May 23, 2017 – Memorial Day is viewed as the start of summer and visitors can have a beautiful visit to the Eastern Sierra this weekend. The wildflowers have been spectacular in the Owens Valley, Inyo and White Mountains and the Sierra Nevada capped with a full snowpack is a stunning sight.
However, visitors to the forest should be still be prepared for winter conditions throughout the high country of the Inyo National Forest after a substantial winter season.
Many roads, including Tioga Pass, Reds Meadow Valley Road, and the Lakes Basin Road remain closed and are under substantial snow. Snow levels are delaying the opening of some campgrounds as well. Visit the recreation conditions report for the most current information.
Recreationists should plan for snow at 8,000-9,000 feet in elevation (depending on if the location is sun-exposed or not and also variable from the north to the south of the forest). Hikers should have winter navigation skills, be prepared for avalanche conditions (consult the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center), and may need skis or snowshoes, ice ax and crampons for travel. High elevation lakes are starting to melt. Do not traverse lake ice—it is extremely risky.
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A warm weekend is in the forecast and that brings flooding concerns as well. Hikers and anglers should understand that water crossings will be deep, swift, cold, and dangerous. Streams and creeks that posed little danger during drought conditions can now be running full and fast. Water may look calm on the surface but heavy currents as well as debris can be a significant risk. Avoid lingering near steep banks and slippery rocks. Several drownings in California this year have occurred when the person slipped and fell near swift water. Keep children and pets away from the water’s edge.
Trails and off highway vehicle (OHV) roads may have trees down over them or have other forms of winter storm damage so travel with care.
The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest Visitor Center is scheduled to open for the Memorial Day Weekend.
A magnificent spring and summer are underway in the Eastern Sierra and the extra snow and water are welcome in California. With a little planning, visitors can have a safe and enjoyable experience.