ski, generally it is not recommended at this time and in some cases snowmobiling is not permitted until there is adequate snow. Not only can skiing and snowmobiling lead to vehicle or ski damage and damage to soils and plants, but it can also lead to serious injuries.

Present road closures include: Road 370 from Todd Lake north to road 4601 and the 21 Road into Paulina Crater. The gate has been locked for the season just above 10 Mile Sno-Park on the 21 Road. This means that much of Newberry National Volcanic Monument in the Paulina Crater area is inaccessible by highway vehicles. Much of this area will be accessible by snowmobile, skis, or snowshoes in the near future. Additional road closures are likely with additional snow accumulations including Cascade Lakes Hwy from Dutchman Flat to Deschutes Bridge.

All District Wilderness trails are under 2-8” of snow and this will likely deepen over the coming weeks. Many higher to mid elevation non-wilderness trails are also under a few inches of snow. For any trail activities, as always go prepared.

A last note here on snowmobile safety courses being offered in the local area by Oregon State Snowmobile Association Instructors. 
Each year these classes are offered by local volunteer instructors to help fill the legal requirements that all snowmobile operators must meet when operating a snowmobile on public lands; that is either carry a valid drivers license or have successfully completed a snowmobile safety course and carry the operators permit. This applies to all persons of all ages, you must have a valid drivers license or operators permit in order to “operate” a snowmobile. These classes do fill early so contact Jean Watilo at (541) 536-2512 or Nancy Schassen at (541) 536-5863 for further information and to sign up.

Snowmobile Safety Course schedule:
November 15, 2003 - La Pine Library - Class is full
December 11, 2003 - Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office - Not open to public.
Will be giving class to Deputies of the Special Services Division
December 29, 2003 - Bend Library - still have room for a couple more.
January 17, 2004 - 10-Mile Sno-Park Warming Shelter
February 21, 2004 - Sunriver Library
March 13, 2004 - 10-Mile Sno-Park Warming Shelter

--Chris Sabo


Sudden snow forces closure of high roads!  11.03.03

A somewhat abrupt change in fall weather has brought 2-8” of snow to the Deschutes National Forest and surroundings. This has resulted in the seasonal closing (beginning November 4, 2003) of Road 370 from Todd Lake parking lot north 7 miles to the junction with road 4601. All spur roads in this section are also closed until next summer; this includes road 380 (the road access to Broken Top Trailhead). These roads are gated when sufficient snow poses a public safety hazard and creates law enforcement problems when illegal off road activities increase. We’ve had recent serious damage by illegal off road vehicle activity in the meadows along Road 370. Off road vehicle use in this area is subject up to $5,000 in fines and 6 months in jail. To report recent illegal vehicle activity anywhere on the Deschutes National Forest, please call (541) 388-0170 with details on location, extent of damages, and if possible vehicle and person descriptions. Todd Lake Trailhead parking is open until closed by snow or the closure of Hwy 46.

Early season snowmobiling is another law enforcement concern this time of year and is not permitted until there is sufficient snow depth and density to avoid soil disturbance or damage to vegetation. In the Dutchman Flat area, sufficient snow depth can be anywhere from 12-30 inches depending on how solid the early snow is. Generally 24” of early snow is considered a minimum depth to operate on to avoid digging down to bare soil and ground vegetation. Even this depth may not be adequate to snowmobile safely and avoid unseen hazards such as rocks, logs and stumps. In addition, for safety reasons snowmobiling is not permitted on highways until they become impassible to highway vehicles or are closed to normal vehicle traffic. An example of this is Hwy 46 from Mt. Bachelor west and south to Deschutes Bridge. This section of highway is closed by Deschutes County Sheriffs Office when it is deemed unsafe for highway traffic; at which time it is gated and then becomes open as a snowmobile trail. Special local vehicle/road regulations may apply to some roads so check with your local officials to be sure before you snowmobile on them.

