A Guide to snowmobiling along the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway
by Allison Scull
Wintertime is here to stay and now that you have done all of your winterizing, it is time to think of the pure fun frosty weather blows in. In Northern California, The ‘powder days craze’ is just about to begin. Its vast, snowy-white, volcanic beauty offers ample opportunities for snowmobiling–or as winter sports enthusiasts call it, “sled-heading” or “sno- moin’.
Through aspen groves, conifer forests, and crystal lakes–you’ll find many easy to adventurous groomed trails. With a map, a list of hot spots and phone numbers, and preferably a four-wheel drive vehicle, you will be ready to go. Beginning at the top of California, a tri-forest snowmobile trail system traverses 260 miles within the Klamath, Modoc, and Shasta-Trinity National Forests. North of Lava Beds National Park, near Medicine Lake, you will find the Four Corners Snowmobile Park and Doorknob Snowmobile Park. These pristine and less traveled regions inch right up to what is affectionately referred to as the Sleeping Giant—aka the Medicine Lake Shield Volcano–and views of frozen Medicine Lake.
Here you might spot the occasional snow-shoe rabbit camouflaged in snow, long-bodied weasel, and an ice-fisherman of the human sort. Several warming huts on this trail system also provide a place to re-group, build a fire, drink hot chocolate and use the restrooms.
Off of Highway 97–sixteen miles north of the central Weed exit on I-5–you will find the Deer Mountain/Chuck Best Memorial Snowmobile Park. Here, you can rent snowmobiles from the Fun Factory by calling, (530) 926-5387. Owner of the Fun Factory, Michelle Cloutier, says “with harnesses for children, snowmobiling is a definite family sport!.” Cloutier, who operates under a special use permit from the Klamath National Forest, also provides snowmobiling options for handicapped individuals.
You can view mighty Mount Shasta in its many snow-capped moods in the company of many winter birds like Stellar’s Jays, and Mountain Chickadees. Heading further south into Lassen National Forest, you will find the largest concentration of groomed snowmobile trails on the Byway with almost 500 miles of snowy topography to play on.
Finally, at the southern end of the Byway is the Chester-Lake Alamanor region. Here, three mountain ranges converge–the Cascades, the Sierras, and the High Desert range—to create a varied terrain of supreme snowmobiling conditions. Lassen Peak–the southernmost volcano of the Cascade Range and most recently erupted one in the contiguous 48 states–can be viewed from almost all of the trails. At the western side of Lake Almanor, you can also find the Jonesville Trail System. According to Secretary of the Chester-Lake Almanor Snowmobile Club, Katherine Templeton, “The groomed trails are for beginners to extremists.” For more information on the club and to meet other snowmobile enthusiasts, call 530-284-7469.
Generally, most snowmobile parks can be accessed on a day trip, have plowed access roads and warming huts, and no parking fees, electricity, or water. In addition to the regularly groomed trails, there are hundreds of marked and maintained un-groomed trails. Warm dry clothes, gloves or hand warmers, hats, extra pairs of socks, boots, waterproof external clothing, and a helmet are a few items you may want to bring. You may also want to cart along some drinking water, snacks (as there are no services nearby), a cell phone, and to capture the astounding volcanic views, a camera! A supply of fire wood, kindling, and matches to make a fire at the warming huts would also be useful.
For a free map of the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway and of the groomed snowmobile trails, call 1-866-722-9929, or firstname.lastname@example.org, For more information, see www.volcaniclegacybyway.org. Numbers to call for specific locations of groomed snowmobile trails and general trail and weather conditions……For the Northern Calilfornia portion of the Volcanic Legacy: For Pilgrim Creek Trail, call Shasta-Trinity Forest Station: 530-926-4511 Door Knob Snowmobile Park: Doublehead Ranger District: 530-667-2246 For Four Corners Snowmobile and Deer Mountain, call the Goosenest Ranger District: 530-398-4391 For the Ashpan Snowmobile Park, in Lassen National Park, call Hat Creek Ranger district: 530-336-5521. For Morgan Summit, Swain Snowmobile Park, and Ferdonya Park, call Lassen National Forest office at 530-257-2151.
Also, here are a couple of useful websites: