Tony Krizan

Snowshoes or Skis on old Logging Roads

Logging road covered with snow above Snow Play area.
Logging road covered with snow above Snow Play area. Special to the Sierra Star

Now that winter is upon us once again, there are recreational areas within and around our national park for adventure. You may not be a seasoned skier and the thought of attempting those downhill runs at the local resorts is not within your comfort zone. I have a suggestion that will bring you back to the wilderness with less risk and more enjoyment.

If you have followed a few of my previous articles, there are two winter adventures centered around old logging roads and forgotten railroad spurs. Both are excellent for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

One easy accessible area is The Snow Play area off of Highway 41, located just before entering the south gate into Yosemite. This is an excellent area to test your snow skills on an old forest road. Park at the east end of the parking lot, then hike through the trees until you arrive at the old logging forestry road. There are many miles of flat or slightly tapering roadways to test your skills. Also one has the choices of directions; one fork leads to Fish Camp and 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 back forestry gate that leads into Mariposa Grove. This abandoned forest road is marked by snow markers elevated 10-plus feet above ground level. Do be careful when crossing Big Creek if the snow depth is over three feet, you may have difficulty on the opposite bank climbing out. From this point within an hour you’ll arrive at Mariposa Grove. Gauge your time. Mariposa Grove is quite the wilderness spectacle when covered in a blanket of snow. Especially if you arrive early morning after a fresh snow fall.

Time and distance is much shorter to return following the road to the south entrance gate into Yosemite. My experience was to park a vehicle at both areas to complete this adventure in six hours. If time is a concern park in the designated parking area at the south gate entrance. 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 Road (Highway 41) 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. The only difficulties may be the water erosion caused by time and Bishop Creek. But don’t forget we have just experienced five years of drought and a major forest fire. Keep I mind these trails are not supervised or regulated by state or private concerns, they are strictly wilderness adventures.

Whatever locations you choose to cross-country ski or snowshoe always check with the local forest ranger station for any updates to your planed area. Also always be safe and choose the proper winter clothing and gear. Success is not only completing each adventure, but bringing back memories to share with family and friends.