Shot Rock Loop


Difficulty 3 Intermediate
Length 5.8 miles round trip
7600 feet
+1350, -1350 feet
Navigation Map and compass
Time Most of a day
Season Mid-December through late April
Snowmobiles Low
USGS Topo 7.5' series, Tragedy Spring, Bear River Reservoir
Start Shot Rock Vista on Highway 88, 0.8 mile east of Mormon Emigrant Trail and 3.4 miles west of Tragedy Spring.


The Shot Rock Vista sign is visible as you drive along Highway 88, but you will only have a fleeting glimpse of the premiere backcountry ski terrain that lies a short distance to the south of the highway. Here you will find large open slopes, easy climbs to peaks with amazing scenery, and abundant opportunities to enjoy leisurely skiing along Tragedy Creek and Bear River.

Image of Tragedy Creek
Cascade on Tragedy Creek

The Shot Rock Loop tour is a basic loop that first takes you to Tragedy Creek and then up onto a small plateau. From the plateau you will have astounding views in all directions. Most notable are Thunder Mountain, Timble Peak and Melissa Coray Peak to the northeast, Mokelumne Peak to the southeast, the Bear River drainage to the south, and Bear River and Lower Bear River reservoirs to the southwest.

Image of Mokelumne Peak
Mokelumne Peak from plateau

The terrain in this area is so exceptional for backcountry skiing that you can dream up almost a limitless array of variations to this loop. Also described in this guide is the Shot Rock to Bear River tour that is essentially an extension of the loop tour described here.

The key to truly enjoying this area is knowing how to avoid the worst of the trees. Doing so requires that you begin with a 450-foot descent, which means that you are going to end the tour with a climb back up. But it's not too steep and well worth the effort.

Finally a word of caution. In the spring take extra care when crossing Tragedy Creek.

Mileage Log
Numbers in parentheses
correspond to mileage points on map

Miles: 0.0 - 0.1
Elevation change: Nil

From the trailhead (1) ski east on the snow-covered road for 0.1 mile until you reach Shot Rock Vista (2). A small building containing a toilet will likely be visible at the vista point.

Miles: 0.1 - 0.7
Elevation change: -450 feet

Descend the open slope slightly east of south for 0.6 mile until you reach a small creek (3). As you approach the creek you ski between two very small knobs before entering trees where the creek is located. This is the best location to cross the creek.

Miles: 0.7 - 1.3
Elevation change: +200, -100 feet

Cross the creek, exit the trees and then ski in an arc to the northeast and then east for a total of 0.6 mile until you reach Tragedy Creek (4).

Miles: 1.3 - 2.8
Elevation change: +550 feet

Ski east and then southeast for a total of 1.5 miles until you reach a broad ridge (5). The best advice for route finding in this section is to climb gradually and stay above and to the west of a drainage as you ski southeast on the final approach to the ridge.

Miles: 2.8 - 3.6
Elevation change: +150, -50 feet

Ski west on the broad ridge, which turns into a plateau, for a total of 0.8 mile until you reach the location where a drainage descends northwest through trees (6). The top portion of the drainage is tree-covered.

It is well worth taking the time to ski 0.4 mile southwest to the end of the plateau (mileage point 9) from which there is a marvelous view of Bear River and Lower Bear River reservoirs far below.

Image of Bear River and Lower Bear River reservoirs
Bear River and Lower Bear River reservoirs from plateau

Miles: 3.6 - 4.4
Elevation change: -600 feet

Descend northwest down a drainage, at first through trees, for 0.8 mile until you reach a location approximately 150 feet above trees that you can see below (7).

Miles: 4.4 - 4.8
Elevation change: -150 feet

Traverse west and then descend west for a total of 0.4 mile until you reach Tragedy Creek (8).

Miles: 4.8 - 5.1
Elevation change: Nil

Ski north, passing between two knobs,and then west for a total of 0.3 mile until you reach the small creek (3) that you crossed at the beginning of the tour.

Miles: 5.1 - 5.8
Elevation change: +450 feet

Retrace the route for 0.7 mile back to the trailhead (1).

Elevation Profile
Elevation profile
Link to elevation profile
Link to waypoint data
Link to full page map
Link to see and submit reviews and corrections about tour