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Stories from the valley

Great Winter Outing at Shot Rock Vista

Contributed by Carl Gwyn

Highway 88 has many places for the outdoor adventurer to find solace and beautiful scenery. Because visitors to the area often have the higher elevations in mind, thinking that’s where they’ll find the best conditions and the best views, they drive past a lesser-known but outstanding area for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

About 3/8 mile past the Iron Mountain Sno-Park (used mostly by snowmobiles), you’ll find an un-marked turnout on your right. In the summer, there’s a sign that labels it as the Shot Rock Vista Point, but that marker is currently buried beneath several feet of snow. There’s room for four to six vehicles in the turnout, assuming they are parked efficiently.

There is no marked trail, but you can still explore the area without one. After donning skis or snowshoes, the road to the summer parking lot heads south from the highway. Follow it, and a beautiful view of rolling, open landscape leading down to Tragedy Creek will soon emerge.

A great advantage of this area is that it is not as precipitous as many places in the Sierra. My friend and I started straight downhill, carving sweeping turns in the tremendous wide-open area. We had to be careful to not let our exuberance overpower our energy, knowing that the trip back would be uphill.

We skied down to the next creek (I could not find a name for it) and headed east, climbing to a bluff that offered a beautiful overview of the area. We then returned by keeping to the same elevation and finishing with a final short climb to the parking area making for a nice round trip.

This spot has lots to offer for backcountry enthusiasts of all skill levels. Because it is so wide open, there are no problems with trees. Newer skiers can pick gentle routes. Plenty of more challenging areas for advanced travelers on skis or snowshoes are also available.

So, have a good time enjoying this less-used destination. We did not see another person the whole day and glided through untracked snow. Remember to prepare for wilderness travel and monitor your energy level because there will be an uphill climb to get back to the parking area. Please click here for a topographical map of the area. No permits are required for parking.