Winter Activities

Cross country skiing

The following information is a partial extraction of “UPPER TULE HIKING TRAILS” Fourth Edition 1994 by Skip Premo & Chet Wheeler. The original publication is not copyrighted. If you reproduce any of this material, please credit the Upper Tule Association. Additional copies ($2.95) of the guide may be obtained by calling Skip Premo at (209) 542-2110 or writing him at Camp Nelson, 93208.


Not all of us are aware of the fine opportunities that we have in the Upper Tule area for winter recreation. The usual daytime highs here range from the 40’s up to the “top” to the 50’s in the warmer areas on the sunny, south-facing slopes. Nights are typically 20 degrees colder. When the valley is bathed in cold fog and overcast with yuck, we have bright sunny skies and a gently desert breeze (the Mono, which is a little sister to the notorious Santana winds of the L.A. basin). Appropriate clothing for skiing is shirt sleeves with a jacket around your waist (in case the sun goes behind a cloud) when it is sunny. Other wise you will want the comfort of gloves and a lined jacket. Be wary of over-dressing while exercising because it can result in dangerous perspiration.

Cross-country skiing is a delight – particularly when you are skiing on crusty virgin snow. If the snow is wet and soft it can be a real drag. Be sure to carry wax for your skis to help ward off the heavy, sticky snow. On fresh snow, the tracks of our mountain denizens stand out. the efforts of coyotes, bobcats and foxes to “ferret” out snowshoe rabbits, chickarees, gophers and mice are clearly recorded.

Ski equipment rentals – skis, boots, gaiters and poles – are available at the Ponderosa Lodge. Cold weather gear – gloves, hats, watch caps, mittens, etc. – and fun stuff like plastic sleds and dics are on sale at both Pierpoint and the Ponderosa.

There are several ski trails at the “top”. All of the logging roads are suitable for skiing even though they are not so marked. One marked trail goes up the North Road. This trail is shared with Snowmobilers and is suitable when snow is fresh. It is not much fun after being repeatedly mashed down into a series of icy moguls after a few days’ intensive use. Snowmobile trails usually follow logging roads and are marked with distinctive reddish-orange diamond markers. Ski trail markers are blue diamonds. Shared trails have both types.

Another shared trail goes out toward the Needles. This starts at the top of the grade between Quaking Aspen Meadows and the Ponderosa. Yet another starts across the Highway from the Ponderosa, heads west a bit and then circles north to Quaking Aspen Campground. And still another starts from the parking area at the end of the Highway and heads south to Dome Rock and a spectacular view of Kern Canyon. Parts of the latter trail are for exclusive use by skiers.

Marked ski trails are all suitable for beginners. None of them seriously challenge the expert, although experts need not stick to the trails and there are plenty of challenging slopes around. There should be no fear of getting lost as long as you know which end is up. Just remember which side of the Highway you are on. If you are above it (west), go down-hill to the Highway. Conversely, if you are on the east side, go up-hill to the Highway. Be careful, though, to detour around steep slopes.

Exclusive-use ski trails are found on the west (up-hill) side of the Highway between the Ponderosa and Peppermint Creek. Follow the Holby Meadow Road past the junction with the Wesleyan Woods turnoff to a broad open area guarded by a rather large Jeffery pine on your left. This little slope is a good place to practice down-hill runs and get you “ski legs”. Follow the blue diamonds south through meadows and down ridges for about a mile and you will find yourself at the old snow-park parking area (which, incidentally is plowed for our convenience by Tulare County). From here, you can either pack it in and return to your comforts or take the “Peppermint Loop”. This ski trail starts in the gully to the west and follows it off to the southwest to join another drainage which it follows west, more or less, until it joins up with logging road (21S09) about a half mile further. The trail joins the road for a hundred yards or so before the blue diamonds bear off to the right and ascend a gently ridge. The trail soon passes adjacent to a “Penny-Pines Plantation” where it heads down a moderate slope and bears to the right up some high ground along the creek. Creeks can be identified by meandering indentations in the snow, sometimes strung together like beads on a necklace. Be careful in crossing the snow bridges over creeks between indentations. They can collapse under your weight and give you an unwelcome chilly dip. After a couple hundred yards or less, the trail crosses the creek to the left and you will climb up the far side, again to your left, through a small thicket. Soon you will come to long slope which is nice for down-hill thrills. Try it a couple of times.

Beyond, the trail mounts a ridge where there is a sign which directs you to the left to the Peppermint Loop and to the right to Dome Rock. If you think the right fork will take you to Dome Roack, you are only partly right. It will, but the trail markers stop at a difficult crossing of the south fork of Peppermint Creek. Use of the area beyond is shared with cross-country snowmobiles. Should you proceed on your own and surmount a couple of ridges to the south, you will come to the Helitack Complex, the access road of which (21S23) leads to the Highway just across from the Dome Rock turn-off.

Meanwhile, back at the signed fork on the trail, the left fork does take you down (east) a ridge parallel to Peppermint Creek. It crosses a logging road (21S23) a couple of times before veering north, more or less parallel to the Highway. There are a couple of convoluted slopes to traverse until you are finally dumped off on to the Highway and its snowmobile tracks near the Holby Meadow Road (21S07). Follow the Highway home.

Winter Recreation Routes & Trails


The Winter Recreation Routes & Trails will be referenced from Ponderosa; North to the higher elevations and South along the Western Divide to the lower elevations.  For each location there will be two (2) maps, a map without 200 foot contour intervals and another map with 200 foot intervals.


Click on your preference from the below selection: