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Stories from the valley

Spring Snow Adventures Await You in the Sierra

Contributed by Carl Gwyn

Sadly, we are too blessed by beautiful weather. I say sadly because we’re in dire need of more rain and snow during this drought. I also say sadly because I’m a winter enthusiast who loves the snow adventures. With that said, now’s the time to venture out and enjoy the remaining snow this season.

I recently visited one of my favorite places along Highway 88 for a day of cross-country skiing and was impressed with the fact that no one else was there. Because of the higher elevation, travelers can still choose from many places along the highway all the way up to the summit at Carson Pass, where there are still several feet of snow.

person cross country skiing across flat snow

On this day my friends and I chose Shot Rock which is about three-quarters of a mile east of where Mormon Emigrant Road (currently closed) intersects Highway 88. There’s parking for 5+ vehicles and no permits are needed. We chose this spot because it’s a south-facing slope where the snow is softened by the direct sunlight. It also provides wonderful views of the Tragedy Creek and Bear River drainage.

There was some concern about coverage, but we scouted the area from the still snow-covered summer parking area and were pleasantly surprised. We were greeted by an open slope with rocks poking up in places but mostly covered with plentiful spring snow, which is a backcountry skier or snowshoer’s dream.

After strapping on our skis, we immediately headed downhill around the outcrops, enjoying the view and sounds of water running over the boulders in places. There were no tracks from other skiers or snowshoers in evidence, and we had the entire area to ourselves.

cross country skis in the snow

We discovered waterfalls, easily found crossings for the two large streams we encountered, ran across what we took to be mountain lion tracks, and ended up at our lunch spot with a great view from the massive sun-warmed boulders serving as our picnic table. After snoozing in the sun for a bit, we started back to the car. Even though the return trip was uphill, we enjoyed the sun and fresh air while making plans for return trips this spring and next year.

This is a wonderful spot, but be aware that there are no marked trails. There are, however, opportunities to explore several square miles of mixed open and tree covered areas. In the depth of winter, ski and backcountry board tracks can be seen on some beautiful wide-open slopes in the distance.

people sitting on rocks taking a break from skiing

Shot Rock Vista Overlook is located 56 miles east of Jackson on Highway 88 on the right side of the road. Now would be the time to visit this location because the warm spring weather will melt the snow quickly. In the summer, this is a wonderful spot for hiking with large open granite fields with pronounced quartz veins in places.

I hope you get a chance to enjoy this great destination.