Little specks of frozen white dust dot the sky and world around you. It’s jacket and boot weather; cup of coffee in a to-go mug for pausing along the trail later weather. It’s get out of the house and go see what winter is all about weather. Burst outside. Bask in the snow. Laugh as a chill stings your nose and turns your breath into tiny puffs of steam. Go deep into this frozen paradise, for winter is fleeting and all we have in life are these moments to appreciate — right here, right now.
Read on for a list of sweet outdoor recreation spots, and for a key to what the best activities to do there are. Look for:snowshoeing, Nordic skiing, alpine skiing, dog walking, sightseeing, snowboarding, snowmobiling.
Tahoe Rim Trail: snowshoeing, Nordic skiing
This 150-mile-long loop trail surrounds the lake and offers countless opportunities to explore trails of all ability levels. Tons of access points throughout the Basin allow for a choice between short or long hikes, depending on your taste. In winter the snow-covered trail is perfect for snowshoeing, particularly in the Tahoe Meadows, Kingsbury North, and Van Sickle Bi-State Park areas. If you want to know more, or are a newcomer, the Tahoe Rim Trail Association hosts guided snowshoe treks throughout winter.
LOCAL HACK: Don’t buy brand new snowshoes at a big box store. You can find a great used pair at local stores like New & Used Tahoe Sports (Tahoe City) or Tahoe Sports Hub (Truckee).
Tahoe XC Cross-Country Ski Area: dog walking, Nordic skiing, alpine skiing, snowshoeing
This groomed and maintained Nordic ski area offers 65 kilometers of tracks, accessible over 21 trails through the forest. Eight kilometers of these trails are dog friendly also. For those new to snowshoeing or Nordic skiing, rentals and lessons are available and affordable. It’s a great place for the whole family to go on an easily accessible adventure for the day.
LOCAL HACK: Rent before you buy. If you’re going to an area like this with gear available, it’s a lot cheaper to try out the sport and decide if you like it than to buy new gear right away.
Skylandia Beach: dog walking, sightseeing
This beach is right on the lake and isn’t utilized much in winter. So, it’s a great place to walk around with your pooch (on-leash) and take some stunning photos of the snow-encapsulated lake. Touch your fingers to the freezing water and you’ll probably decide against the polar plunge, but it doesn’t diminish the romantic appearance of Tahoe Tessie’s great fishtank.
LOCAL HACK: Grab coffee or a pastry at Sugar Pine Cakery & Cafe around the corner before you head to the beach.
Donner Lake: sightseeing, Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, dog walking
Tahoe’s little sister, Donner Lake, is gorgeous and peaceful in winter. Various parking options surrounding the lake lead to a short walk to stunning views over calm waters. This is a really nice place to grab a coffee in Truckee and enjoy some solitude.
LOCAL HACK: If you want to avoid driving so much around town in the snow, you can park near the Truckee Depot downtown and catch the Truckee local bus for free, which stops at a bunch of Donner Lake locations every hour.
Alpine County Winter Recreation Area: dog walking, sightseeing, Nordic/Alpine skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, snowmobiling
The Hope Valley area, just outside South Lake Tahoe, offers a bevy of options for recreation, including vast terrain for snowshoeing and cross country skiing for all ability levels. This is also a legally accessible snowmobile area, as long as you obtain a permit. Gorgeous peaks, forest, and the majestic Carson River will surround you on your adventures. Note: If you are new to snowsports, please do not enter the backcountry alone or unprepared.
LOCAL HACK: Check for road closures in advance. During snow and ice conditions, routes from North Lake to South Lake are often closed, as well as some high mountain passes below the South Lake area. If driving from North Lake, the East shore closes far less frequently than the Emerald Bay route.