Five must-do snowshoe hikes at Lake Tahoe
Special to the Bonanza
Sometimes you’re just not in the mood to hit the slopes. The snow gods have been fickle, you can’t handle another day in ski boots, or the crowds are too stifling.
On days like that, it’s time to check out the miles and miles of snowshoe trails around the Lake Tahoe Basin. From hikes with sweeping views to routes with brutally steep climbs, this area has a little bit of everything.
— Winnemucca Lake
— Level: Moderate / Difficult
The approximately 2-mile hike up to Winnemucca Lake offers some of the best views in the region, especially for such a short, easy route. Start at the Sno-Park on top of Carson Pass, about 27 miles south of South Lake Tahoe. You’ll be starting at above 8,000 feet, which means you’ll most likely be hiking in a lot of snow. Unless you’re ready for a world of hurt, snowshoes aren’t optional. Leashed dogs are welcome.
You’ll need to buy a parking pass if you plan to leave your car in the lot at the top of the pass — it is, by far, the easiest option. The Chevron Station on Highway 50 in Meyers sells both day and annual passes, as does Kirkwood Mountain Resort.
The trail climbs steadily through groves of conifers before you abruptly leave the trees behind and start traversing a fairly open, west-facing slope. You’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of Caples Lake to your right as the Pacific Crest Trail runs parallel on your left. Another mile, and you arrive at Winnemucca, a frozen gem below the jagged Three Sisters. Feeling intrepid? It’s another mile up to Round Top Lake, which offers more great views of the surrounding valley and peaks.
— Camp Richardson Historic Resort
— Level: Easy
The Camp Richardson Historic Resort in South Lake Tahoe offers groomed, level snowshoe trails for the whole family. The popular destination is located about 2.5 miles north of South Lake Tahoe on Highway 89 and sits just yards from the lakeshore.
Rent equipment at the Mountain Sports Center, which is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day in the winter. Adults can buy a full day snowshoe pass at the resort for $19 while child tickets cost $12. Half-day options are also available, but don’t bring your dog. There’s a strict no-pet policy at the resort. For more information, call 530-542-6584.
— Meeks Bay
— Level: Easy
Across the road from the bay, there’s a wide-open meadow that offers several miles of snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
From South Lake Tahoe, head north on Highway 89 for about 18 miles until you reach Meeks Bay. Once you pass the Meeks Bay Fire Protection District on your right, you’ll see a turn-off almost immediately to your left. Park here. You’ll head up Forest Route 14N42, an access road that runs just to the north of the (now snow-covered) Meeks Creek. After about half a mile, the trees will thin and you’ll have access to a small, sunny meadow nestled in the green valley.
Unless you’re feeling very aerobically sound, we’d recommend sticking to the open meadow and access road instead of heading up the U.S. Forest Service trail that leads to Lake Genevieve and Lake Craig. Leashed dogs are welcome.
— Spooner Lake State Park
— Level: Easy
If you drove over Spooner Summit heading west on Highway 50, you likely saw this small lake on your right-hand side. Spooner Lake State Park, which sits more than 1,000 above Lake Tahoe, offers spectacular views of the basin.
There’s a mellow trail that loops the lake and winds through an aspen grove in the frozen high country. Parking is available at the Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park lot, on your left once you turn north onto Highway 28 from Spooner Summit.
— Angora Lakes
— Level: Moderate
Winter is a wonderful time to take advantage of the wide access road that leads up to Upper and Lower Angora lakes. The major plus? You don’t have to worry about cars and snowmobiles are scarce (though it’s not unusual to see their tracks, which effectively groom the route for you). Dogs welcome.
Drive west on Lake Tahoe Boulevard until you reach Tahoe Mountain Road about 2 miles past the intersection with Highway 89. Turn right and follow the road to the T-intersection where you’ll make a right and then an immediate left onto Dundee Circle. In about 200 yards, you’ll make another left. Depending on snow conditions, park alongside the road and walk down to the snow-covered Angora Ridge Road.
It’s about two miles up to the Angora Fire Overlook, a narrow saddle with views of Tahoe on one side and the charred hillside that was burnt during a fire on the other. If you’re feeling up to it, you can continue along the road for another 2 miles to make it to Lower and Upper Angora Lakes. The climbing never gets too steep, but you’ll steadily gain elevation. If you make it to the lakes, you’ll find yourself in secluded wonderland surrounded by high granite peaks and towering conifers.