On, off or around the beaten path
When you think “outdoor winter fun at Lake Tahoe,” snowboarding down powder-perfect slopes likely comes to mind. If you’re looking for something more like “outdoor winter fun at Lake Tahoe 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.
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. 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 good for 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.
Grover Hot Springs State Park
Hot Springs Road
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, Calif.
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 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, Calif.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 deceptively 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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
More snowshoeing resources:
• Cathy Anderson-Meyers offers guided snowshoe tours around Tahoe and northern California. Visit www.cathyworks.com.
• REI in Reno offers snowshoeing workshops. The next one, “Snowshoe Basics” is at 6:30 p.m., Jan. 27. Call 828-9090.
• Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno offers non-credit snowshoeing classes. Visit www.tmcc.edu, or call 829-9010.