Along with road closures, increasing snow depths will cause most of the Bend/Fort Rock summer trails to close over the coming weeks and months. During the course of a normal Central Oregon Winter, all District summer trails will become snow covered and unusable for at least a short period. Normally beginning in early to mid November we see this process begin. Keep this in mind with any planned local trail visits.

Some higher elevation Three Sisters Wilderness trails may now be blocked by snow or difficult to negotiate at this time. Biking and hiking on some mid elevation trails may also be difficult. The road to Paulina Peak within the Newberry National Volcanic Monument may be closed at this time or in the next day. This road closure normally takes place with the first snow as it becomes hazardous to drive due to it’s steep grade and curves.

Of course as this natural summer trail closure process takes place, our extensive system of snowmobile, cross country ski, and snowshoe trails start to become usable over the winter months. At this time, due to minimal snow on these winter trails these activities are not recommended and in some cases not permitted without sufficient snow.

Within the next week or two you will be receiving more detail on specific Bend/Fort Rock Ranger District winter and summer trail conditions along with this short weekly summary page.
--Chris Sabo

Focus on the forecasted weather change   10.29.03

Just a short update this week to focus on the forecasted weather change over the next few days. Our Indian Summer may be coming to an abrupt halt over the next few days so trail users beware. Low temps by the end of the week could be in the single digits with high temps only in the 30’s. Some rain or snow showers is also in the forecast. What this means for trail users is the importance of going prepared for sudden changes in weather; in this case for possible winter like conditions.

Proper clothing is one of the most important preparation items and should include layers of wool or synthetics like Capilene or polypro that help to wick moisture from the skin. Avoid cotton especially during wet weather as it has a tendency to keep moisture in contact with the skin and is much more likely to lead to hypothermia. It’s important to considering layering in your clothing during active outdoor activities because of the tendency to heat up and cool down, depending on the level of exertion. Just one or two thick bulky coats won’t allow you to regulate your temperature and rate of perspiration as well as several thinner layers you can put on and take off as needed.

The ideal situation during cold weather activities is to maintain a comfortable body temperature and stay dry at the same time. Included in your layering should be a good rain/snow shell that is waterproof as well as breathable. Other essential clothing are good gloves, warm hat, sunglasses, goggles, and proper footwear. A warm hat cannot be stressed enough during cold weather; at which time you can loose a large percentage of your heat through your head. Wear footwear to fit your activity and weather conditions.

In addition to clothing be sure to have extra food and water along with other survival gear to fit your activity.

Inform a reliable relative or friend of you intended trip plans including location and duration.
Let them know what to do should you not return. Of course be sure to inform them when you do return. Search and rescue missions have been started only to later learn that the reported missing actually wasn’t missing but only failed to inform anyone of their return.

Of course be sure your vehicle is also prepared for winter weather with good traction, antifreeze, battery, etc. Also have emergency food, blankets, fire starter, and other survival gear in your vehicle for a possible stranding or other emergency.

Other quick trail updates include the completion of a warming shelter at 6 Mile Sno-Park and the reopening of Paulina Falls day use site in Newberry National Monument. The north side of the Falls is yet still under construction with the upper section of Peter Skene Trail still closed.
--Chris Sabo

We had a taste of fall snow on the high country trails last week  10.22.03

We had a taste of fall snow on the high country trails last week which has all but melted off. We’ll likely see more of that in the coming weeks as we near the winter season. This will as time passes result in summer trails closing down due to snow and winter trails coming out of summer hibernation.

On the summer news front:
The two new hiker only bridges across Bridge Creek and Spring Creek are now complete and open to use. The paved trail restoration on Lava Lands, Lava Cast Forest and Big Obsidian is now complete and those trails are fully open. Paulina Falls viewpoint and the upper half of Peter Skene Ogden Trail are yet closed until further notice for reconstruction of the Paulina Falls viewpoint area.

All Northwest Forest Pass self service fee stations are now closed for the season. Most Northwest Forest Pass sites however still require parked vehicles to display a Forest Pass.

Wilderness trailhead information boards and permit registers are mostly in place yet though some more remote have been pulled for winter storage. The remaining sites will be removed just after October 31 when permits are no longer required until Memorial Day Weekend.

The new dog leash regulation in the Todd Lake, Broken Top, Green Lakes, Moraine Lake, and South Sister area is not in effect again until July 1 of next year. This is a dated requirement that leashes are required from July 1 through September 30 each year. This period covers the peak use when most conflicts have occurred. During the “leash not required” period we do ask that you maintain good voice control and have your pet within easy sight of you, or you may want to consider maintaining your pet on a leash as a good option.

Crews and volunteers continue to prep summer trails for the coming wet season by improving drainage features on trails.

Winter trail news includes:
Volunteer crews continue to prepare ski, snowmobile, and snowshoe trails and shelters for winter activities. Local ski, snowmobile and snowshoe clubs and volunteers maintain hundreds of miles of snowmobile, ski, and snowshoe trails as well as cut 12-15 cords of wood for stocking warming shelters along these trails. This wood is either secured at the shelters or marked to prevent theft which has occurred in the past. If you’re interested in volunteering with winter trails either contact your local snowmobile, ski, or snowshoe club or local Forest Service Office.

LaPine Lodgepole Dodgers Snowmobile Club and Forest Service personnel are in the process of rebuilding a warming shelter and installing a restroom at Six Mile Snow Park located near Newberry National Volcanic Monument. This will mainly serve snowmobilers riding out of this snow park when snow permits.

Winter snowmobile, ski and snowshoe trail maps are being revised and updated for this coming winter. We hope to have the updated maps at the snow parks and outlets starting sometime in November or December.

One last note, don’t become too complacent with the fine Indian summer weather we’re experiencing. Remember that high country trails and roads will start to become snowbound over the coming weeks so prepare your vehicle now for the coming snow season; also prepare yourself for possibly unexpected/expected snow if you’re planning any backpacking or camping trips in the local area. We can have 1-2 feet of snow fall almost overnight with mid-late fall storms. In addition, severe fall winds can blow down hundreds of trees in a short time across trails and roads making travel difficult to impossible.

The Fall Trail Conditions Report remains unchanged from September 24, 2003
--Chris Sabo

The 370 Road to the Broken Top Trail Head and can close with little to no warning  10.16.03

The 370 Road to the Ditch Creek Trail Head and the Broken Top Trail Head and can close with little to no warning. It is snow dependent. We do a sweep of the trailheads, spurs and campsites before locking the gates. We will try to give notice before the gates are closed but if we cannot, as in the case of a weekend snowfall, we will get the word out shortly afterwards.

Just a reminder it is that time of year with first snows, that we start seeing incidents of off road activity and “mud or meadow bogging”. This is especially true in the high country along the 370 Road. As hunting season ends this Wednesday, there could be an increased likelihood that mud boggers will off road without the hunter presence. Friday evenings through Sundays are likely the greatest probability for activity but any time of week, this activity can take place. (See the USFS Mud Bogging Poster.)

Early access snowmobile use is another issue to be aware of. This occurs typically out of Dutchman snow park and along Highway 46 at Dutchman Flat with the first snows, especially on weekends. We have had snowmobilers out on the flat on as little as 2-3” of snow. That has been the extreme, but even one foot of fresh dry snow with no base will not likely prevent a fast takeoff on a snowmobile from hitting soil and ground vegetation.

The posting on Dutchman Flat states: AREA CLOSED TO MOTORIZED VEHICLES, EXCEPT: SNOWMOBILES AND CLASS ONE ATVS ARE PERMITTED ONLY WHEN SUFFICIENT SNOW IS AVAILABLE. Sufficient snow is defined as a continuous snow cover that is deep or firm enough to prevent damage to vegetation or displacement of soil.
--Chris Sabo


Summer trails will remain open for use until closed by snow   10.07.03

We are in the process of getting ready for the upcoming winter. This involves readying summer trail facilities for winter hibernation and prepping winter trails and snow parks for the winter trails season.

