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Tokopah Falls in Winter

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park Links:

December 23rd, 2001

3.8 miles
530 vertical feet
Total Time: 2:48

Rating: 8/10

Directions:   View Driving Map

You can actually camp at Lodgepole in the winter -- and it's free! Though I can't imagine sleeping in a tent when it gets well below freezing at night. It's 32 degrees in the middle of the day!

The road is cleared up to the nature center parking lot. This is where I parked and made the short walk to the bridge over the creek. The creek was still flowing, with snow blanketing the many rocks of all sizes in the water.

There are no sequoias along the Tokopah Falls trail. But that doesn't make it any less pretty than other hikes in the area. The snow-covered trees, snow-blanketed rocks in the water, and the majestic Watchtower mountain peak make it a beautiful setting.

Snow-covered boulders in Tokopah Creek

I tried not to step in the ski tracks, as doing so makes it difficult for skiers on their return trip. However, there weren't any snowshoe tracks to speak of, and blazing my own was tough work. There were times when I threw in the towel and trudged along the ski tracks for a few steps. Given the fact that it was late in the day, I didn't expect to see anyone else on the trail, anyway. As I got further in, I felt more justified in stepping in the ski tracks. In fact, I never did see any skiers.

Snow-covered boulders in Tokopah Creek

Snow-covered boulders in Tokopah Creek

The trail follows the creek the whole way. As I got further in, the trail became harder to follow. The snow became deeper and I sank into the snow on several occasions. I would take a step and sink up to my knee, then have to squirm my way back up. At one point this happened and I didn't feel anything underneath my right foot. I cleared away at the snow with my trekking poles and discovered that I was standing on air -- well, two small branches about 2-3 feet above a flowing creek (albeit only about 6 inches deep). I'd been following ski tracks most of the time, and skis have the advantage of not sinking into the snow as much as snowshoes!

Tracks in the snow next to Tokopah Creek

The Watchtower looming over the creek

I decided now would be a good time to backtrack. I did just that, then tried to follow the faint snowshoe tracks of days past. I eventually made it far enough along the "trail" to view the falls from a distance. I couldn't get nearly as close as I had two years earlier in the spring. I could see that the water was still flowing, though it was covered by snow in some places and icicles were hanging from the sides. More impressive was the view of the Watchtower above to my right.

Icicles at Tokopah Falls

The Watchtower

The Watchtower

The snow was getting deeper and I'd just fallen to my knees again. So I decided that was far enough and I turned around. I didn't expect to see anyone else, but a half hour later I ran into 4 snowshoers and their 2 dogs. They were coming up, which was surprising to me considering the lateness of the day (the sun would set about 45 minutes later). I warned them of my travails on the trail ahead of them, then went along my way, bounding down the trail as fast as I safely could.

Tracks in the snow

The Watchtower over Tokopah Creek

The late afternoon sun cast a beautiful glow on the mountains. Quickly, I found my way back to the bridge and over to the parking lot.

Return to 2001 Winter Sequoia Trip.

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