A Winter Experience: Cross-country skiing in the Bodie Hills

Thank you to volunteers for Sept 2018
October 26, 2018
Winter Wonderland: An Outing in the Bodie Hills
March 15, 2019

by Mark Langner, Bodie Hills enthusiast and previous Bodie State Historic Park Ranger

Exploring the Bodie Hills during winter on skis or snowshoes offers the hardy a unique and rewarding experience. The vistas, solitude, silence and the challenge are all first rate. Depending on the experience you are seeking, there are many wonderful options.

If you enjoy working the flats then Bodie Bowl (near the Park), Mormon Meadows (at the junction with Bridgeport Canyon Road), and Four Mile Flat (about half way to Bodie State Park from Highway 395) are fine options. If you want to view one of the all time best winter panoramas in the entire Sierra, then the huff up to Bodie Mountain and Potato Peak should be on your list. If you want to crank out some miles and break a sweat, then the trek into Bodie State Park from Highway 395 (13 miles one way) and beyond, if you are particularly frisky, to the Nevada state line or Dry Lakes Plateau could take up a day or two or three. Note: Bodie State Historic Park is open in the winter 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. but check the website or call for more information.

There are no designated trails in the Bodie Hills, but existing roads and open terrain provide unlimited options. Snow conditions can be highly variable—from icy crust to crystalline powder. The weather, especially if the wind picks up, can quickly turn from a glorious blue sky day into something snotty. Access into the hills via Route 270 varies each year depending on the amount of snow and plowing that has gone on. Parking and turn-arounds along the road can be limited; you don’t want to block the road or get stuck in the snow. If the lower gate (about 1/2 mile from 395) is closed due to snow on the road, the lower part of the canyon beyond the gate is an enjoyable flat ski or snowshoe. There is usually a decent amount of parking at the gate, and the snow-covered road might be snow-cat tracked, allowing for a easier glide.

Two of my favorite skis

Bodie Bowl (two or so hours) Start at the Park kiosk and travel south, up Cottonwood Canyon Road. At the top of the hill, just before the sharp turn to the left, turn right and pick up the route that heads west through the aspen grove that is below the lip of the bowl. Once you meander through the grove, point your skis downhill and head back toward the kiosk through the middle of the bowl. This is a nice, fun, scenic, pleasant ski. The aspen grove is a great place for lunch.

Bodie Mountain (half a day or so) Start at the Park parking lot. Cross the fence near the corral to the east. Stay on the south side of the drainage and head for the peak. Part of the way will follow the flat path of the park’s waterline, part will be cross-country on easy sloping terrain, and the final section will be a steep grunt to the top. For the trip down you can tuck and fly and almost make it all the way back to the parking lot on gravity alone. Catching Milk Ranch Canyon (the drainage north of Geiger Grade/Aurora Canyon Road) down into the Park picnic area is a pleasant alternative route down.

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