Winter REC

We hear terms like Epic, Snowbomb, Powderhound etc… when talking about winter Rec in the Sierra. With some of the world’s best Ski Resorts based int he Sierra, visitors from around the world come here to ski, snowboard, vacation adn more in the winter.

This list of recreational areas for skiing, cross country skiing, Snowshoeing, Sledding and Snowmobile should help you get started exploring a geat place to play in the snow.

Cross Country Skiing

Cross Country Ski Destinations – Lake Tahoe Region

  • Auburn Ski Club – Auburn Ski Club Training Center maintains its own cross country trail system for recreational skiing, training, and racing. Located on Donner Summit at an elevation of 7,200 ft., our trails are traditionally the first in the area to open, and generally maintain better coverage into the Spring. Our 25km trail system is groomed daily, usually with 2+ passes to ensure an exceptional surface for our athletes and members.  Trails and the Training Center are open weekly Wed. through Sunday and closed Monday and Tuesday, except on holidays.
  • Northstar –   Come on up to the Cross Country, Telemark and Snowshoe Center where you can enjoy classic and skate skiing, snowshoeing, telemark skiing, and fat tire biking! We offer state-of-the-art rental equipment, daily lessons, and tours, including great package deals, and over 30 kilometers of carefully groomed, scenic trails.
  • Kirkwood – 80km of groomed trails at 7,800 feet offer the most spectacular scenery and exciting terrain in the west.  Located 1/4 mile east of Kirkwood on Hwy 88 (next to the Kirkwood Inn) and nestled in a beautiful Alpine Valley, our diverse terrain offers excellent skiing for all abilities. Bring your four-legged friends along too – dogs are allowed on two trails, the High Trail located behind the Kirkwood Inn and the Outer Loop on the meadow.
  • Tahoe Donner -Voted as one of the top three cross country ski areas in North America by USA Today, Tahoe Donner Cross Country is also a locals’ favorite providing easy access from Truckee, friendly service, up to 100km of immaculately groomed trails and some of the best food in town.
  • Hope Valley – Hope Valley Outdoor Center located at Pickett’s Junction offers top quality cross country ski rentals and instruction. Hope Valley is one of the most popular and easily reached areas for enjoying these winter sports. Access to this beautiful area is at the Blue Lakes road SNO-PARKs off of Highways 88.

Cross Country Ski Destinations – Mammoth

  • Tamarack XC Ski Center –  Leave it all behind and explore the Mammoth Lakes Basin on snowshoes or Nordic skis. Rentals, lessons and guided tours are available from Tamarack Cross Country Ski Center so you can experience the serene beauty of alpine lakes and ancient forests on over 19 miles (30 kilometers) of groomed world-class trails.
  • Mammoth Lakes Trail System –  The Mammoth Lakes Trail System offers dozens of miles of world-class groomed and ungroomed trails for cross-country skiing. Kick and glide or skate-ski from the trailhead at the end of Lake Mary Road to Horseshoe Lake at the foot of the Mammoth Crest on the public-access corridor, share the snowmobile tracks from the Mammoth Scenic Loop around the Inyo Craters, or, when conditions are good, head to the winter staging areas at Shady Rest Park or the Borrow Pit. Equipment rentals are available in town and at the Tamarack Lodge Cross-Country Ski Center.
    • Shady’s Rest – Cross-country skiing this 1.8 mile loop is an excellent introduction to Nordic adventuring in Mammoth Lakes and the unique winter charms of Shady Rest. Great if you’re looking to get acclimatized or on a heavy storm day, the moderate terrain includes some slight hills as the trail wind through a beautiful Jeffry pine and red fir forest. The groomed winter trails in Shady Rest are located right at the entrance to Town and are accessed from the Welcome Center and Ranger Station.
    • Minaret Vista – The ski from Main Lodge to Minaret Vista is a classic cross-country ski experience with a gentle but sustained climb, extraordinary views of the Ritter Range and the Ansel Adams Wilderness at the midpoint, and an easy downhill glide on the return. This is a terrific high-altitude adventure for beginners and families.
  • June Lake Loop – June Lake and surrounding area during the winter is truly magical. During all other seasons, the trails are vibrant and alive. During the winter, covered in snow, the trails are tranquil almost as if they are resting. If you love hiking and exploring trails in the warm months, you will love cross country skiing or be snowshoeing those same trails in the winter. Not only is it great exercise, but you get into nature in its simplest form.
    • Silver Lake -A few miles past the Double Eagle Resort on Highway 158, the road is closed during winter months. Park and this gate the follow the closed road for gorgeous views of Silver Lake and Carson Peak. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are ideal on this flat easy route.
    • Reverse Peak Loop – Directly across from the June Mountain parking lot is North Shore Drive. Head up this road about a half mile and on the left you will spot a parking turnout. Right from this turn out the trial will head straight up the hillside. This trail offers humbling alpine views of June Mountain and other Eastern Sierra peaks.
    • Obsidian Dome – Some of the easiest and quickest trails are at Obsidian Dome. From June Lake head south on highway 395 (towards Mammoth). After about six miles you will see the Obsidian Dome parking lot on your right.
    • Glass Creek – This is another fun trail to wonder. At the bottom of Deadman’s Pass, about 7 miles south on 395, take a right and immediately find parking. You can go as far as you desire, it is easy to stay oriented as you can see Mammoth Mountain the whole way.
  • Virgina Lakes – From June Lake head north on the 395 about 25 miles and turn left onto Virginia Lakes Rd. The road will end at a gate just before the lake. Park here and head straight until you see the lake and trail map. Continue on this trail and go as far as you wish. You will enjoy many frozen alpine lakes and creeks in the quiet snowy forest.

