Utah Mountains in Late May

Carl

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My wife and I are planning a trip to Utah in late May, and I'm hoping you all can give me some insight as to what the conditions for hiking may be like. I understand snow in the high country may still be significant in the latter half of May.

I have my eye on Timpanogos and Kings Peak, but I think there may still be quite a bit of snow on the way up. Is hiking up any of the mountains of Utah around that timeframe a good idea for people with limited snow/ice experience, or would it be better to stick to attractions down lower or farther south?
 

regehr

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Hi Carl, it would be better to stay lower, the big mountains like Kings and Timp are usually effectively inaccessible in May. I personally find late May and June to be a bit awkward in Utah: the mountains are still snowbound and the deserts are starting to heat up and the cedar gnats are out. It's a great time to be in places like the mid-elevation foothills and smaller mountains (in the 5000'-8000' range, say) which at that time are beautifully green and snow-free, but not at all hot yet. It's also a great time for steep snow climbs in the big mountains, but this can be a bit complicated since some awareness of wet avalanches is needed as well as snow travel skills, and also the approaches can be complicated since some roads aren't open yet.
 

Carl

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Regehr, I appreciate the insight. Since the higher peaks are the goal of our visit, I think choosing a later month would be better. What are the optimal hiking months for Utah high country? When does the snow start to return? Would early October be too late in the year for the high country?
 

regehr

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Hi Carl, it depends a bit on what you want. Wildflowers are present all summer (at different elevations) but are generally fading even at the highest elevations by mid/late August, I think. In a low snow year July would be the best month for Timp, in a high snow year perhaps August. Early October is probably risky in the Uintas, but it'll be a bit drab everywhere. I did Timp in early Oct once and there were some icy spots on the trail and also it just wasn't nearly as spectacular as mid-summer.
 

Carl

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Thank you. I think we will be postponing our trip until July or August, then.
 

regehr

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Thank you. I think we will be postponing our trip until July or August, then.
I was hoping others would chime in here and either agree or disagree with me, but imo if you want to see the big mountains here at their non-snowy best, this is the correct scheduling. Since we're unlikely to have a big snow year, earlier in this range is probably fine. I think this trip was the best flowers I ever saw on Timp, looks like it was end of July / start of August. https://blog.regehr.org/archives/237
 

Rockskipper

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I crossed the eastern Uintas (Vernal to Rock Springs) the first day of October last year and the aspens were at their peak with lots of beautiful reds, but that highway's not all that high in the mountains, so the trees higher up probably peaked a week or more earlier. I would think the Wasatch might peak even earlier, being generally higher.
 

priz1234

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I would also say October is a little late for the Uintas. I did a 4 day backpacking trip in the high Uintas starting on I think October 10th. It hadn't really snowed yet but it was COLD. I think highs were around 40. I packed a ton of layers and every lake was almost completely frozen over. It was still a fun trip but it isn't something I plan on doing again. I also think it was kind of an odd year with it not having any snow on the ground by that time. Personally, my favorite time is end of August and beginning of September.
 
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Carl

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I was hoping others would chime in here and either agree or disagree with me, but imo if you want to see the big mountains here at their non-snowy best, this is the correct scheduling. Since we're unlikely to have a big snow year, earlier in this range is probably fine. I think this trip was the best flowers I ever saw on Timp, looks like it was end of July / start of August. https://blog.regehr.org/archives/237
Those pictures are incredible. I suppose I've always underestimated the beauty of Utah!
 

Carl

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I crossed the eastern Uintas (Vernal to Rock Springs) the first day of October last year and the aspens were at their peak with lots of beautiful reds, but that highway's not all that high in the mountains, so the trees higher up probably peaked a week or more earlier. I would think the Wasatch might peak even earlier, being generally higher.

I would also say October is a little late for the Uintas. I did a 4 day backpacking trip in the high Uintas starting on I think October 10th. It hadn't really snowed yet but it was COLD. I think highs were around 40. I packed a ton of layers and every lake was almost completely frozen over. It was still a fun trip but it isn't something I plan on doing again. I also think it was kind of an odd year with it not having any snow on the ground by that time. Personally, my favorite time is end of August and beginning of September.

So September at the latest!
 

scatman

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Some shots of my hike up Broads Fork Twin Peaks here in the Wasatch in October. If I recall correctly, you could have made this hike into the first couple of days of November that year before the mountains got significant snow. Of course, if you are a local that is easy to plan for - No snow, go hike. :) If you're coming from out of state and need to plan a window of time, then @regehr is spot on on his assessment of when to come and summit peaks in the Wasatch.

Some snow on the north slopes
01.jpg


02.jpg


No snow on the south slopes - East summit above - 11,330 feet
03.jpg
 
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regehr

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I would also say October is a little late for the Uintas. I did a 4 day backpacking trip in the high Uintas starting on I think October 10th. It hadn't really snowed yet but it was COLD. I think highs were around 40. I packed a ton of layers and every lake was almost completely frozen over. It was still a fun trip but it isn't something I plan on doing again. I also think it was kind of an odd year with it not having any snow on the ground by that time. Personally, my favorite time is end of August and beginning of September.
same! cause the bugs are mostly gone, the days are warm, and nights are nice and crisp.

I was backpacking in the Tetons in July 2021 and the overly warm nights just felt sort of wrong, if I'm at 10,000' I want it to at least cool off
 
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