Tony Krizan

Easy access to snowshoeing and cross-country skiing

BY TONY KRIZAN

Red Rock Falls along the Lewis Creek Trail north of Oakhurst.
Red Rock Falls along the Lewis Creek Trail north of Oakhurst. Special to Sierra Star

Our winter season is once again upon us as Eastern Madera County received several inches of snow between Nov. 26 and 27. Gone are those dusty trails and bright colored wildflowers that covered the hillsides and canyons within our mountain wilderness. Mother Nature is always reliable and brings back those memories from previous years with each season change.

Our rainfall may not coincide with previous years and even our mountain snow pack varies from year to year with change inevitable. With that being said, let me introduce you to a few local trails that can be enjoyed in the middle of summer and during winter with a blanket of snow.

Yosemite Ski & Snow Play Area (formerly Badger Pass) and China Peak are excellent resorts for downhill and cross-country skiing and for those who enjoy a less aggressive snow sport, snowshoeing routes are also available.

If time is a consideration and you still have the need for a wilderness experience, here are a few areas within 45 minutes of Oakhurst to introduce you to our surrounding mountains.

Lewis Creek: Located off of Highway 41, north of Oakhurst. There are three trailhead entrances along Lewis Creek to this route designated as part of the National Recreation Trail System.

On Cedar Valley Road, one mile from Highway 41 is the lower section and a strenuous trek up to Corlieu Falls. The northern trailhead is off of Sugar Pine Drive and follows past Red Rock Falls for a moderate trek down to the crossing area above Corlieu Falls.

The next location is seven miles from Oakhurst next to Highway 41. An excellent parking area is located at the half-way point just above Corlieu Falls. This is the easiest entrance to start the mile and a half elevation gain following Lewis Creek trekking up to Sugar Pine Drive. Whichever trailhead you choose it will follow the scenic beauty of Lewis Creek.

Snow Play Area: Just before the entrance to Yosemite National Park on Highway 41 is ideal for cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. In the back of the paved parking area is an old forestry road. There are miles of road that will loop back to Fish Camp or continue through a Yosemite boundary gate into Mariposa Grove.

Before attempting this moderate trek, for safety reasons a forestry map is necessary that describes these many secondary roads.

Chepo Saddle: Located off Highway 222 just before the road starts descending into Bass Lake. Look for the green forestry gate on the left. This is another ideal location for cross-country skiing or snowshoeing.

I classify this trek as strenuous if you decide to ski the two miles to the summit. The view of Slick Rock is excellent from this location. If one of the side roads interest you, they are much gentler and the classification would be moderate. Remember this three-mile adventure will return back to the original forestry gate.

Forks Trail at Bass Lake: This trail has two starting locations. One is located east of The Forks Resort, in the back of the Forks Campground. The second trail is off of Road 426 as it descends to Bass Lake. Enter on the right at a green forestry gate. Follow the forestry road until the junction of the Forks Trail. This trail will follow up the mountain to the road that leads to the Bass Lake Lookout Tower.

This adventure will be over eight miles round trip which is moderate to strenuous.

The easiest route to the tower is from Road 223 or Teaford Saddle Road. Once driving to the saddle, on the left is a dirt parking area and road which leads to a green forestry gate. Follow this road as it increases in elevation to a ridge.

At this point the road follows the ridge to the lookout tower, and this route is only six miles round trip. Highlights of this trek are the distant views of Bass Lake, Little Shuteye Mountain and Fresno Dome.

These are just a few close areas to enjoy our mountain wilderness without spending the entire morning driving to a location. Hope to see all of you in the mountains and on the trail.

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