In preparation for the coming winter we are removing some trailhead signing, information boards, and permit station.

Directional signs on the trails themselves are not removed for winter storage so trail users need not worry about that; though on occasion these signs can be vandalized or damage by falling trees. Always carry a map and compass with you when on the trail.

Higher elevation areas can receive well over 10 feet of snow during the winter months. With deep snow often comes damaged signs and facilities so, in order to reduce the amount of damage we remove certain signs, information boards, and wilderness permit stations.

Wilderness permits after October 31 are no longer required and wilderness users may find some permit stations have already been removed in anticipation of winter. In these cases wilderness users need not worry about obtaining a permit at those trailheads. The wilderness permit program will again be in effect next Memorial Day Weekend.

Other trailhead facilities that are going into winter storage mode include medium and larger signs prone to snow damage, trailhead information boards, and Northwest Forest Pass fee stations.

New trail construction has begun on a single track hiker/biker trail from Sunriver to Benham Falls Day Use and then on to Lava Lands Visitor Center. This trail may not be open until next spring.

Winter trail preparations are in progress and trail members and volunteers are gearing up for snowmobile, ski, and snowshoe trail clearing; signing, and repairing/stocking warming shelters with firewood.
--Chris Sabo

Note: The Fall Trail Conditions Report remains unchanged from September 24, 2003

Fall trail tips from Chris Sabo, USFS   09.24.03

I’m back! Sorry for the pause in updates but I’ve been on 2 weeks of fire duty on the B and B Complex west of Sisters. I have been helping with the rehabbing of suppression impacts, security and packing out the remains (250 pounds of spikes) of a well toasted trail bridge. The 130 ft. puncheon bridge was just constructed last spring and was one of the many unfortunate victims of the B and B Complex.

On the B and B Complex, due to extent of hazard snags created along roads, trails and in the general burn area; and the fact that the fire won’t likely be considered “controlled” until consistent rain and snow falls area closures will remain in effect possibly through the winter. Winter storms will help bring down many of the most serious hazards. The existing closures are rather complicated to explain here and are in flux so for further info on the specific closures effecting the area see:

On the local Bend/Fort Rock side of the Forest we are working on finishing up summer projects and at the same time gearing up for what is forecasted to be a great winter season. That translates into plenty of snow for those of us who enjoy the winter wonderland. Let’s hope the meteorologists are right this year. 

Summer projects remaining include: A new single stringer bridge on the Bridge Creek Trail; Resurfacing of the paved trails at Lava Lands, Lava Cast Forest, and Big Obsidian; New rock wall on the north side of Paulina Falls along Peter Skene Ogden Trail; Multi use trail construction connecting Sunriver to Benham East and Lava Lands; Hunter patrols in the high country along the high use wilderness areas; Continued weekend Wilderness patrols; Improving drainage on a few summer trails; Finish new toilet installations at Lava Cast Forest and Wanoga Snow Park; Removing, covering, and putting into winter storage dozens of summer info boards, permit register  boxes, trail and fee demo signs.

The Bridge Creek Trail bridge construction will not effect trail use and the trail will remain open. The trail resurfacing projects will continue to involve short term trail closures over the next 1-2 weeks.

The Paulina Falls project will involve continued closures to the day use site and the PSO Trail from bridge #3 upstream to Paulina Lake The remaining work on toilet installations should be of little effect to public use.
Winter projects we are gearing up for include: 
Certifying winter volunteers for chainsaw use; Stocking winter warming shelters with firewood; Repairing winter shelters; Installing some 120 new and replacement winter signs along snowmobile and ski trails and on the new snowshoe trails. (That’s when the signs arrive in late October.)
Hazard tree removal along Newberry ski trails Clearing/brushing of winter trails Prepping snow parks Grooming agreements Volunteer agreements Trail map updates

On a winter note, keep in mind that this time of year we start seeing (and have seen) the first of the fall/winter precipitation. Just a heads up to go out prepared.

