Walk in the woods: Early season snowshoe spots at the South Shore
Winter has arrived at Lake Tahoe, and recent snowfall has turned the Sierra Nevada’s greens, browns and grays into a sea of white.
Taking a walk in the woods via snowshoes is a popular and rewarding winter experience at Lake Tahoe, but it does require preparation and a certain amount of caution.
“The backcountry is not forgiving,” said Lisa Herron, spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit. “Be very careful.”
Backcountry explorers should dress appropriately and be prepared to stay overnight in the backcountry in case of an emergency. Notifying someone outside of your group of your plans and sticking to them are also smart moves before heading out. People should also take a working cell phone with them, but be aware that many locations in the region lack cell phone service, Herron said.
“If you’re not prepared, things can go bad very quickly,” Herron said.
Sierra Avalanche Center produces regular reports on snow and avalanche conditions in the backcountry surrounding Lake Tahoe. The latest report cautions that the snowpack is still very rocky and shallow, with the overall snowpack running between 8 to 12 inches in most areas and up to 2 feet in wind-loaded areas.
More weather is also expected this weekend. Rain is possible Saturday night with up to 5 inches of snow falling at lake level Sunday and Sunday night.
U.S. Forest Service officials are closing gates around the Lake Tahoe Basin, Herron added. She urged backcountry travelers not to block gates and park appropriately.
Here are a couple spots to consider if you’re looking for a walk in the woods this week:
Located just south of Lake Tahoe at the junction of state routes 88 and 89, Hope Valley provides a host of scenic views and a variety of terrain to explore. Several trails originate near the intersection of the highways, known as Pickett’s Junction.
Echo Snow Park
The Echo Lake Sno-Park is located off Johnson Pass Road near Echo Summit and provides access to trails near Echo Lakes. A Sno-Park permit is required to park in the lot. The Explore Tahoe Visitors Center, Lake of the Sky Outfitters, Sunrise Ski and Snowboard Rental, Tahoe Paradise Chevron, Tahoe Roadrunner and Tahoe Ski Rentals are among the South Shore businesses offering the parking passes. Daily permits may be purchased for $5, and seasonal permits are $25. Adventure Mountain, across the highway from the Sno-Park, is also expected to be open this weekend. The business offers snowplay, snowshoeing trails and sledding. More information is available at http://adventuremountaintahoe.com.
The Taylor Creek area, along State Route 89 just west of Camp Richardson, provides access to both Lake Tahoe’s shoreline and Fallen Leaf Lake. Although this area is flat and good for beginners, it’s at a relatively low elevation and the snow cover is still especially thin, Herron said.
This trail near the eastern side of Emerald Bay offers stunning views of Lake Tahoe and Emerald Bay, but is steep and not for beginners.
This popular high-elevation pass, off State Route 88 on the way to Kirkwood Mountain Resort from the South Shore, puts people right into the middle of the Sierra Nevada wilderness. The area can present some challenges to beginners, so experience is beneficial. An avalanche was also reported in the area this week, with a backcountry skier believed to be the trigger for the slide. A Sno-Park permit is also required to park at Carson Pass.
Located on the east shore of Lake Tahoe at the intersection of U.S. Highway 50 and State Route 27, this Nevada State Park provides both beginner and more advanced trails, scenic lakes and access to the Tahoe Rim Trail.