A snowy, winter scene with a snowmobile track crossing through wind-drifted snow on a clear, sunny day.  The sun is over the mountains in the distance. Spindly black spruce poke through the snow at various angles as they tilt due to shifting, ice rich soil.
Ski Loop Trail. BLM photo by Tim DuPont

White Mountains Trail Conditions Report

Updated Friday, January 20, 2023

 

This week, the trail crew groomed the Ski Loop Trail as they worked to stage lumber for a summer boardwalk project. All the main winter trails are groomed or set; however, trail conditions may deteriorate due to the weekend's forecasted weather that may create snowdrifts, fill in trails, and cause treefall. Trails can be hard to follow in flat open areas and ridges where blowing snow fills in tracks and makes it hard to see trail markers.  

 

Snow depth varies across the White Mountains as the snowpack continues to settle and blow around.  Some areas have over 2 feet of snow, while other areas may only have 1 foot. Trail conditions have been decent, but more snow coverage is needed to fill in bumps and gullies along the trails. Travelers can still find bumpy conditions, steep gully crossings, wind drifted snow, and hazardous stream crossings due to open water, overflow/aufeis, and thin ice. 

 

  

Elliott Highway Trails

  • Colorado Creek Trail – December 29 Trail Crew report: Trail is groomed and in good condition up to Colorado Creek Cabin. Beyond the cabin headed towards Wolf Run Cabin the trail is groomed up until the gully bridge, past the bridge the trail is set but not groomed. Expect slower travel times with sections of low snow and hard- snow drifts.
    • CAUTION: Stop and scout bridges and gully crossings. The ever-changing wind drifts are creating difficult obstacles on bridges and gullies. 
    • The gully bridge between Colorado Creek Cabin and Wolf Run Cabin collapsed during the summer.  The trail crew flagged a re-route north of the bridge. The alternate route directly next to bridge is not recommended for use due to large cornice-like snow drifts that have formed around the gully. 
    • Colorado Creek bridge has large wind drifts making crossing especially challenging. Use extreme caution and scout the bridge before crossing.   
  • Wickersham Creek Trail – January 11 Trail Crew report: Trail is groomed and in good condition. Minor icing in spots between the Trail Shelter to Borealis Cabin.  
  • Ski Loop Trail – December 29 Trail Crew report: Trail is groomed for non-motorized use only.

 

Steese Highway Trails

  • McKay Creek Trail – January 4 Trail Crew report: Trail is groomed and in good condition up to Cache Mountain Cabin.
  • U.S. Creek and Nome Creek Roads – The roads are not maintained in the winter. Regular snowmobile traffic on the routes keeps them in suitable conditions for all users. 

 

Backcountry Trails

  • Trail Creek Trail – December 28 Trail Crew report: Trail is groomed and in good condition. 
  • Bear Creek Trail – December 28 Trail Crew report: The trail is set to Richard’s cabin.
  • Big Bend Trail – January 11 Trail Crew Report: Trail has not been set this season due to challenging conditions. The crew worked on the trail from the junction with the Wickersham Creek Trail, filling in gullies and setting about half of the trail. This newly set trail is in decent condition and ready for use, but travelers should expect slow and challenging conditions beyond the set trail due to low snow conditions in windblown areas, steep side hilling and snowdrifts.   
  • Cache Mt. Divide Trail – January 4 Trail Crew report: Trail is set and groomed over the divide connecting the loop trail between Cache Mountain Cabin and Windy Gap Cabin. Users can expect slower travel times from windfallen trees and trail difficulty. 
  • Fossil Creek Trail – December 28 Trail Crew report: Trail is groomed and in good condition. The crew cleared several large trees from the trail.
  • Fossil Gap Trail – December 28 Trail Crew report: The trail is set again after snow and wind filled in the trail. There is overflow downstream from the junction for Caribou Bluff Cabin to the first bend of the creek.
  • Moose Creek Trail – December 29 Trail Crew report: Trail is groomed and in good condition.
  • Windy Creek Trail – December 28 Trail Crew report: Trail is groomed but it’s still bumpy due to tussocks. More snow is needed to smooth out the bumps. 

For more details, please call BLM to speak to one of the White Mountain National Recreation Area trail crew at (907) 474-2200. 

 

Three riders on snowmobiles pause near a small spruce with an orange diamond trail marker. The riders look ahead, up valley, toward a rounded ridgeline with sparse vegetation. Two of the snowmobiles are pulling sleds to carry gear and groom the trail. The headlights and tail lights glow in the low light of dusk.
Halfway over the Cache Mountain Divide Loop Trail.

Safety Recommendations

Trail reports provide information useful to planning and preparations, however trail conditions can change rapidly and there are many other risks associated with using winter trails. Visitors use trails at their own risk and should be prepared for any situation and extreme weather conditions.

Practice #KnowBeforeYouGo principles: 

  • share a trip plan (State Troopers form) with family or friends before you head out
  • check the weather (National Weather Service Fairbanks) before you head out
  • check the highway conditions (511.alaska.gov) before you head out
  • download our georeferenced PDF map of the White Mountains (26.0 MB) on your phone for off-grid use
  • bring more water, food, and fuel than you should need for your trip
  • bring a satellite communication device, more than one if possible
  • plan for mechanical breakdowns and weather conditions to deteriorate rapidly
  • if you become stranded, do not separate from your party 
  • Alaska is Bear Country:  No matter the season, always remain bear aware. Bears may be active in the winter – be prepared for encounters. A skier encountered a grizzly bear on Saturday, November 26 a few miles south of the Crowberry Cabin on the Trail Creek Trail. The bear appeared curious and approached the lead skier but then scampered away as other skiers approached. 

Please check back here for winter trail condition updates and follow our Facebook page for regular and emergency updates.

 

Trail Maps

Check out the BLM's georeferenced PDF map of the White Mountains (26.0 MB), which is designed for use on smart phones and tablets. With a free app (see these instructions) the map shows your current location even if cell coverage is not available. You can also use the airdrop feature on Apple products to share the maps with other people while all parties are off grid.

 

Cabin Reservations and Information

For cabin reservations and permits, visit the Recreation.gov website. Search the site for “White Mountains National Recreation Area.". You can also visit or call the BLM office in Fairbanks (located at 222 University Ave.; appointments required), for help with online reservations.

For questions on cabin reservations or White Mountains trails and facilities, call us at (907) 474-2200. Cabins must be paid for in advance and the permit carried with you to the cabin. 

Trail shelters are free of charge and used on a first come, first served basis. Cabins may not have firewood stocked for the woodstove; plan to carry some with you or cut some along the way. As a courtesy, replace the firewood that you use. 

Detailed cabin descriptions are available on the Recreation.gov website and at the BLM office in Fairbanks. A map of areas open to motorized vehicle use is also available.