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Now that the snow has arrived, many of us are thinking about skiing, snowshoeing or possibly cross-country skiing. Something that’s often overlooked are winter hikes in the High Sierra. This majestic time of year offers you full rivers, roaring falls, few people and more solitude & slow-down time. So, if you’re on the “fence” this season on visiting, here’s four amazing winter hikes to enjoy in the High Sierra.

River Of Skulls

Length: 0.9 miles –

Difficulty: Easy

New Hogan Lake
Image appears courtesy: Calaveras Visitors Bureau

Who wouldn’t want to come back after an awesome weekend and say “I hiked the River of Skulls!” While the name connotes fear, it’s far from it. Fun for the entire family, this hike allows you to explore the valley’s important ecosystems-foothill woodland and increasingly vanishing riparian forest. You’ll learn about the major flora while cruising along this mile-long rock-lined path near New Hogan Lake.

Need a few more ideas? Check out Calaveras’ top family friendly picks for winter activities.

Marble Falls

Length: 7.4 miles –

Difficulty: Moderate

sequoia national park marble falls winter hikes in the high sierra
Image appears courtesy: Visit Visalia

While many of the side roads in Sequoia National Park close during the winter, there are quite a few areas in the park that are best seen in the winter, like the Marble Falls. Instead of the 100 degree temps in the summer due to its lower elevation in the park, you’ll be greeted to 30-40 degree weather. On the surface this might sound cold, but it will feel rather warm as you begin your ascent up this 7.4 mile out & back hike. The hard work is well worth it when you reach the falls. Once the trail passes the falls and ends on a slab of white marble, pause on the marble and take in the cacophony of the rushing torrents. The sounds will take your stress away and leave you feeling energized.

Buttermilk Hill

Length: 14 miles –

Difficulty: Challenging

Image appears courtesy: Bishop Visitor Information Center

Located in the Tungsten Hills named for the tungsten that was mined here until the late 1940s this specific hike can be done as a leisurely stroll or a challenging climb. One of many hills and boulder outcroppings, this trip provides great views of the Eastern Sierra Nevada. For those wanting a more adventurous hike of more strenuous proportions head to the top of Buttermilk Hill. It’s deceivingly large and there are numerous dual-tracks and single-track trails that circumnavigate this rocky hill. Surmounting the peak will require some cross-country scrambling. It’s well worth it though since from the summit you can see the White Mountains, the Owens Valley and the Sierra at the same time.

Be sure to read Bishop’s A Dozen or More Wonderful Winter Hikes in the Eastern Sierra for more adventures in and around Bishop.

Yosemite Valley Loop Trail

Length: 13 mile full loop; 6.5 mile half loop –

Difficulty: Easy/Moderate (depending on length)

Sentinel Rock Yosemite Valley Visit Yosemite Madera County
Image appears courtesy: Visit Yosemite Madera County

There’s a reason why Yosemite is ranked as the 2nd best national park in the world by US News due to it scenery and attractions. Despite the fact most visitors come in the summer, winter is a GREAT time to visit the Yosemite Valley. You can explore its trails without them being packed AND see some of the most spectacular scenery. A great option is the Yosemite Valley Loop Trail. Built on the Valley’s first east-west trails and wagon roads, it offers a rare opportunity to explore Yosemite Valley on a fairly level trail with some solitude. Leading you through meadows beside granite cliffs, you’ll be rewarded with views of some of Yosemite’s major icons, including El Capitan, Bridalveil Fall, Sentinel Rock, and Half Dome.

For a few more ideas, be sure to read Visit Yosemite Madera County’s Winter Travel Tips Straight From A Travel Expert.

Winter is a great time to get away from the crowds. But, it also doubles down in what it offers with things like snow-capped peaks and rivers filled to their banks without flooding. Like Warren Miller once said, “If you don’t do it this year, you will be one year older when you do.”

Author: Alex Silgalis

Alex Silgalis is an outdoors travel writer who enjoys snowboarding, mountain biking, or having a cold one from a local mountain brewery. See more of Alex’s work at

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