The Winter season in Yosemite National Park is great. It's well worth the extra effort getting there in rough driving conditions. Check the latest road conditions and weather forecast before you head up. Bring tire chains, your going to need them! ( required by law )
All of these images were taken by me. They have been altered in size only.
I have three favorite areas for "snow play" in Yosemite. The Mariposa Grove, Badger Pass / Glacier Point Road and Yosemite Valley. I will attempt with photos to show something of what it's like to go into these places in winter. This first diary part one will cover the Mariposa Grove and the Badger Pass / Glacier Point Road areas.
Part two will cover the Valley.
Ski on past the orange snow bank if you would like to see more of winter in Yosemite.
The Mariposa grove of giant sequoia trees offers a great nordic ski or snowshoe experience. Located very near the South Entrance of the park the road up to the grove is not plowed in winter. Starting at around 4500ft. elevation it is uphill all the way in. The bonus when you're on skis is that it's downhill all the way out.
Just past this entrance sign the Grove parking lot is at around 5700ft elevation. That's about 1200ft. elevation gain in two miles from the starting point. Here you will see many Giant Sequoia trees. If you have to break trail through fresh snow all the way in this might be as far as you get.
I often stop at the gift shop porch to apply a fresh coat of Maxiglide both coming and going. It is a good place to do this with solid ground to stand on. The snow in the western Sierra Nevada Mountains has a very high moisture content and will stick to the bottom of your "no wax" skis without treatment of some kind.
The road continues on upward through the grove passing many big trees.
You can go on for another few miles all the way up to Wawona Point at 6800ft. elevation.
There are also several trails marked by yellow blazes on the trees. Winter ski trail maps are available near the trail head at the far end of the parking lot.
These trails require an advanced skill level on skis. Snowshoes not so much.
If you are very lucky the park might send some employees up to check on the weather station equipment at Wawona Point. If they go through in the snow cat and make a fresh trail for you it requires a lot less effort to get up there on skis. The trip down can be one long glide with almost no effort required. Really nice!
The trip back down is really fun on skis. If the conditions are good you might be able to glide all the way out with little to no effort.
Badger Pass / Glacier Point Road
The Badger Pass ski area is the oldest in California. It's a great place for beginners to learn downhill skiing or snowboarding. Skis for downhill or all types of cross country, snow boards and snow shoes are all available for rental. Lessons for all these activities are also available. The Glacier Point Road beyond the ski area is not plowed and is groomed for cross country skiing with tracks and skate lanes. This world class cross country ski area is free of charge if you bring your own equipment. There are also over 80 miles of non-groomed wilderness trails off both sides of the road.
Heading out the road from Badger it is about ten miles one way to Glacier Point.
You can arrange to stay overnight in a building they have out there. You can also make arrangements to stay at the Ostrander Lake Ski Hut. I prefer to take day trips.
Caution needs to be taken when heading out to into this area. Check the weather forecast. Make sure someone who is not going with you knows your itinerary.
Here is a true story...
I headed out the glacier point road on my skis one morning. I had not checked the weather reports. The lifts were running and there were a fair amount of people on the slopes. There was snow falling. Large flakes were drifting slowly down. It was looking like a "Currier and Ives" print. I went out the road to Bridalveil Campground. I stopped to eat lunch. While I was there in the space of about 30 minutes it became very dark and started to snow real hard. Next the wind picked up so heavy that the snow was going sideways and the trees were moving around and making creaking noises. I had been planning on going back to Badger via the trails. I decided to take the road back instead. Just as I got started the first clap of thunder came booming down so loud it hurt my ears. Within minutes I was in the center of a scary situation. I could hear trees snapping and falling down on both sides of the road. The thunder kept booming and the snow was so strong and heavy at times that it was hard to tell where the edge of the road was. That was the longest 3 1/2 mile ski I've ever done. When I made it back there was a 1/2 inch thick layer of rime ice covering the windward side of my body. I got to spend the night at the day lodge building with the ski patrol guys and a group of school kids that had been out snow camping in the wilderness who also came in seeking shelter from the storm. As always, I brought with me enough food and water to spend the night out. I'm really glad I didn't have to.
The off road trails are marked for difficulty level. Do not attempt anything beyond intermediate level on skis unless you are very experienced. I got into trouble on the black diamond section of this trail before. It wasn't too hard till I got to the really steep down hill through the trees part. I found myself alone wiped out off the side of the trail in ten foot deep snow about two miles from the road. When you are pushing down through the soft snow with your ski pole in hand and still can't feel the bottom, you know that snow is deep. I had to roll on to my back and put my legs up in the air ( with skis on ) then bring my knees against my chest and roll sideways to get my skis back under me. It took a few tries to get back up on my skis covered head to toe with snow.
The Dewey Point trip can be done as a loop. You can return to the road via the Meadow trail that comes out near summit Meadow.
The bottom edge of the peaked roof is above head high. There is a phone booth buried somewhere near this message board.
The Clark Range View Point is around five miles out the Glacier Point Road from Badger. This is a good day trip destination on skis. Here are some photos from there.
11:48 AM PT: I have to go off line. I'll try and check back later on. Thanks very much for looking at my photos. I hope you enjoy them.