General deer hunting season begins October 4 and runs for about 9 days. Be sure to make yourself known to hunters in the area you are visiting with bright colors. By the way, I read recently that about 7% of the general human population are colorblind and seems red is one of the primary colors not readily noticed by these folks.

A last but not least note to the cheers of many Mountain Bikers is the Katalo Fire Closure that WAS in effect west of Bend has been lifted. You can now enjoy the trails out of Phil’s Trailhead once again.
--Chris Sabo


Reduced fire level results in open trails   09.16.03

Cooler weather has enabled lower fire precaution levels in the Deschutes National Forest!

The Katalo closure, which affected much of the Phil's Trail complex, has been lifted. The avalanche of bikers can get back in there!

Repaving work in the Newberry Crater area will close several paths intermittently over the next two weeks. Those trails are the Molten Land Trail, Big Obsidian Flow Trail, Whispering Pines Trail and the Lava Cast Forest Trail.  Construction work will also close the parking area, day use area and overlook area at Paulina Falls for the next three weeks.

In addition, the Peter Skene Ogden Trail from Trail Bridge No. 3 to Paulina Lake will be closed likely for the rest of the season because of construction. 

Crews will be in the Bridge Creek area above Tumalo Falls this fall building a bridge, but no trail closures are expected.

Although the B&B Complex fire has been largely contained, the Mount Jefferson and Mount Washington wildernesses are still closed because of dangerous snags along the trails. In addition, all trails in the Metolius Basin west of Camp Sherman from Highway 20 north to Lower Bridge are still closed for public safety because of hazardous trees.

The Pacific Crest Trail from Highway 242 to Olallie Lake also remains closed because of recently burned trees that could fall.
--Chris Sabo

A quick post Labor Day Trails Report   09.09.03

No need to mention the tinder dry and hot conditions still exist throughout the State and Northwest. There may be some change in that starting Sunday with some rain possible. Till then we may also have some dry lightening.

The B and B complex fire continues to grow especially in Mt. Jefferson Wilderness. The Mt. Washington and Mt. Jefferson Wilderness remain closed to entry for public safety. Hwy 20 over Santiam has reopened but is still subject to closure in the future. With the opening comes the following restrictions: speed limit of 45 mph and no stopping or parking. Be aware of possible heavy smoke in the area especially at night. Traffic fines along the restricted area are tripled at this time. The Metolius Basin Trails including Black Butte remain closed due to the fires. For additional B and B Complex updates and information including maps, incident details, photos and more at, or call 541-549-8280 or 8286 (6am-9pm).

A campfire ban is in place for the Willamette National Forest side of the Three Sisters Wilderness. The Deschutes National Forest side (east of the Crest) of the Three Sisters Wilderness was going that way but has decided to hold off with the prospect of rain this weekend. Other Crest Wildernesses may presently have or are going to campfire bans so contact the local offices of those wildernesses for more details or visit their websites.

Katalo Area Closure is still in effect around the Phil’s Trail area. This too is a fire danger related closure.

The following trails and falls overlook are slated for temporary closures over the next few weeks: for resurfacing: Trail of the Molten Land and Whispering Pines Trail at Lava Lands, Lava Cast Forest, and Big Obsidian Flow (in Newberry Crater); for rock wall overlook work: Paulina Falls both north and south sides as well as part of Peter Skene Ogden Trail.

There will also be a temporary closure to the Tumalo Falls and lower Bridge Creek area possibly as early as this Friday. The closure may only last 2-3 hours while crew members airlift a large log to be set in place in the Bridge Creek drainage as a replacement bridge. This very short term closure depends on the availability of a helicopter from the local B and B fire complex.

After September 7, Elk Lake Resort will be open only on Saturdays and Sundays from 10-6, through September 28, 2003.
--Chris Sabo