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Stories from the valley

Spring Hike to Chipmunk Bluff

Contributed by Carl Gwyn

Now is the perfect time for a spring snowshoe/ski outing in the backcountry. Brilliant sunshine, warm weather, and plenty of snow makes this one of my favorite times of the year. With the abundance of snow this season, Loon Lake in the Crystal Basin is an excellent destination for an outdoor adventure.

There is currently four to six feet of snow around Loon Lake, which means most of the snowshoe/ski trails still have good coverage. The trails are well marked and make for a great outing. My wife and I chose the trail to Chipmunk Bluff, an easy trail for all experience levels that will reward travelers with spectacular views.

Starting at the Loon Lake Chalet, the trail heads west and rises steadily to the bluffs. Most of the vistas along the trail are of the drainage of the North Fork of the American River. For more advanced cross-country skiers, there are plenty of opportunities to carve some turns on the hills found on both sides of the trail. Although the snow is beginning to become sun-cupped on the flat areas, I found most of the slopes to be inviting.

Once you arrive at the bluffs, you’ll have to make a decision as to your lunchtime view. Just before the bluff, there is a magnificent view of the Crystal Range. If you continue to the end of the trail, you will have a nice view of the valley of the North Fork of the American River. The return trip is mostly downhill, which is a nice way to end the trek.

To get to Loon Lake, turn off Highway 50 at Ice House Road, ten miles east of Pollock Pines. You will drive through miles of beautiful forest with your view as you climb changing into a patchwork of snow white and forest green. After 22 miles, you will turn right and heard toward Loon Lake. After about five miles you will pass the turnoff to the campground and turn left about half a mile further into the Loon Lake Chalet parking lot.

The Chipmunk Bluff Trail should be good for snow travel through mid-May, depending on the weather. As the snow continues to recede, the trek to Chipmunk Bluff will become a nice day hike. Click here for a reference to the hike. Make sure you check out the map posted at the chalet to discover other hikes in the area. Happy trails!