Snowshoeing has been around for thousands of years and helped people get through deep snow conditions on a daily basis during everyday travel or while exploring new lands. Traditional snowshoes were wooden and had wider surface area to carry heavy loads on fresh snow. Snowshoeing became more stylish over time and it is now considered a fun winter sport. Modern snowshoes are more user friendly and typically have an aluminum frame, heel pads, and a good traction system.
This is a perfect way to explore our mountain area, it is easy to learn, and is inexpensive and fun for any age and ability level. Don’t underestimate good preparation, and read on for our favorite places to go snowshoeing in Tahoe!
Before You Go
Before you leave your house and start an adventure in the cold and snowy wilderness, make sure you are fully prepared to enjoy the hike and stay safe.
Get Proper Winter Boots – The fun starts and ends with the boots; if your boots leak or are not comfortable, it can change your whole experience really fast. Any insulated, waterproof winter boots will work, and just in case you get wet, always have an extra pair of socks with you. Also, if you own a brand new pair of boots, wear them outside at least once to test them before you leave on a snowshoe hike.
Wear Warm Clothes – Check the weather conditions and wear layers of clothes. Layering is important to adjust to the changing conditions on the trail. Try to avoid cotton because if it gets wet, it will chill you. Choose synthetic insulating clothes to retain warmth when wet. A hat and waterproof mittens or gloves are also necessary. If the snow is really deep, use gaiters to keep snow out of your boots.
Get the Right Snowshoes – There are a few different types of snowshoes according to the type of terrain, snow conditions and also your weight. If you are a beginner, consider renting first before you buy a pair. The professionals can help you get all set up and provide maps of safe and groomed trails in the area. Having ski poles is not required, but it will help your stability going up or down the hill. We would recommend poles with adjustable length and snow baskets for a deeper snow. Make sure you have your snowshoes on correctly, have your foot centered and tighten all the straps properly.
Bring the Essentials – There are a few things you should always carry in your backpack when going into the backcountry. You may never have to use them at all, but one day if something doesn’t go as planned, it could contribute to your survival. Don’t forget to pack water, extra snacks, a headlamp, a map and/or have offline GPS on your phone, protection from the Sun, such as sunscreen and sunglasses, a first-aid kit, a knife and a lighter.
Plan the Hike – It is important to check the conditions and get familiar with the trail on the map. Give yourself enough time to complete the hike, the altitude changes can alter the time spent on trail. It always helps to talk to other people who already tried the particular hike, or stop at the local sports center for advice. If you are new to the area do a guided tour.
Best Places to Go Snowshoeing in Tahoe
If you are just getting started with snowshoeing, stick with trails that you find in the cross-country ski resorts or snow parks where you can easily park. You will share the trails with the cross-country skiers, who have the right of way. Pay attention, walk single file when in groups and don’t step on the ski tracks. Try to avoid trails for snowmobiles and, if you step on one, listen carefully and always let them safely pass you. Otherwise, you can snowshoe in any areas that you hike in during the summer and in state parks and national forests.
Here are some of our favorite spots to go snowshoeing in Tahoe:
Paige Meadows – Located on the West Shore near Tahoe City, on the edge of the Tahoe Park Heights neighborhood. The parking lot is right off Silvertrip Drive. It is a huge area great for the whole family and dogs, with very few hills, and amazing views of the Sierra Crest. Paige Meadows and the Tahoe Rim Trail create a great 5.1 mile loop for snowshoeing, used by cross-country skiers and also hikers in the summer.
Sugar Pine Point State Park – This state park is open for cross country skiers as well as snowshoeing enthusiasts, and has a few different trails that go in a loop (marked with different colors). Those trails were used for Nordic events during the Winter Olympics in 1960. There may be fees to park at the state park, but you can get a free snow trail map at the entrance stations. Dogs are not allowed on these trails.
Camp Richardson in South Lake Tahoe – This historic resort is a popular destination and offers groomed snowshoe trails right off highway 89, a few miles North of South Lake Tahoe. You can rent snowshoes at the Mountain Sports Center. Make sure to leave your beloved pets at home; this resort has a no pet policy. The camp hosts fun Snowshoe Cocktail Races every year. You can compete by snowshoeing through the obstacles with a drink in your hands and enjoy food specials and live music afterwards.
Squaw Valley Meadow – You can enjoy snowshoeing on the groomed cross country trails through the Squaw Valley Meadow and get a special experience. All the trails originate at the Resort at Squaw Creek, where you can also rent equipment. To get there, take their complimentary shuttle from the Village at Squaw Valley. This resort also offers guided snowshoe tours.
Martis Valley – This short trail follows Martis Creek, winding through the Martis Valley Basin near Northstar Resort. This hike offers an unofficial wildlife viewing area complete with diversity of a meadow, riparian and a pine forest fauna. Martis Valley trail is popular in winter and summer, as well for nature lovers and dog walkers. The loop is about 4.1 miles long and you can enjoy 360 degree views of mountain ranges. The trail starts right on the side of the road 267, look for a map kiosk and a little dirt area to park.
Tahoe Meadows – Situated near the top of the Mount Rose Highway, Tahoe Meadows is always a good idea due to the plentiful amount of snow and a not too steep terrain. It may get a little bit busy on weekends, but there are less people once you head up to Chickadee Ridge. There are no formal trails, but usually you can follow plenty of established tracks for about 1.5 miles to reach the viewpoints of the ridge. You can enjoy beautiful views of Lake Tahoe and dogs are welcome to join!
Our Tip: Moonlight Snowshoeing – This is one of the most magical experiences and we definitely recommend you to try it. Check the nearby ski resorts or state park websites, since they usually organize guided moonlight snowshoe tours every month. Although it is after dark, when the sky is clear and the moonlight is bright enough, you won’t need a headlamp and can enjoy walking through a sparkling snowy meadow. The tours often come with hot cocoa and s’mores after you return from the hike. Bring your family and create the best memories while snowshoeing in Tahoe!