Memorial Day: Clear skies, warm temps and a lot of water make for perfect weekend plans

Clear skies, warm temps and a lot of water make for perfect weekend plans

Published: Thursday, May 26 2005 12:00 a.m. MDT

Groups of people enjoy "river running" on the Colorado River near Arches National Park. The rivers are running wild, faster and much higher than they've been in years \\— good news for river runners.

Tom Smart, Deseret Morning News

Memorial Day travelers can expect few problems in exercising their weekend plans.

The one exception may involve water, a k a formerly snow. Reports this week are that only three of eight high-mountain passes, typically open by late May, will, in fact, be open. Snow still blocks the other five.

Open and free of snow will be the Monte Cristo Pass accessed through Ogden Canyon, the pass to East Canyon over Big Mountain and Wolf Creek Pass from Wasatch to Duchesne counties.

Not open are Guardsman Pass, the Mirror Lake Highway, the Elk Meadows road east of Beaver, the road from Brian Head to Cedar Breaks and the Alpine Loop.

Rushing rivers, too, may be a problem. Levels are high and are expected to get higher before they start to recede in June.

Those planning to camp on U.S. Forest Service lands should know that some of the higher sites are still snowbound and others may not have conveniences, such as water and rest rooms, open.

Holiday travelers shouldn't have trouble finding things to do. This year the range of activities, along with the experiences themselves, will be somewhat wider than in the past few years.

Take for example:

Skiing The only resort open is Snowbird, and it will remain open through Memorial Day, then will close and put an official close to the record 2004-2005 ski season. Hours are 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. through closing. A lift ticket is $30. There is no shortage of snow this year. In fact, Snowbird is still reporting a 170-inch base. Reports are that it's a little crusty early, but softens up as the hours pass. Some of the best skiing is between 9 and 11 a.m.

As one skier said, however, "It's just nice to be out, in the mountains, skiing in a T-shirt, Levis and without hat or gloves." For information call 521-6040.

Camping Utah has five national parks, along with seven national monuments, two national recreation areas and one historic site. Along with that, Utah has 43 state parks.

Add all this to the U.S. forests and Bureau of Land Management lands and nearly 80 percent of the state is publicly owned and falls under federal or state control.

The two most popular sites are Zion National Park and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Each is expected to receive more than two million visitors this year.

Campgrounds at the national sites will fill fast, especially those in the southern reaches of the state. The standard recommendation is to arrive early, but also have a backup plan in mind.

As noted, the deep snow that still covers the higher mountain passes will keep some of the higher campgrounds closed. Most of the mid- to lower-elevation campgrounds will be open.

As is typical for this time of year, those state parks in the southern areas of the state are the first to fill.

There are some openings for individual camp sites at Bear Lake and Starvation and some tent sites at Jordanelle Rockcliff.

There are group (25 or more) day-use areas at Millsite, Huntington, Palisade, Wasatch Mountain, Jordanelle, Snow Canyon, Deer Creek and Willard Bay. There are overnight group sites at Bear Lake and Green River.

For information on USFS camping opportunities, call 1-877-444-6777. For camping reservations to any of the state's parks, call 1-800-322-3770. For national park numbers, visit the state Web site at www.utahtravel.com.

Rivers — The rivers are running wild, faster and much higher than they've been in years. This is good news for river runners, but is reason for caution for those camping near running water.