Hiking in the snow? Many people hang up their boots during winter. But with a little equipment, you can hike even in deep snow. How? Snowshoeing!
I was new to snowshoeing, and not really sure what it would be like. I’ve gone downhill skiing and snowboarding. Is there a learning curve? The short answer is that snowshoeing is as easy as hiking.
Time: ~1 hour
Elevation gain: 183 ft
When to go: Winter, after snow
Living in Los Angeles, we can’t walk out the front door and start snowshoeing. Snowshoeing will require some driving to get to the mountains. There are plenty of places in local mountains with snow, but you also need to check on driving requirements (are chains required?) and snow conditions. For our first foray into snowshoeing, we chose a really easy option — taking the Palm Springs Aerial Tram up to Mount San Jacinto State Park. We checked weather and the Long Valley webcam to make sure there was plenty of snow, then gathered our gear for adventure.
Driving out to Palm Springs was a snap. We fueled up at Starbucks early on a Sunday morning, hopped on I-10 and headed east towards Palm Springs. We arrived at the Valley Station a bit before 8am, checked our gear one last time and bought our tickets for the tram. There was no line for the early trams, but we noticed it got much more crowded later in the day. My advice? Go early. You’ll get the best parking, no lines and lighter crowds. The first tram up is 8am on weekends and holidays; 10am on weekdays. Adult tickets were $24 each.
Looking back down at the dry, dusty desert floor, it’s hard to imagine that we’ll be tromping around in the snow in a few minutes.
Once you get to the Mountain Station, take a quick bio-break (no one appreciates yellow snow) and head out into the winter wonderland. Our snowshoes used bindings very similar to skis, with ratcheting straps to lock in your hiking boots.
How To Snowshoe
Do you know how to walk? You’re 99% of the way there. Snowshoeing is just like hiking, but with a slightly wider stance. You need to exercise some caution so you don’t step on your snowshoes, but otherwise it’s really easy.
Being first-timers, we decided a good place to start was the easy, 1.5 mile Valley View loop. It gives you some great views of the Coachella valle, and gave us a chance to get use to navigating the snow-covered terrain.
The loop takes in five views down to the valley below, all the way out to the Salton Sea. The route was short, but a great way to get comfortable and gain confidence on our snowshoes.
When we got back to the Mountain Station, we decided we wanted to do a bit more. We headed out to the Long Valley Ranger Station, filled out a permit and trekked out toward Round Valley and back. Anything beyond the Ranger Station will require a wilderness permit, but there’s no cost. Just stop in the station and fill one out. The permits are important, especially during the winter season. They help the rangers keep track of the folks venturing out into the wilderness, and makes sure they return when planned. Which is also why it’s important that you remember to return your permit at the station when you get back — it let’s them know you made it back safely.
Next time? We’re going to tackle Mt. San Jacinto. It’s a full-day affair on snowshoes, since you can’t move at the same speed as you could when hiking.
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