When you’re gazing over Lake Tahoe from Chickadee Ridge, just a few dozen feet from the snow-covered Tahoe Rim Trail, you can see the highest peak in the basin – Freel Peak at 10,891 feet. You can’t help breathing in the clean air and feeling thankful for the experience while taking in the magnificent 360-degree view.
With a light breeze under the warmth of the sun’s rays, I joined a group of nearly 20 adults, some visiting from as far away as Atlanta, Ga., and others from as close as Reno and Tahoe Vista, for a moderate snowshoe hike guided by the Tahoe Rim Trail Association with special guests from the U.S. Forest Service. Driving to the meeting spot off of the Mount Rose Highway, I was doubtful that we would need snowshoes given the lowest snow levels since at least the late 1970s. Looking out over the grassy meadow with patches of snow, I was even more confident that we’d be hiking in snow boots. I was wrong and couldn’t have been more happily surprised.
Along the way to the Tahoe Meadows Overlook, there were plenty of opportunities to take pictures of the snow-covered trails and sunrays shining through the trees. This snowshoe hike was not about racing to the top (though we all got some exercise on the climb). It was about taking time to observe our surroundings, look at the Lodgepole Pine trees, see the drooping mountain Hemlock, listen to the birds and hear the crunch, crunch as our snowshoes dug into the top layers of snow with each step followed by the quiet sound of stepping into undisturbed areas of powder between some trees. Dave Harrison, a U.S. Forest Service Ranger, shared insights on winter survival. We gathered around as he pulled nearly half a dozen items from his pack including a thin, insulation blanket, thin sleeping sack and compass. Frequent stops also allowed for interesting historical and natural science nuggets from Harrison.
When we reached the ridge, nearly everyone pulled out a camera to capture the phenomenal views of Lake Tahoe.
Volunteer-led public snowshoe hikes with the Tahoe Rim Trail Association are offered at no cost. Bring your own snowshoes or contact the Association for rental information. The outings are group snowshoe hikes (everyone is expected to stay together). After registering online, you will receive an e-mail confirming meeting location and time, as well as a list of recommended items to bring.
“Part of the fun is exploring. Pick your own path up the hill.”
– Bill Echols, Tahoe Rim Trail Association volunteer guide
Visit Tahoe Meadows
From Lake Tahoe, take Mount Rose Highway (Highway 431) north from Incline Village (almost to the summit). When you reach the nearly flat section of the highway you’ll likely see cars parked along the side. There will be a large meadow on the right side. Park and enter the meadow, follow the trail to your right and wind through the trees to the ridge. Better yet – go with a guide the first time.
Tahoe Rim Trail Association
With more than one hundred public offerings, including trail building days and many free guided excursions, the Tahoe Rim Trail Association offers opportunities to explore and meet like-minded people from near and far.
Members and volunteers have been providing the support necessary to build and maintain the 165-mile long trail for more than 30 years. Individuals, families and businesses can support the Association through donations and membership. Annual membership begins at $20 for seniors and students, $35 for individuals and $45 for families. Funds raised through membership are vital to the organization, which is run by a small, dedicated staff.
Visit tahoerimtrail.org for more information or to register for upcoming guided hikes.