A better trip in the winter than in the summer, Zoa Peak is a fine destination for a clear day with particularly good views towards Yak and neighbouring summits. The ascent up the pipeline road is steep and monotonous but gets most of the elevation gain out of the way. Snow conditions can make the traverse to the main summit a little iffy, but the best views are from the southern sub-summit anyway.
The road to the parking lot is not ploughed in winter but there is ample parking along the road by the exit off Highway 5. We parked on the south side of the road, where there was a wide open parking area, and walked through the tunnel to pick up the trail. Note this exit has no facilities, so be sure to put your best Leave No Trace skills into practice.
Snow began at the start of the road, and we used snowshoes the entire day. Conditions were variable depending on whether the snow was in the shade (icy), exposed to the warm spring sunshine (slushy), or beyond trees/rocks etc (pockets of soft wind-blow powder). There were no signs of instability that our inexpert eyes could determine, although the slushy layer did slide under the weight of our steps a few times. The traverse leading up to the main summit was a bit tricky for some snowshoers, notably those with the tubular frame construction with minimal crampons. We had no major issues with our MSR snowshoes. Poles were helpful on this section, though.
The trail was not marked for winter travel. In places, we were able to see summer flagging tape and/or orange markers on trees, but mostly we followed a beaten path laid down by others, especially through the trees when we first turned off the pipeline road. Heading up was easy we ended up on an alternative route on our descent. We had a couple of conversations with other snowshoers who were not aware of the lack of markers. Speaking of others, we noticed that many groups were still tending to stand and travel close together (as well as celebrate the day back at their vehicles), well within the 2-metre radius recommended by public health agencies at this time. Please, for the sake of all of us, keep your distance!
No wildlife sightings today, save for a pair of ravens scavenging the parking area. However, we saw tracks from snowshoe hares, ptarmigan, squirrels, and quite possibly coyote.
Distance: 10.5 km
Elevation gain: 760 m
Time: just under 5 hours