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Glided tours of Yosemite, Sequoia

Discussion about winter adventure sports in the Sierra Nevada mountains including but not limited to; winter backpacking and camping, mountaineering, downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, etc.

Glided tours of Yosemite, Sequoia

Postby ERIC » Tue Jan 29, 2008 11:04 pm

Glided tours of Yosemite, Sequoia
Cross-country skiers, snowshoers get an eyeful

By Marek Warszawski - marekw@fresnobee.com
Published 5:49 am PST Thursday, January 24, 2008
Story appeared in SCENE section, Page E2

Mountains don't close in winter. Covered by a blanket of snow, they open up in ways that are best experienced on cross-country skis or snowshoes.

From Yosemite National Park south to Sequoia & Kings Canyon, there are numerous areas designated for winter recreation if you don't mind the drive and a likely overnight within easy driving distance.

This should go without saying, but safety is a primary concern. Never drive to the mountains unprepared for a storm or without leaving an itinerary.

The cliffs surrounding Yosmite Valley
are showded in fog and dusted with
snow after recent snows covered the
Valley floor and areas around
Yosemite National Park.
Craig Kohlruss / Fresno Bee

Without further delay, here's a rundown of the best cross-country ski and snowshoe trails the central Sierra has to offer.

Dewey Point

Every weekend, dozens of people make the four-mile journey over snow from Badger Pass to Dewey Point. The famous vista sits on the eastern rim of Yosemite Valley across from mighty El Capitan. As the crowds attest, it's an incredible place for a picnic.

Although the trail is rated "most difficult" because of two steep sections near the rim, much of it is suitable for beginners.

From the trailhead, ski atop the groomed road one mile to the end of Summit Meadow and turn left at Trail 18. Follow the yellow trail signs through picturesque Dewey Meadow before funneling through the forest and rising up Carolyn's Hill, a great spot to practice turns. Beginners should turn around at the junction of Trails 18 and 14, where the terrain gets considerably steeper.

Coyote Loop

Of the four trails that originate from the Coyote Nordic Trailhead, located on the west side of Highway 168 above Shaver Lake, this six-mile loop around Tamarack Mountain offers the best views and most varied terrain. Three distinct vistas provide panoramas of Red Mountain, Huntington Lake, Kaiser Ridge and Shaver Lake. On a clear day, you can see across the San Joaquin Valley (usually shrouded in fog) to the Coast Range. The route is well-marked and relatively easy, aside from a few moderate climbs.

Since this is also a popular sledding area, the parking lot fills rapidly on weekends. Get there before noon.

Crescent Meadow

Sequoia National Park has a vast network of trails that are seldom skied compared with similar routes in Yosemite. The easiest way in is via Crescent Meadow Road, which heads south from the Giant Forest Museum toward Moro Rock.

Beginners should follow the sequoia-lined thoroughfare for 21/ 2 miles to Crescent Meadow and turn around. Adventurous types can choose between two loops, both of which end at the McKinley Tree before heading back via the Alta Trail.

The trails, marked with yellow triangles in trees, are easy to navigate except in a few open areas. Each trail has its own symbol. Crescent Meadow Road is not signed but obvious.

Panoramic Point

If you thought Panoramic Point was an eyeful in August, try visiting when the air is clear and everything is cloaked in white. From the Grant Grove Visitor Center, the winding road ascends 1,000 feet in 2.3 miles. Now that's a climb.

At the top, yellow circles mark the final quarter-mile to the viewpoint. Standing on a ridge overlooking the immense canyon excavated by the Kings River, dozens of distant peaks seem close enough to touch. Just don't go on a cloudy day.

Tearing yourself away will be difficult. But once you do, it's comforting to know the way back is all downhill.

Rancheria Campground

Every winter, the roads inside this large campground on the east end of Huntington Lake are transformed into 1.5 miles of groomed ski tracks. No snowmobiles are allowed, making it an ideal place for first-timers who want to improve their skills without worrying about getting lost or run over.

The trail system also provides access to the lake. Even though water levels are low, visitors should beware of thin ice.

Backcountry huts

Haute skiing in California never caught on like it did in the Alps, so options are limited to the Ostrander Hut (Yosemite) and Pear Lake Hut (Sequoia).

Both are stone structures built during the 1940s and offer spartan accommodations with access to breathtaking wilderness. But getting there requires effort. The Ostrander Hut is 10 miles from Badger Pass; the Pear Lake Hut is six miles from Wolverton Meadow, with a 2,000-foot elevation gain.

Reservations are required, and many weekends are booked well in advance. For the Ostrander Hut ($20 per night), call (209) 372-0740. For the Pear Lake Hut ($26 per night), go to http://www.sequoiahistory.org for reservation forms and a calendar of open dates.

About the writer:

* Reach Marek Warszawski at the Fresno Bee at (559) 441-6218.

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