South Fork Tieton Headwaters Basin (partial), April 22-23, 2005

Hike #71 in "100 Classic Hikes in Washington" describes an out-and-back-plus-loop route starting at Conrad Meadows (3900 feet) and winding around the headwaters of the South Fork of the Tieton River.  The scenery is described in glowing terms, and the hike itself is described as 15 miles, high point 5500 feet, "allow 3 days, hikable July through September". 

Given the light snowpack this year, I thought it just might be passable even this early (April 22-23). 


Conrad Meadows was clear of snow.  The lower trail was also mostly clear, with patches of snow and ice on the trail.  At higher elevations, snow covered the trail and following the trail started to get a bit tricky.  At 5300 feet, starting the traverse around the headwaters, there was very little trace of the trail even in trees and there was enough somewhat slushy snow to sink knee-deep in many places.  Doing another five miles of this to complete the loop seemed way out of scope, so I just camped on a nice patch of snow overlooking the meadow at 5300 feet and came back the next morning.

Hiking time was about 6 hours in, 5 hours out.  Trail distance around 6 miles one way, according to the guidebook.  (GPS track too spotty to get better distance.)

I was surprised by the snow quality.  Going in, it was pretty icy on the bottom and got slushy on top.  I thought that this was due to warming up during the day.  But coming out, it was still slushy on top (early morning) and got icy on the bottom approaching noon.  Don't know what's going on.

Note that the trail has been rerouted from what is shown on the USGS topo maps and in my Garmin GPS MapSource.  I did not have a copy of the current Green Trails map and at one point was pretty much convinced that I must have gone astray.  Fortunately I also had the map posted at Conrad Meadows, captured into my digital camera.


(Most of the following still images can be viewed at higher resolution by clicking on them.)

Elk on Conrad Meadows

One of the few flowers that was out already (Conrad Meadows)

South Fork Tieton River

Interesting rotted log

Trail at 5200 feet

Trail beyond campsite at 5300 feet

Campsite at 5300 feet (QuickTime spherical panorama, press-and-drag to pan, shift and control to zoom in/out)

Page last modified April 28, 2005