Bridgeport Ranger District Opens Bridgeport Winter Trail System Pilot Program

A skate skier enjoys the Buckeye Nordic Track. January 2022.

On January 4, 2022, the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest Bridgeport Ranger District, in partnership with Mono County, started a new pilot program to provide the community more opportunities for winter recreation activities. As part of the Bridgeport Winter Trail System pilot program, the district seasonally closed a portion of Buckeye Road and Buckeye Creek Road to wheeled vehicles to allow for Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, winter fat biking, skate skiing and Over Snow Vehicles (OSV).

“Volunteers approached district recreation employees with a proposal to open new Nordic skiing opportunities in the Bridgeport area,” said Recreation Special Uses Permit Administrator Alex Van Raalte. “After considering a range of potential locations, the southern portion of Buckeye and Buckeye Creek Roads was selected as the best option to provide a safe corridor for winter recreationists.”

The area was chosen for its proximity to Bridgeport, it is easily accessible, and Mono County Road crews were already plowing out parking for a bus stop. Other options were considered, but to move forward quickly this year, this location was determined to be the best option.

“If this pilot program is successful, it may allow other areas on the Bridgeport Ranger District to be considered for cross-country skiing opportunities as well,” Van Raalte added.

Measuring success will hinge on public feedback and the ability to maintain the integrity of the trail. The northern portion of Buckeye Road is not plowed and will largely remain impassible during the winter months. For those wanting to winter recreate into the Buckeye Hot Springs, the new groomed trail starting from the Twin Lakes side will provide excellent access. The distance from the start of the trail to the hot springs is about three miles.

A cross-country skier and her young child on the Buckeye Nordic Trail in winter “National Forests are perfect for year-round recreation and there is a nationwide explosion of people recreating in the back country during winter,” said Nathaniel Bech, wilderness and trail manager for the Bridgeport Ranger District. “It’s a solid 4.5 miles one way ending at Buckeye campground. A good distance for skate skier. It is worth coming here for.”

According to Bech, with the shortage in staffing the past couple of years, the support from our partners and volunteers has been a tremendous help.

“For this project in particular, Mono County has been an amazing partner,” said Bech.“ Mono County Eastern Sierra Sustainable Recreation Coordinator Matt Paruolo has been instrumental in moving this project forwards and helping in so many other areas, including finding the funding to install a restroom at the Buckeye Hot Springs. We also want to recognize our amazing volunteers and Bridgeport Avalanche Center. Our avalanche forecasters often double as snow rangers. Teamwork makes the dream work.”

This opportunity provides customers a service that enables them to access affordable winter recreation activities in their backyard and beyond. Allowing for a new experience for the community and the greater public to come and enjoy their National Forest Systems lands. It also can help rural communities develop economically. It is a step in the right direction and the hope is it will positively affect the community.

The Bridgeport Winter Trail System pilot program is expected to be in effect from January through April of 2022, with plowed parking and trail grooming as weather permits. Amenities will be limited. The vault toilet near Buckeye Hot Spring will only be open if weather allows. The only available parking is near Doc & Al’s Resort off Twin Lakes Road.

Recreationists should be self-sufficient and prepared for winter weather including avalanche conditions by checking https://bridgeportavalanchecenter.org/. Grooming and maps will be available at https://monocounty.ca.gov/sustainable-recreation once operations begin.