The trails are in between seasons, with “some access to snow at the high elevations," said Chris Sabo, U.S. Forest Service trails specialist.
Two sno-parks at functioning levels: Dutchman Flats and Swampy Lakes. Expect lots of traffic at Dutchman this weekend — it’s the best bet for winter action with 24 to 28 inches of snow, said Sabo. There is still no motorized access due to low-snow hazards, but skiers and snowshoers should find the nordic trails in fair to good condition. Be aware that parking is limited at Dutchman, said Sabo, and parking on the highway is subject to citation, as is causing a hazard for other drivers and your vehicle. Mt. Bachelor opens Thursday, so the Cascade Lakes Highway will be busy.
Swampy Lakes has about 16 to 18 inches of snow — “fair conditions" with low-snow hazards such as logs on the trails, said Sabo. The snow there might settle with rain expected on Friday and then rain-snow mix forecasted for the weekend, said Sabo.
Midelevation sno-parks are marginal at best, said Sabo.
Currently, Wanoga Snoplay Area and Ten Mile Sno-park are perfect for “snowball fights and building snowpeople and snowdogs," said Sabo, but neither has enough snow for sledding.
As a reminder, the sno-parks and trails north of the Cascade Lakes Highway are closed to dogs through the winter, except working dogs in harnesses (skijoring, sled dog teams) on groomed snowmobile trails — and there aren’t any of those yet, said Sabo. Dogs are welcome south of the highway, but snow access is very limited.
Sno-park permits are required and are available at numerous outdoor shops and the DMV.
An important note for motorized users interested in heading out to the backcountry: Low-snow hazards abound and boundary signs and poles are not in place yet, but snowmobilers are still subject to citation if they cross the boundaries, said Sabo.
“We’ll be out getting boundary signs on Dutchman and snow poles for marking the high-country trails. That goes for skiers as well. Blue poles are not in place. Junction signs are not in place. Hundreds of boundary signs and trail markers are not in place. We’ll start that on Saturday as hopefully there will be more substantial snow."
In the lower elevations up to 4,500 feet, expect soggy summer trail conditions, said Sabo.
Phil’s Trail has some snow after the first mile or two. Deschutes River Trail has some snow near Benham Falls. The Metolius River Trail is “likely on the wet side," said Sabo. For a snowy hike, check out the Peter Skene Ogden Trail, which has 2 to 8 inches of snow.
Some good options for summer hiking trails include the Peterson Ridge area south of Sisters, the lower section of Black Butte, Smith Rock, and the Badlands, suggested Sabo.
— Lydia Hoffman, The Bulletin