I get a lot of emails and blog comments from backpackers and day hikers asking me about the conditions of specific trails in the Trinity Alps Wilderness. I answer when I know and when I have the time, but there are over 550 miles of trails in over 500,000 acres: There’s no way I can know everything about the Alps.
It looks like the detailed Trinity Alps Wilderness Trail Condition Report that had long been updated weekly during the hiking season is on hiatus, perhaps permanently. It had been run by Jim Holmes of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, but he recently retired.
Fortunately, there are three other ways to get Trinity Alps trail conditions:
1. Like the Trinity Alps Wilderness – 30th Anniversary Celebration page on Facebook. In addition to trail updates, it also has lots of other good info and discussion.
2. Call the Weaverville Ranger Station at 530-623-2121 and then press “1.” You’ll get an automated message with the latest updates.
3. There may be occasional trail and road conditions report from US Forest Service here.
So Why Do Trail Conditions Change?
Trail conditions can change for several reasons.
Snow is often the biggest factor.
If the path disappears under a foot of snow, you’re going to have a difficult time following it. Of course, snow levels vary with the total amount of snow that fell over the winter, the time of season you want to hike, the elevation you’ll be hiking at, and geographical factors such as the tendency of snow to linger on the north sides of slopes.
Winter storms and strong summer thunderstorms knock down trees. Usually, hikers and backpackers can scramble over or around fallen trees, but if there are fifty of them across your route, you might wish you’d chosen another itinerary.
Wildfires are a common reason for trail closures. I have a detailed post about how to find out about current wildfires and smoke conditions. And also make sure you don’t start a fire yourself; make sure you get a California campfire permit before your backpacking trip.
Heavy rains can create big gullies in trails and in access roads.
Mass movements of rock and earth.
Occasionally heavy rains can cause hillsides to give away and slide or slump across trails and roads. In addition, rocks large and small fall from heights.
Also Pay Attention to Trailhead Access
The same factors just mentioned also affect driving to the trailhead. Make sure you can get to the trailhead and that the route is suitable for your vehicle. Road maintenance can be particularly expensive, and erosion can turn what was once a road accessible to passenger cars with moderate clearance into a road accessible only to SUVs and trucks with high clearance.
So Why Doesn’t the USFS Maintain All the Trails and Roads?
Three words: lack of money. As a hiking guidebook author, I have frequent contact with people like Jim Holmes who manage the trail systems on our federal and state lands. They and their colleagues are all hard-working people who do the best they can, but they have very limited resources. By necessity, they must make difficult choices about where to put scarce dollars and scarce human resources. There just isn’t enough money to pay for maintenance of access roads and trails.
Want to help? Let your United States senators and your local House of Representative members know that you want more money spent on hiking and backpacking trails on United States Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands.
Hone Your Route-Finding Skills
Many of the trails in the Trinity Alps can be faint at times, or even disappear for a short or long distance. You need to have good maps, like USGS topo maps and the Trinity Alps Wilderness map produced by the USFS. You can often buy these at ranger stations.
Also, some trail signs are missing. Anticipate all junctions well before they appear and be very vigilant about searching for them. Many of the signs are attached to trees, often above eye level, so if you aren’t paying attention, you won’t see them. They can be particularly difficult to see if you are walking in the direction that is less common, since the sign may be on the opposite side of a tree.
In addition, it’s important to be ready to hike cross country should you need to. This requires being in shape, knowing where you want to go, and picking the best cross-country route to get there.
Remember, get the latest trail and trailhead conditions at the Trinity Alps Wilderness – 30th Anniversary Celebration page or by calling 530-623-2121 and then pressing “1.” That number is also the place to call if you want wilderness permit information or you want to talk to a live person about your trip.
My Posts on the Trinity Alps
Any advice to add? Let us know in the comments below!