The Whetstone Gulf Gorge Trail is located within Whetstone Gulf State Park, a campground and picnic area with access to multiple hiking trails. The facilities are closed in the winter, but the hiking trails are still accessible, without the summer entry fee. They make great cross-country skiing and snowshoe trails. The Gorge Trail is a mostly level route through the bottom of the shale gorge that winds through the unplowed picnic area. It's perfect for beginners, while the steeper and more exposed Whetstone Gulf Rim Trail is appropriate for experts.
Whetstone Creek parallels the trail, while the gorge's steep walls climb ever higher. Motivated backcountry skiers and snowboarders will notice several short but steep lines through the trees and even a couple open landslides. The trail rises almost imperceptibly, and it once continued all the way up the gorge to a series of waterfalls. Sadly, the trail is only maintained for the first mile, as frequent flooding and erosion repeatedly washed out the footbridges deeper in the gorge. It's still possible to reach the waterfalls and the steeper gorge walls, but this requires consistent cold temperatures to freeze the creek for crossings. The return will feel much quicker, aided by the gentle downhill grade.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.