Sherwin Creek Road is still covered in snow and makes a beautiful, easy cross country ski close to Mammoth
In the winter, Sherwin Creek Road makes for an easy, cross country ski trip just minutes from Mammoth, with a wild and lovely feel that makes it a great destination for an afternoon, or even for a day-long adventure.
Lined with deep forest for part of its four-mile length and open meadow and aspens the rest, made sweet with the sound of birdsong and smell of giant, old-growth pine trees, this ski packs more variety into four miles than most routes would in an entire day.
This ski is made even better because it could also be a one-way, 4-mile ski to another shuttle car parked on U.S. 395, should you so choose.
The ski route leaves Mammoth off of Old Mammoth Road, where it intersects with Sherwin Creek Road just a few hundred feet past the Mammoth Creek Inn.
Follow the road to the parking lot near the propane tanks at the winter trailhead. Head southeast, by climbing up or going around the big berm blocking the road to vehicles, on Sherwin Creek Road, which is still visible through the snow, if you watch carefully.
Follow the road through the open first half mile, then drop down as you close in on the pines, where the road steepens and drops down into a small ravine. Stop and listen for the sound of juncos and chickadees, ravens and jays. Descend the hill, heading for the deep trees and the still faint sound of the creek ahead of you.
At about one mile, the Jeffrey pines begin to overshadow the road. In another hundred feet or so, aspens and water birch appear, a sure sign in the Sierra of water. Little Sherwin Creek drains the Sherwin crest towering above Mammoth, crashing down from stark, steep, unnamed granite peaks above Valentine Lake, then on down to Sherwin Lakes. Once the creek exits the lakes, it does a headlong fling down the mountain, finally coming to rest where it joins Mammoth Creek at the Sherwin Creek Campground.
Cross little Sherwin Creek at about 1.3 miles and keep heading southeast, through the sweet open Jeffrey pine forest. The road winds and meanders a bit, passing by aspen groves protecting Sherwin Creek Campground to your left. The silence here, on a calm and windless day, is perfect. The views thought the sparse forest to the south show the big bulk of Bloody and Laurel mountains far above you.
Keep skiing through the trees for another mile or so, passing the sign to Valentine Lake and the private camp for children near the trailhead to Valentine. You are now about two miles from the trailhead.
Ahead of you, the forest slowly begins to thin and open on the right, or south, where the base of Laurel Mountain dominates. Keep skiing, until the forest gives way abruptly to sun-drenched open country, with the White Mountains all the way across Long Valley looking suddenly close enough to touch.
This is a good place to turn around and return to the trailhead. Or, if you left another car down the road where the Sherwin Creek road hits the highway, ski another two miles and pick up your shuttle car.
Directions: Take Old Mammoth Road south, toward the Stove and Mammoth Creek. As soon as you cross the creek, take a sharp left on Sherwin Creek Road. Follow it about .3 miles to the parking area near the propane storage tanks. Head south on the road under the snow, following the dim traces of the road as it winds to the east and south.