Lake Tahoe snowmelt opening up hiking, biking trail options
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — With spring snowmelt underway, U.S. Forest Service officials and mountain biking and hiking advocates are reminding early season trail users to be cautious with conditions and avoid damaging sensitive areas.
“We’re in that time where it’s always important that people are minding wet spots on trails,” Sierra Ski & Cycle Works owner Gary Bell said. “If there’s a number of those on the trail, it’s probably better to do something different.”
Bell and Lake Tahoe Basin Forest Service spokeswoman Lisa Herron said some South Lake Tahoe trails around lake level — including Tahoe Mountain and the lower Corral Trail — are clear of snow and able to be biked.
“At lake level, it’s pretty much snow free,” Herron said.
“Tahoe Mountain is riding real nice,” Bell added.
Portions of the Bijou Bike Park are also now open for the season. The large slopestyle line and BMX track will remain closed until early May. The smaller courses and pump tracks can be ridden.
Both Herron and Bell reminded riders and hikers to ride or walk through muddy areas they encounter on the trails instead of going around them. Walking or riding around muddy areas can lead to trail widening and can damage sensitive landscape.
“Pick your trails wisely,” Bell said, also encouraging users to consider lower elevation riding near Placerville and Auburn.
According to the Forest Service, areas below 6,500 feet are generally snow-free at this time. Areas between 6,500 and 7,000 feet have patchy snow, while higher elevations can vary dramatically in terms of snow depth.
If opting to hike at higher elevations, Herron suggested to be prepared for a variety of conditions.
“Make sure you’re taking the proper equipment,” she said. “Before you go out it’s really important to check the weather.”
With rapidly changing weather, she suggested bringing extra layers.
Herron also said it’s important to remember that snow conditions will vary dramatically from morning to afternoon. An area that was frozen in the morning may melt to a point where hikers sink into snow on the return. She suggested considering bringing both crampons and snowshoes for any longer hike.
Maps and compasses are also a good idea, as trails can be harder to follow when snow-covered.
Bringing trekking poles or an ice axe to test snow depth or potential stream crossings is also recommended.
Depending on exposure, many higher elevation snowpack depths can vary anywhere from 1 to 12 feet in depth.
For updated snow conditions or trail recommendations contact the Forest Service at 530-543-2600.