If there’s snow on the ground, does that mean hiking season is postponed in the upper parts of the Sierra? Absolutely not! All you need to do is strap on a pair of snowshoes, and you can enjoy the great outdoors. Here’s a list of eight amazing snowshoeing California hikes in the High Sierra.
Length: 3 miles up to 21 miles; Difficulty: Easy – Challenging
Although the majority of visitors descend upon Yosemite in the summer, winter offers up attractions that can ONLY be seen this time of year, such as the snow cone on upper Yosemite Fall. It’s also home to one of the most majestic ice-skating rinks in the world. For snowshoeing California though, your best bet is to go higher. 3,000 feet higher to be exact to the Badger Pass Nordic Center & Ski Area. From its trailhead, visitors have access to nearly 90 miles of marked trails and over 25 miles of groomed track. From beginners to seasoned gliders, this might be one of the greatest places for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing just from the views you’ll be gifted with.
Kirkwood Cross Country & Snowshoe Center
Length: Up to 15 km Groomed; Difficulty: Easy – Challenging
At a whopping 7,800 feet above sea level, Kirkwood may be known for its iconic steep downhill skiing, but it’s also home to some amazing snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. This is a great option if other regions are lacking in snow. Kirkwood’s Cross-Country Ski and Snowshoe Center is located ¼ mile east of Kirkwood on Highway 88. Their focus is to provide a welcoming environment so that beginners can venture out on a pair of XC skis or snowshoes without stress. Don’t own your gear? No problem they have a large rental fleet to pick from. In addition, the network provides options for both intermediate and advanced skate skiers. And once you’re done burning some calories, be sure to stop for a drink at the local’s hidden watering hole in Kirkwood proper – 7800’ Bar & Grill.
Length: 7 miles (out and back); Difficulty: Moderate
If you’re staying in the town of South Lake Tahoe, you don’t have to travel far to experience the winter wonderland. Literally any of the hiking trails become the perfect canvas for you to get a dose of the great outdoors. Walking distance from the casino corridor is Van Sickle Bi-State Park. Another option is to take Powerline bike trail. Starting at Ski Run Blvd, it runs parallel to Pioneer Trail under a canopy of tall pines. It will provide the solitude you’re looking for. Tahoe South is a great resource for snowshoeing options and even tips on how to get started.
North Grove Trail
Length: 1.5 miles; Difficulty: Easy
As winter arrives in the town of Arnold, the legendary Calaveras Big Trees State Park offers up two cross-country/snowshoeing trails to explore the majestic Giant Sequoias. On Saturdays, depending on snow and weather, guided snowshoe hikes explore the North Grove Trail. Even if you don’t own a pair, snowshoes are provided at no charge. The hike starts and ends at the warming hut which features hot cocoa and coffee. Not enough? Here’s more snowy adventure ideas you can enjoy in the Calaveras County High Sierra region.
Spooner Lake – North Lake Tahoe
Length: 2.1 miles; Difficulty: Easy
If you’re looking to enjoy the beauty of the High Sierra or as Mark Twain so eloquently put it, “the air… it is the same the angels breathe”, you’ll love Spooner Lake. Within the Nevada state park you’ll find a quiet 5 km network of trails that wind through thick pine forests and an open meadow. The most popular loop hugs the banks of Spooner Lake and is a little over two miles in length. This is a great option for first timers, families, or those who don’t have a lot of time but want to experience the great outdoors. Visit Tahoe North’s snowshoeing homepage to learn more about where to go snowshoeing on the north shore of Lake Tahoe.
Length: 6.2 miles; Difficulty: Moderate
The Eastern Sierra has a long volcanic history. This can be seen in the hot springs dotted across the region as well as other physical evidence such as the Inyo craters. Starting from the Inyo craters staging area, you’ll be under a canopy of old-growth Jeffrey Pines. As you near the actual craters themselves, you’ll make a short ascent up to the rim to get a close look at the volcanic history of the region. Other top spots to snowshoe in Mammoth Lakes include the Minaret Vista and Horseshoe Lake.
Obsidian Dome – Mono County
Length: 2.5 miles up to 6 miles; Difficulty: Easy
In between Mammoth and June Lakes on Highway 395, you’ll find Obsidian Dome. This free area provides a network of three trails perfect for a quick stroll in the great outdoors. Mostly flat with a few rolling sections, you’ll be surrounded by Jeffrey Pines and even catch a few glimpses of the Minarets in the distance. For more snowshoeing ideas in Mono County, be sure to visit their snowshoeing page.
Castle Peak – Truckee
Length: 6 miles; Difficulty: Moderate to Challenging (1,800’ ascent)
One of the most popular winter destinations in the Truckee-Tahoe region, this zone provides access to the scenic area surrounding Donner Summit. It’s home to a variety of snowshoeing California options depending on skill level. For 1st timers, explore the valley floor. If you’re looking for a bit more adventure, ascend over the pass and check out the legendary Peter Grubb or continue on to the summit of Castle Peak. Not enough? Be sure to check out the list of the top snowshoe trails in the Truckee-Tahoe area. If you plan to snowshoe Castle Peak, you will need to buy a SNO-PARK pass ahead of time. Get there early and have a backup plan because the Donner Summit SNO-PARK fills up fast! For a backup plan be sure to check out the list of the top snowshoe trails in the Truckee-Tahoe area.
Not Into Snow?
We understand. For some of you, snow is just not your thing. No problem. With a massive range of elevation, all you need to do is pick a place or locale that’s a bit lower. For a full run-down of options, read our article: Great Winter Hikes In The High Sierra.
Author: Alex Silgalis
Alex Silgalis is an outdoors travel writer who enjoys snowboarding, mountain biking, or having a cold one from a local mountain brewery. See more of Alex’s work at https://localfreshies.com
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