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Whisky Falls Dog Hike

Who knew that we could have a snowy hike so close by where the dogs could romp their way up the road and for us human members of their pack to see a lovely waterfall and icy formations along the creek?

Where: Sierra National Forest
Distance: 9.9 Miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation Range: 5,361′ – 6,157′
Date: February 5, 2014
Maps: Little Shuteye Peak Topographic, Sierra National Forest

Highlights: Whisky Falls is the big attraction but the snow covered road that we walked up, contrasting with the bluest of skies and white puffy clouds was hard to beat. Of course, those crazy dogs got some good exercise and we didn’t have far to drive for this hike.

From North Fork, we headed north on CA 233, then took the Forest Service Road 8S70 till we reached a closed gate. The dogs were ready to go! After we walked around the gate, we noticed a road that didn’t show up on our map, so we double checked the map and got our bearings before heading up the snow covered road.

The United States Forest Service (USFS) Map and the Campground spell it Whisky Falls, but I have found it spelled in other sources as Whiskey Falls. I am sticking with the USFS spelling!

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Whiskey Falls 3

What a beautiful day for this hike. I still can’t get over how blue the sky was and that snow still clung to many trees. The snow was well packed in a couple of older vehicle tracks on the road and I found the walking pretty easy. It was 32 degrees when we left the car and the snow was about 6 inches at its deepest spots. My Gore-Tex Asolo boots performed quite well, probably because I had re-waterproofed them a couple of hikes ago.

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We headed up the road, following the sign that led to the Whisky Falls Campground, then down to the bridge and there was Whisky Falls. Those dogs love to pose. . . for treats. Raven is licking her chops in anticipation of a nice treat.

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Whiskey Falls 9

So, how did Whisky Falls get its name? Tony Krizan researched this very issue for his August 27, 2013 article for the Sierra Star. In that article, he located an interview that was conducted in 1965 with Bill Ellis, a resident of North Fork. (I have included a link to this Bill Ellis interview at the end of my Blog.)

William A. Ellis was born in Coulterville in 1874 and his father mined, raised stock, worked in the timber business and farmed in Mariposa County. Bill moved to North Fork in 1890 where he later served as a Supervisor of Madera County for 24 years. He married Myrtle O’Neal, daughter of Charles O’Neal, who pioneered and founded O’Neals.

Bill Ellis said that Whisky Creek was originally called Alder Creek and was named after the trees that surrounded the area. Krizan stated the following theory on how Whisky Falls got its name in that article:

“As per Ellis, around 1865 Sheep herder George Wagner claimed the area Cascadel on a squatter’s claim or at that time called six shooter rights.” After I read that statement there are two conflicting stories — one states that George Wagner sold the rights to Charles E. Strivens who in turn built a general store next to the creek.

Another letter written by June English said that a Herrick N. Brown sold the rights and store to Charles E. Strivens.

Strivens sold goods and whiskey in his store said Ellis. Many of his customers were Native Americans. Ellis reported that the Indians changed the name of the creek from Alder to Whiskey in 1877.”

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Whiskey Falls 11

Gail and Deb took some great pictures of Whisky Falls on this day. I sure like the one that Gail Gilbert took below that captures that blue sky and those puffy white clouds.

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Whiskey Falls 13

We had lunch by the Falls, finding unique ice formations to try and capture on our cameras.

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Sally found a pine cone to play with.

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Whiskey Falls 18While we ate our lunch, you would think that the dogs would take advantage of the break and take it easy. Oh no. . .They put on the lunch time entertainment with a wrestling match.

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This was such a great hike and so close by, we kept asking ourselves why we hadn’t done a snowshoe hike up here before. We had the place to ourselves.

Whiskey Falls 23


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  1. Thank you again for the beautiful hiking blog and photographs, quite amazing. and we’re especially grateful as we are always looking for dog-friendly off-leash places to go. By the way, we have 3 dogs, one of which is a Weimaraner, a Weim/Black Lab mix, and another Lab mix (all rescues). Thanks for posting, so great.

  2. Thank you Sabine. I am also love taking Sally places and she sure love it also. I will keep bringing some good dog hike for your chow hounds to enjoy. From their background they sound like they would love the outdoors just like Sally does.

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