Snowshoe to the Eclipse

The Tahoe Sierra will join the rest of North and South America in being treated to a full lunar eclipse on Jan. 20. While a lunar eclipse is always an exciting event, often it happens in the middle of the night — when most people opt to stay in bed. This eclipse, however, is downright civilized, showing up in prime time between 8:41 and 9:45 p.m. You can go watch it and still be snug in bed before 11 p.m.

When heading out over snow under a full moon, it’s best to stay in the open meadows and ridgelines as much as possible.

What’s the best way to see the eclipse in Tahoe on a cold January evening? Assuming there are clear skies, I would recommend combining it with full-moon snowshoe trip. As long as you are a fairly strong walker, you should be able to snowshoe and get deep into Tahoe’s winter woods for a peaceful and delightful experience.

When heading out over snow under a full moon it’s best to stay in the open meadows and ridgelines as much as possible because the light of the moon reflects against the snow and makes it easier for you to find your way around. Be sure to time it so you get to a nice open area before the eclipse.

Baby it will be cold outside, so bring plenty of layers. You will start out with a workout, so don’t overdress at the beginning but have extra layers to put on once you settle into your moon-watching spot. Make sure your inner layers are wicking synthetic material or wool and your outer layers are water resistant. Bring a warm blanket and waterproof tarp to sit on in the snow while you watch the eclipse. Bring plenty of water and/or warm beverages and some snacks — for me that’s lots of chocolate. A headlamp or flashlight is essential, but don’t use it unless you need it. When you are in the meadows and the moon is full, you should be able to make your way around without the light and it is certainly much prettier.


Here are a few of my favorite places to enjoy the view.

Tahoe Meadows | At the summit of the Mount Rose Highway between Incline Village and Reno lies a large open meadow. Park on the downhill side and stay in the meadow or in the open ridgeline. You can also work your way to the southwest toward Chickadee Ridge to get a view of Lake Tahoe, but this does mean walking in the trees, which will be darker.

Page Meadows | This series of five meadows provides a perfect, nearly level snowshoe tromp. It’s just a short walk through a forest to get to the open area, then you can wander around the meadows. The trailhead is about 2 miles south of Tahoe City. From West Lake Boulevard, take a right on Pine Drive. Turn right on Tahoe Park Heights and drive to the top. Then take Big Pine to Silvertip and follow it to the end where you will find limited ski parking.

Grass Lake Meadow | This is just off State Route 89 and is a perfect spot for novice cross-country skiers, flat and easily accessible. Take State Route 89 about 6 miles south of Meyers. After a long climb, the highway levels out and Grass Lake is to your right. Look for plowed parking near Luther Pass, then loop your way around the meadow.

Pope, Kiva and Baldwin beaches | Any of these locations in South Lake Tahoe off State Route 89 also make for easy snowshoe hikes along the lakeshore.

Commons Beach | Looking for an easy spot to watch the eclipse? Try Tahoe City’s Commons Beach to watch on the lakeshore.

Snowshoeing not your thing?
Western Nevada College in Carson City, Nev., is hosting a viewing party for the eclipse at the Jack C. Davis Observatory. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. The observatory staff will have telescopes available, as well as provide information about the eclipse. | wnc.edu/observatory