On, off or around the beaten track

Snoeshoeing takes fit explorers on low-tech treks

STEP ON IT<br> Snowshoe expert Mike White tears up the fresh on Mt. Rose.

Snowshoe expert Mike White tears up the fresh on Mt. Rose.

Photo by David Robert

When you think “outdoor winter fun,” snowboarding down powder-perfect slopes likely comes to mind. If you’re looking for something more like “outdoor winter fun with no lift tickets and no lines,” think snowshoeing.

Snowshoeing is as strenuous or easy as you want it to be, as social or solitary as you can handle. From classes and group tours to places where you’re likely to have the trail to yourself, here’s a sampling of favorite Tahoe snowshoe hikes.

Tahoe Meadows
Highway 431, between Reno and Incline Village

Trail expert Mike White knows all 65 hikes in his book, Snowshoe Trails Tahoe: The Best Routes in the Tahoe Sierra, and this glistening expanse of snowpack tops his list. “For people coming from Reno, you can’t beat Tahoe Meadows,” he says. It’s close to town and caters to newbies and hard-core sportspeople alike. Roam the flats; join cross-country skiers on gentle hills; or wander up the wooded slopes.

It’s hard to get lost in this wide-open meadow, so it’s a good for group adventures or keeping track of kids. For the more strenuously inclined, the Ophir Creek trail winds 2.5 miles downhill to Price Lake. For a view of Lake Tahoe, head up the 1.5-mile trail to Chickadee Ridge. For a better view of Lake Tahoe, continue toward Peak 9225, an uninspired name for such a prime viewing spot, perhaps, but one that includes a handy mnemonic device for remembering its breath-cinching elevation.

Grover Hot Springs State Park
Hot Springs Road
(530) 694-2249

The main draw at this state park southeast of Lake Tahoe is its mineral springs.

They’re too hot and too small to soak in, but the water is diverted to two concrete pools and regulated to a year-round 103 degrees, perfect for an after-trek dip with a mountainside view. Novices can stroll in the park’s meadows on clearly marked trails. For a more strenuous hike, follow the Burnside Lake Trail up to the waterfall. From there, if you’re craving more altitude, the trail ascends 2,000 more feet to Burnside Lake. A $5 pool pass includes trail access. Pools are open all winter except Wednesdays and holidays. Call ahead for snow conditions.

Kirkwood Cross Country and Snowshoe Center
Highway 88, Kirkwood
(209) 258-7248

If everything about snowshoeing sounds good except roughing it in the wilderness, Kirkwood Mountain Resort has quiet trails a quarter mile from resort amenities. Snowshoers can rent equipment, get a massage, drop the kids off at daycare or take a shuttle a shuttle bus from South Lake Tahoe. Guides lead group tours, including full-moon hikes and leisurely, all-day “Soup & Shoe” excursions, where staffers serve hot lunch. Do-it-yourselfers can explore Alpine Valley’s ridges, meadows and lava cliffs on their own. Day passes are $8-22. Season passes are $199.

Peter Grubb Hut
Off I-80, near Truckee

The Sierra Club maintains four huts near Lake Tahoe for winter camping, each about a day’s journey from each other by snowshoe or ski. The closest to civilization is the Peter Grubb Hut, an easy, 3-mile trek from Interstate 80, near Donner Summit. In summer, it’s a two-story A-frame with the front door accessible by ladder. In winter, most of the structure is hidden by snow, except a deceivingly small-looking, teepee-shaped façade. “The hut is a pleasant destination for a half-day outing, or a fine base camp for further exploration into the lonely territory to the north,” trail expert Mike White advises. For a daytrip, simply exit the freeway at Castle Peak, follow the path under the freeway to the trailhead, and be prepared to encounter fellow adventurers on this popular route. For an overnight stay ($12 per person), contact the Sierra Club for a reservation: (800) 679-6775 or <script type="text/javascript" language="javascript"> </script>.

Close to home

A.S. Adventure Outings
BMU on the Chico State campus, and 417 Cherry St., Chico
(530) 898-4011 and 898-5034

The Associated Students offer snowshoe rentals and guided outings. Snowshoe rental: $8/weekend ($6/students). Call for info on upcoming guided snowshoe outings.

Mountain Sports
176 E. Third St., Chico
(530) 345-5011

The outdoors ship has snowshoe rentals and free National Park trail maps (including Butte Meadows). Snowshoe rental: $12/day ($4/each day after).

Sports Ltd
698 Mangrove Ave., Chico
(530) 894-1110

Another place to rent snowshoes—$15/day. Sports Ltd, 698 Mangrove Ave. (530) 894-1110.

Mount Shasta

The Fifth Season
300 N. Mount Shasta Blvd.
(530) 926-3606

Head here to rent snowshoes and find free trail maps. Snowshoe rentals: $9/day; $16/two days (plus third day free).

Shasta Base Camp
316 Chestnut St.
(530) 926-2359

Snowshoe rentals: $15/day (third day free).

Sportsmen’s Den
402 N. Mount Shasta Blvd.
(530) 926-2295

Snowshoe rentals: $10/day ($8/second day; $6/each day following).

U.S. Forest Service Ranger Stations
204 W. Alma, Mount Shasta
(530) 926-4511

2019 Forest Road,, McCloud
(530) 964-2184


Trail advice and brochures available courtesy of the federal government.

Jason Cassidy contributed to this story.