BIG COTTONWOOD CANYON — Thinking of going camping this Memorial Day weekend? Mother Nature may have something to say about that.
Officials with the U.S. Forest Service service say, in general for northern Utah, there will be fewer camping areas open than in past years.
“We’re still in spring conditions, so at night it’s going to get cool,” said David Whittekiend, supervisor for the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. “We’re still seeing snow showers and rain showers, so be prepared for those kinds of conditions.”
The Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest has more picnic sites and campgrounds than any other national forest in the country. That said, this Memorial Day there will be fewer that are able to open than in previous years due to the late spring wet weather.
“High-elevation campgrounds are still going to be closed, covered with snow and not accessible,” Whittekiend said.
Highway crews have been constantly working to clear the high mountain passes to make some of Utah's popular recreation spots accessible. Guardsman Pass between Little Cottonwood Canyon to Park City should open soon. The Utah Department of Transportation is also clearing the Mirror Lake Highway of deep snow, but it's a 50-50 chance of being ready by Memorial Day.
During this time of year, the conditions can change quickly.
“Our recreation folks are continuously checking roads, trails and campgrounds and picnic areas to see how much snow is in those areas, if there’s been any damage from flooding or any of the spring runoff,” he said.
The U.S. Forest Service also advises those heading to the outdoors to stay away from areas that are still posted as closed, as safety and protecting these recreational areas are primary concerns.
“If you’re on a trail and it’s muddy and leaving a footprint, we would recommend that you not continue to go out there; driving on muddy road tears them up and that just increases our costs in trying to maintain those roads,” Whittekiend said.
To be safe, he said people would have better luck at lower-elevation campsites or head to the southern part of the state.
To find out the conditions at a specific camping area, go to recreation.gov for lists of which areas are open and closed. For up-to-date information, check the Forest Service Facebook and Twitter pages.