Snowshoeing Around Gooseberry Point. Apparently.
On many occasions I’ve spent hours walking off-trail in the backcountry only to scramble up something and stumble upon a trail or forest road. It has also happened that I have randomly chosen an area to explore and discovered that there’s a lookout or trailhead there. The latter was the case on one of my most recent excursions; unbeknownst to me I snowshoed to Gooseberry Point, elevation 10,350. After consulting my forest map there’s even supposedly a road that runs along the top of that ridge – though I saw no evidence of such so I will have to confirm that once the snow melts.
My decision to snowshoe up the ridge was based on knowing that I would inevitably run into the rim of the plateau just beyond it and that I’d have views down the grand staircase to Zion. I was not proved wrong but the ridge as I could see it from the bottom was actually separated from the rim of the plateau by more than a half mile in most places; in between was a pristine white meadow that stretched at least a couple miles running roughly east-west.
I parked and began trekking parallel to the ridge for a little more than a quarter mile until I spotted a saddle, at which point I turned diagonal towards it. The morning light streamed through the fir and spruce trees above me as I ascended above 10,000 feet to the ridgeline; stopping to admire the magical atmosphere was very much a welcome breather as I made my way up. Once the terrain flattened out I found myself in a winter wonderland of fir and spruce and snow and and blue sky and chirping birds. I headed east across the expanse of fresh powder, picking out Blowhard Mountain, Brian Head Peak, and Hancock Peak to my left from northwest to northeast. A gentle rise then surprisingly revealed views behind me down Cedar Canyon – which led me to double back a half mile before continuing east through the clusters of fir at the meadow’s border.
Though I was totally entranced with the open meadow, big trees, and fantastic views of the peaks I decided after 2 miles trekking east that I wanted to head south to the rim for the aforementioned views down the staircase and then loop back through the trees. Despite the cloud cover and haziness to the south the vistas did not disappoint and I could still easily able to pick out the towering formations of Zion 50 miles away. Plus there were more big trees to look at as I trekked 2 miles back over the undulating landscape of snowdrifts.
I overshot the saddle I had originally come up in hopes of 270 degree views where I knew the rim made an almost 90 degree turn. I did indeed come upon the spot where the rim turns: This is apparently Gooseberry Point. well, I think. Anyway, trees obscured the complete 270 degree vista at the bend but there were plenty of lovely views south and west towards Webster Flat. I circled around through the fir and spruce here for a bit looking for a reasonable shortcut down the mountain back to where I’d parked but the angle of the slope was not very snowshoe-friendly so I ended up heading to where I’d come up. Incredibly even this short stretch going back to the saddle had lovely views overlooking the road as I began my descent down from the ridge. The whole hike easily surpassed my expectations in terms of views but the best part by far was the feeling of being up in the mountains again, listening to the wind, crunching across the snow, and watching the conifers sway as they reached the sky. It was incredible peaceful and a truly wonderful adventure.