Fresh snow has arrived this early season, as FEET have fallen over many parts of the High Sierra. If you aren’t a big-time skier or snowboarder, does that mean this area is off-limits to you? No way! If you can hike, then you can definitely snowshoe. Here’s just a small selection of places you can snowshoe in the High Sierra, allowing you to experience the beauty and serenity of winter.
Stargaze The Night Away
When the nights are longest and the air becomes the coldest, it’s also when the night sky is at its brightest, clearest and most beautiful. What starts out as a sunset snowshoe hike just outside of Truckee, transforms into a tour of the sky by award-winning astronomer Tony Berendsen. With his large aperture telescopes, you’ll be exposed to the mysterious wonders just above you in the Sierra skies. The Snowshoe Star Tour is offered on December 23rd, January 20th and February 24th which includes snowshoes, trekking poles, knowledgeable guides, permit fees, hot drinks and snacks.
Snowshoe Amongst Giants
They say the best things in life are earned not given. This is especially true when visiting the Giant Sequoia Groves in Yosemite National Park. Depending on which way you’re entering, there are two main groves that you can snowshoe to. You’ll find Mariposa via the southern gate and Tuolumne and Merced Groves in the north. And once one of the legendary Sierra storms deposits a blanket of snow, it leaves in its wake a way to immerse yourself in these giants in relative seclusion.
Depending on how much time you have, Mariposa Grove offers an assortment of trails to snowshoe or cross-country sky from. Be aware that around the end of November through at least March 15th, the only way in is by human-power. No matter which trails you pick inside the grove, you’ll have to add an additional four-mile round trip to it. The reward is that once you enter the grove, you’ll find a profound quiet amongst the giant Sequoias. Don’t just stop there though. Check out some of the other winter-time sights like the Tunnel View while in the region.
Because of Tuolumne Grove being smaller than Mariposa, it’s even less busy than its bigger brothers. This translates to a more immersive experience amongst the giants. On your journey, the two trees that will be the highlights are the Red Giant and the famed Tunnel Tree. The Red Giant gives you the “awe” and understanding of just how big these mighty watchers of the forest are. The “Tunnel Tree” as the name suggests has a tunnel in it and was used back in the late 19th century to encourage visitors from San Francisco to come. In the summer, this landmark typically has a line to get a photo. But during this time of year, you’ll pretty much have it to yourself. This is but only ONE of the winter wonders that are available to you.
Take In The “Valley” Like John Muir
Out of any season, winter is by far the least crowded time of year. If you want a glimpse of what it must’ve felt like for John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt to see Yosemite Valley, strap on a pair of snowshoes. While the 21-mile cross-country ski to Glacier Point might be too arduous for most, another alternative that’s still a journey is to Dewey Point. Rent a pair from Badger Pass and shove off from there. The full snowshoe loop is about 7.5 miles and gives you a Birdseye view of the Yosemite Valley with not a soul around.
Spicer It Up In The High Country
Bear Valley, just above the town of Arnold, is a winter enthusiast’s dream. In addition to the powder filled downhill slopes, Bear Valley Adventure Company provides equipment rentals along with 70+ groomed trails. For those that want a wilder experience, head a little higher on Ebbetts Pass Scenic Highway to the Spicer SNO-Park. From here, a few of the destination points include Lake Alpine, Spice Reservoir, and Round Valley. If human power is a bit too much to get to these spots, you can book a snowmobile adventure instead. Be aware that a permit is required for each car parked at the SNO-PARK area from November to late May and needs to be purchased in advance via a vendor.
Full Moon Stroll To A Dinner
The mountains surrounding Bishop offer an assortment of trails for those that want to try snowshoeing for the first time. Snow-covered roads like South Lake & Lake Sabrina offer you a safe, comfortable learning environment to get your techniques locked down. For those looking for something a bit more special, consider booking a dinner at Rock Creek Lodge. Under a moon-lit sky, you’ll snowshoe the last two-miles through vast wilderness to the pure solitude of the lodge. Once there, you’ll enjoy a family style four-course prix fixe menu. Vegetarian and other dietary restrictions accommodated with advance notice.
A Classic Vista In Mammoth
Mammoth’s trail network provides both first timers AND experienced snowshoers a huge selection of trails to pick from based on your ability. Nearing the top of the list for all abilities is the gentle climb from the Mammoth Mountain Lodge to the Minaret Vista. The 5-mile round-trip finishes off with an up close and personal view of the signature Mammoth skyline – the Minarets. The sharp jutted peaks will spark your imagination as well as your sense of exploration. With more than 3 million acres of wilderness and public lands surrounding Mammoth Lakes, this is but the gateway to the snowshoeing California adventures that Mammoth has in store for you.
For those of you who only visit the High Sierra in the summer or ski at one of the star-studded resorts, you’re missing out on a whole spectrum of snowy fun the Sierra Nevada can provide. Winter-time activities offer you clean-crisp air, snowbound vistas, lesser crowds and so much more. So, for this season, consider snowshoeing in the High Sierra. You won’t regret it.
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 https://localfreshies.com
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