Once again we are approaching our season for winter sports. Within and around Yosemite National Park are many areas to enjoy this year's snow pack. Even though you may not be a seasoned skier and the thought of attempting those downhill ski runs at the local resorts, may not be within your comfort zone. I have a suggestion that will bring you back to the wilderness with less risk and more enjoyment.
In my previous articles attention is centered on old logging roads and forgotten railroad spurs. Both are excellent for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Last winter I drove to the snow-play area on Highway 41 located just before entering the west gate into Yosemite. This is an excellent area to test your snow skills on an old forestry road.
You can park at the east end of the parking area. Hike through the trees until you arrive to a old forestry road. There are many miles of flat to slight elevation increases along the roadway to test your skills. This road will have a few direction changes, so be alert and check your map at each fork. One fork leads to Fish Camp, another is called the Goat Mountain Loop and Buffin Meadow Trail. These trails are featured in a brochure called Goat Meadow cross-country ski trails. Brochures are available at the Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau on Highway 41 in Oakhurst.
If you are a skilled skier or snowshoe individual, you can explore beyond the east forestry gate into Yosemite. This trail is marked by snow markers elevated ten feet above ground level. Do be careful when crossing Big Creek. If the snow depth is over three feet, you may have difficulty climbing to the opposite bank.
From this point within an hour you should arrive at Mariposa Grove. Gauge your time; Mariposa Grove is worth the winter experience. When you see this pristine area after an overnight fresh snow fall, this is a memory you will cherish for a life-time. Time and distance is much shorter to return following the road to the west entrance gate into Yosemite. When I made this trip, we parked two vehicles, one at each the starting and ending areas. Total time was almost six hours to complete this snow trek. If time is important, park in the designated parking area just inside Yosemite's west entrance gate. Start your ski or snowshoe trek following the road into Mariposa Grove. This trip will be much shorter, with an average time of three hours.
The second area is within Yosemite National Park following Wawona Highway just past the entrance to Yosemite West. On the right is the Chinquapin parking area and trailhead. This trail leads to an old abandoned railroad spur engineered by the Yosemite Lumber Company between 1912 and 1923. This is another flat engineered area from our past logging history. The only difficult area may be from water erosion caused by time and Bishop Creek. You can follow this railroad line 6.7 miles before reaching the trailhead sign to Alder Creek. With less risk gauge your outing and plan your return at a comfortable turn-around point back to the original trailhead.
Keep in mind these trails are not supervised or regulated by state or private concerns. They are strictly wilderness adventures, so be careful. Whatever locations you cross-country ski or snowshoe always check with the local forestry ranger station for any changes that may affect your outing. Success is not only completing each adventure, but bringing back memories to share with family and friends.