Cross Country Ski Destinations – Bear Valley

Bear Valley lies in the heart of the Central Sierra between the Mokelumne and Carson Iceberg Wilderness areas. You will enjoy an extensive trail system of over 3,000 acres. Amenities include 38 trails carefully groomed for track and skate skiing and snowshoeing, the trailside Meadow Cafe, a complete rental, demo, and retail facility, 4 trailside huts, picnic tables, park benches, two kids’ ski trails, a waxing hut, groomed downhill practice area and a sledding/tubing facility. The elevation of 7,000 to 7,800 feet guarantees first to open (usually mid-November) and last to close (usually mid-April) status among Sierra cross country centers.Trails are open from 9 am to 4:30 pm daily. Bear Valley Cross Country is the Tahoe Alternative.

Cross Country Ski Destinations – National Parks

Yosemite National Park – Bring your cross-country skis and glide off on one of the many cross-country ski trails in Yosemite to experience Yosemite’s winter beauty. Yosemite offers some of the best cross-country skiing in California, with more than 90 miles of marked trails and 25 miles of machine-groomed track. Proficient skiers can make their way across the nearly 350 miles of trails and roads available throughout the park. In addition to tranquil day trips, there are heated overnight ski huts and lounge areas available at Glacier Point.

Lassen Volcanic National Park – The vast majority of Lassen Volcanic’s backcountry provides unparalleled opportunities for challenging and relaxed skiing. The Loomis Museum and the Southwest Parking Area are popular starting spots to ski the 29 mile snow-covered Main Park Road. There are very few marked backcountry/wilderness winter skiing trails. The Forest Lake Trail, near the southwest parking area, and the Manzanita Lake Trail, surrounding Manzanita Lake, are the only marked winter trails in the park. Please see winter edition of the park newspaper Peak Experiences for detailed skiing information and maps with routes.  Looking for a place to start – Check out the Manzanita Lake Trail guide

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park –

If there is sufficient snow, many areas of the park may be accessed by skis. Both Giant Forest and Grant Grove offer ski trails through sequoia groves. Purchase a map of ski trails online or at any visitor center. Cross-country skis are available for rent at Wuksachi Lodge and may also be available at Grant Grove Gift Shop. Please avoid residential areas, plowed roads, and other areas as signed.

Overnight Ski and Snowshoe Trips
For well-prepared and skilled winter travelers, the challenges of exploring park wilderness lands in winter can lead to a rewarding experience. Be familiar with ways to stay safe in cold or snowy weather conditions; be prepared for emergencies, and remember that weather in these mountains can change suddenly. Wilderness permits are required for all overnight trips away from designated campgrounds. Whether you stay at Pear Lake Winter Hut or create your own campsite, enjoy your adventure and be safe.

Wuksachi Lodge, in the heart of Sequoia National Park, is a perfect base for learning the eco-friendly yet exhilarating sport of cross-country skiing. Featuring miles of Sequoia skiing trails, it’s a great place to learn if you’re just beginning, or to show off your telemark turn if you’re a Nordic ninja.


Cross Country Ski Destinations – Plumas County – Northern Sierra

  • Chester-Lake Almanor Area – An interpretive recreation trail on the west shore of Lake Almanor provides miles of great scenery and easy access. McGowan Ski Area, Colby Meadows, Childs Meadow, Warner Valley Road, and the Caribou Wilderness all afford quiet excursions near Chester.
  • Indian Valley – several unplowed roads and trails offer excellent routes for snowshoers and skiers. A favorite is the road leading out to Antelope Lake, beginning just past Genesee.
  • Plumas-Eureka State Park –  the 2.5-mile groomed Jamison Canyon Ski Trail that takes off from the park museum parking lot. Other trails begin at the Eureka Bowl downhill ski area, and more advanced terrain suited for telemarking leads to Eureka Peak.
  • Lakes Basin Recreation Area – The Lakes Basin Ski Trail takes off from the Gold Lake Staging Area south of Graeagle in the Lakes Basin Recreation Area. Open only to non-motorized users, the marked and groomed moderate trail continues 1.5 miles, paralleling Graeagle Creek.Intermediate and advanced unmarked routes are featured elsewhere in the Lakes Basin, which is also a popular destination for snowmobilers.
  • Bucks Lake Area – The Bucks Lake Area near Quincy is a popular winter sports staging area that offers skiers and snowshoers a marked loop trail as well as miles of backcountry groomed and ungroomed trails. Vehicles are excluded on the Bucks Summit Loop Trail, and within the Bucks Lake Wilderness Area, including the trail to Spanish Peak. Skiers share the remaining trails with snowmobilers. Other areas near Quincy include Snake Lake and Argentine Ridge.
  • La Porte Area – also offers good winter sports terrain and staging areas. During winter, La Porte is generally accessible only from the southern route (from Marysville/Oroville, via Highway 20 and County Road E-21). Skiers and snowshoers can follow groomed snowmobile trails along Little Grass Valley Reservoir and can find other shared trails at Lexington Hill.




Sledding Destinations:

  • Sierra at Tahoe
  • Mammoth Mountain
  • Hope Valley Recreational Area (Free)
  • Spooner Summit Recreational Area (Free)

Snowmobile Destinations & Tours

  • South Lake Tahoe
  • North Lake Tahoe
  • Mammoth
  • Hope Valley
  • Sonora Pass
  • Bear Valley
  • Truckee
  • Lake Almanor

Great Snowshoeing Destinations:  Ok The great thing about Snowshoes, is you can pull over just about anywhere and have a great trip through  the snow.  But here are a couple destinations that are popular to trek.

  • Hope Valley
  • Mammoth
  • Squaw Valley
  • Truckee
  • Northstar
  • Lassen Volcanic National Park
  • Yosemite National Park