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Snowshoe the Merced Crest Loop

Amazing views of snow covered mountains, a huge snow covered meadow, and a peaceful quiet where the only sound is the crunching snow under your snowshoes are the experiences that you will take away on this snowshoe adventure.

Where: Yosemite National Park

Distance: 6.48 Miles

Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult

Elevation Range: 7,024-7,832

Date: January 30, 2013

Highlights: This was another hike where we had the gorgeous scenery to ourselves! Views of the Clark Range, Liberty Cap, Mt. Broderick, Half Dome, the Quarter Domes and Clouds Rest, not to mention snow covered Westfall Meadows were the high points. You really jump start your heart rate at the beginning of this hike as you climb along the ski slope to the top of the hill at Badger Pass, gaining over 600 feet in less than ¾ mile. Once on top you follow the Merced Crest Ski Trail, getting glimpses of the high peaks covered in snow. Once you drop down off of the Merced Crest Ski Trail, you follow the Limit Trail into Westfall Meadows, and then back to Badger Pass via the Old Glacier Point Road.

We parked at one of the southern parking lots at Badger Pass Ski Area and started out with our snowshoes, snow baskets on our hiking poles, pack, layered clothes, water and a lunch and headed alongside the eastern side of the “Eagle” chairlift. Up, Up and more up, gaining about 600 vertical feet in less than ¾ of a mile. Once on top, we followed the Merced Crest Ski Trail #16 along the ridge top. The trial is fairly well marked with yellow flags in the trees. This year they were easy to follow but a couple of years ago when the snow was super deep, the flags were buried under snow in places, making it a real challenge to follow the trail.

As we followed the trail along the crest, we got glimpses of snow covered mountains:

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Before we dropped down off of the crest, we captured the best views of the Clark Range, the Quarter Domes and mountains to the east.

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We headed off the crest through the trees down toward Westfall Meadows on the Limit Trail. My hiking buddy for the day, Gail Gilbert, snapped this picture of me on the trail.

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Westfall Meadows is such a beautiful and peaceful place, whether it is snow covered in the winter or covered in grass and wildflowers in the summer. I was curious about how Westfall Meadows got its name and did a little research.

Here is what I found:

Westfall Campground, Ranger Station-Sampson W. Westfall patented 160
acres in sec. 26, T. 5 S., R. 21 E. in 1887 (SiNR=Sierra National Forest).

Westfall Creek- Named after Eldridge Westfall, one of the first forestMerced Crest Loop10rangers in this area. (SiNF)

Westfall Meadows- “following along Alder Creek to its source in a large
meadow, known as Westfall’s…..Here are two houses, Westfall’s and
Ostrander’s, sometimes occupied during the summer by herders of sheep,
and which have often afforded a kind of shelter, poor, but better than
none, to persons overtaken by night or too much fatigues to go farther.

Westfall Meadows is about a mile long and we were treated to artful views of snow as the snow was melting underneath the blanket of snow, creating swirling patterns.

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After our lunch on the meadow, we headed down the trail, through the trees, where we got on the Old Glacier Road to head back to Badger Pass. We passed a spot where a small creek melted and meandered by the trail.

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Just before we left Old Glacier Point Road for our car, we passed by a couple of groves of aspen, their leaves long gone, but creating a wonderful contrast with their trunks and the white snow. What a wonderful treat for the ending of our hike!!

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Hiking in the winter has special challenges and safety issues related to it. There are many books and online information on safety issues related to this, along with checklists on what to bring along with you. I wouldn’t even think of doing a trip such as this without brushing up on these items.

If you are interested in snowshoeing to Dewey Point, the Badger Pass Ski Center rents them. For more information on Badger Pass or their rates, check out http://www.yosemitepark.com/BadgerPass.aspx You can also check out their webcam and online information for current conditions.

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One comment

  1. Another great description of a super high country adventure ! Love your blogs !!

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