From Truckee.com: An Insider’s Guide, Winter 2023-24 Issue
Experience the hushed atmosphere of the forest, the sparkle of an untouched blanket of snow, and a new view of your favorite Truckee trails. Snowshoeing, like hiking, is a forgiving outdoor activity without a steep learning curve. It allows you to connect with nature while also enjoying a hearty cardiovascular workout without putting a lot of strain on your joints. So bundle up, grab your supplies, and get out and explore this winter on your snowshoes. Here’s how.
Pro tip: Make sure you have the AllTrails app downloaded on your phone before heading out. Find the trail or area you’ll be hiking in and download the appropriate map so you don’t get lost!
First, you’ll need a pair of snowshoes. If you’re not ready to buy your own pair just yet, there are several businesses around town that will rent them to you. Mountain Hardware and Sports, Tahoe Dave’s, Tahoe Mountain Sports, Tahoe Donner Adventure Center, Tahoe Adventure Company, and Tahoe Sports Hub all offer snowshoe rentals. Most of these businesses, minus Tahoe Adventure Company, sell some of the gear you’ll want to bring with you as well.
Use this checklist to make sure you have everything you need for a fun, safe, and warm excursion. Carry items in a medium-sized day pack or hydration pack.
Snowshoe Day-trip Packing List
Lunch if you’re going to be out for longer periods
Optional: Thermos with hot beverage!
Phone with camera and GPS
If you’re going to be out all day, or you’re going into the backcountry, always bring a first aid kit with emergency supplies and flashlight or headlamp
What to wear
Waterproof snow boots
Wool or synthetic hiking or ski socks
Moisture-wicking base layer
Insulated jacket or vest
Snow pants or bibs
Gaiters are always helpful
WHERE TO GO
Local resorts have dedicated trails for snowshoers, making it easy to trek long distances. For a more intimate experience with nature, local trails are great for beginners, however, if there isn’t a trail that’s been broken yet, your hike may get strenuous.
These resorts offer dedicated snowshoe trails, however, snowshoers are welcome to use ski trails as well; just be sure to stay at the edges of ski trails and out of the striding tracks. The resorts below also offer rentals and lessons. Check their websites for details.
Explore 11km of singletrack trail specially designed for snowshoers in addition to the 100 km of ski trails at Tahoe Donner Cross Country Ski Center. This is a great place to start as they offer a snowshoe rental package that includes snowshoes and adjustable poles. They also offer private lessons and tours for individuals and groups to learn basic skills and gain knowledge about the local flora and fauna from one of their friendly guides.
Nicknamed “Royal Gorgeous,” Royal Gorge offers 49.5km of dedicated snowshoe trails for a peaceful opportunity to meander through old growth trees, in and out of snowy ravines, and up, to some of the most spectacular views in Tahoe.
Experience the beauty of the High Sierra and alpine forests by snowshoeing through the backcountry. These areas are great for beginners, as they are close to main roads but still offer that remote feel. Before heading to the backcountry, ensure you have packed everything you need—safety first!
Access Coldstream Canyon via Coldstream Road. Begin your hike by heading left from the end of the road and past the gate, where you’ll trek up a glacial moraine. Make sure and wear layers on this hike; the beginning is steep, and you may quickly start sweating. Continue on until you reach a viewpoint of Coldstream Ponds. You can turn around here, or hike around the pond. The entire loop is around 6 miles.
Donner Memorial State Park
This is a great option for families with young children, or those who are very much a beginner. For $5 per vehicle from October 1 through April 30, park in the Donner Memorial State Park day parking lot. Start your journey by heading west toward Donner Lake. Meander through tall Jeffery Pines and listen to the songs of the birds. Make your way over to the south shore and China Cove for views of Donner Lake. Never attempt to walk on Donner Lake, even if it appears to be frozen.
Another picturesque area for families and beginners, the Prosser area offers wide, exposed landscape that you can explore for miles. Hike under the dome of the sky with views of the reservoir and rolling hills of powdery white snow. To get there, take Prosser Dam Road until it ends and park on the side of the road. Suit up, and head out in any direction! Again, do not attempt to hike on the reservoir itself, even if it appears to be frozen.
Tahoe Donner Summit
High in elevation with some exposure, make sure you check the weather before heading out on this gorgeous hike. Reach the Glacier Way parking lot, which gets crowded on weekends, by heading up Skislope and taking a left on Glacier Way. Explore the area or do an out and back to Johnson Canyon for exceptional views. If there’s too much activity at Glacier Way, try your luck at Carpenter Valley. To get there, turn north off Alder Creek Drive between the Tahoe Donner subdivision and Highway 89 onto Carpenter Valley Road. While the gate is closed during the winter, you can park just to the side of it and snowshoe in among a serene pine forest. Follow the fire road, and if you see snowshoe tracks that meander into the woods, take some time to explore this beautiful area, but be sure to have your compass, map, or GPS handy.
These guided hikes offer snowshoeing experiences that you’ll keep with you forever. From hiking under the moon to snowshoeing up to a 4-course gourmet meal, book early, because these tours tend to sell out.
Take an evening to slow down and enjoy the peaceful setting of the Sierra Nevada during Northstar’s guided, evening snowshoe tours that meander through the pine tree lined forest. During the adventure, snowshoers will also relax around a fire pit to enjoy s’mores and hot chocolate. Dogs on leashes are welcome to join.
Guided Snowshoe Tour and Chalet Dinner at Alpine
For those who are 21 and older, join a guided snowshoe tour to the mid-mountain Chalet at Alpine Meadows, where you’ll enjoy a 4-course Bavarian inspired meal, champagne, and wine. Snowshoes are provided. Make your reservation at least one week in advance.
Take in the brisk mountain air as you snowshoe under the moon and learn about the High Sierra. As you travel by moonlight, knowledgeable guides will discuss natural history and astronomy, sharing fascinating facts about the moon. Stop along the way to take in the beautiful views and enjoy snacks and hot drinks. This tour is popular with all ability levels and ages (8+). Browse the Tahoe Adventure Company website for even more snowshoeing tours!
TIPS + TRICKS
Choose the right trail! Select a location that matches you and your group’s ability level. Look for trails that are aligned with the experience you’re looking for, whether it’s a quiet, easy walk through the forest or a steep climb to a view.
Check the weather and trail conditions. Make sure the trail you want to explore is open and safe for snowshoeing. Avoid heading out during heavy snowstorms or in avalanche-prone areas. Check avalanche conditions at sierraavalanchecenter.org.
Experiment with technique. Practice walking with a slightly wider stance than usual to avoid stepping on your own snowshoes.
Put safety first. Tell someone where you’re going and when you plan to return. Always follow trail markers and stay on designated paths.
Leave no trace. Pack out all trash, be aware of your surroundings, and keep distant from any wildlife you may encounter.
Take a break! Stop and enjoy the scenery, a hot beverage, and a snack.
Now you’re well-prepared to embark on a snowshoeing adventure that’s not only enjoyable but also safe and memorable! Gear up and discover the magic of a snowshoe adventure in Truckee.
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