Snowshoe with a view | Boyles Rock and Cinder Cone

An incomparable view awaits from Cinder Cone. | Mike White

When snow conditions at lake level are good, moderate to advanced snowshoers may enjoy the steady ascent to Boyles Cross and beyond to the prominence known as Cinder Cone.

The beautiful view of Lake Tahoe and the peaks rimming the Basin is a suitable reward for all the labor to get there. The short trip to the cross and back only requires about an hour or so for the average snowshoer, while the much longer route to the 1,250-foot higher cone will take the better part of a day to complete.

Along the way, the trees part just enough to allow views to the west of brightly clad alpine skiers descending the slopes of Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows.

From the Fairway Community Center in Tahoe City, cross Fairway Drive and climb moderately northwest up a slope covered with the classic mixed forest common to the hills immediately above the shore of Lake Tahoe comprised of Jeffrey pines, sugar pines, white firs and incense cedars. After about one-fourth mile, the grade mellows on the approach to an old wood cross poking out of the snow — unless there’s been enough snow to bury it.

If this is your planned destination, an opening in the forest cover is a fine spot to place an insulated pad on the snow, plop down and enjoy lunch with friends, perhaps share a bit of wine, some cheese and a fresh loaf of sourdough bread, and marvel at the excellent view of the lake.

Dan Palmer taking in the view of Lake Tahoe from Boyle’s Cross. | Mike White

As the story goes, William Boyle, a former resident of Tahoe City, was laid to rest at his request at this spot on Feb. 12, 1912. He supposedly asked his drinking mates to bury him here so he could keep them under his watchful eye. Whether or not the tale is true, the grand vista of Lake Tahoe provides Boyle with a more than adequate final resting place.

Those who wish to carry on should continue the ascent through the forest, passing below a set of power lines and emerging into a pair of clearings; soon after climb moderately through the trees again. The grade eases a bit farther on and at about 1¼ miles into the journey, veer to the north to follow a prominent ridge. Along the way, the trees part just enough to allow views to the west of brightly clad alpine skiers descending the slopes of Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows.

Proceed up the ridge to a crossing of the snow-covered road known locally as the Fiberboard Freeway — a popular mountain bike route in the summer — so named for the Fiberboard Corporation, which was the major landowner in this area years ago. Among the company’s other holdings were Sierra-at-Tahoe and Northstar ski resorts. In winter, the road carries snowmobilers from Brockway Summit into the North Tahoe back country.

Boyle’s Cross above Tahoe City. | Mike White

Away from the Fiberboard Freeway, you continue climbing generally northwest and then north along the ridge. Approaching the top, the route curves east and arrives at a rocky clearing atop Peak 7572’, where a very fine view unfolds of the Lake Tahoe Basin.

The southern exposure may afford the opportunity to plunk down on an exposed rock on which you can sit, relax and enjoy the remarkable view of almost the entire lake. As numerous Tahoe landmarks are visible from this aerie, packing along a small-scale map to help identify some of the major features scattered around the Basin would be helpful.

On thoroughly enjoying the vista from the east flank of Cinder Cone, follow your tracks back to the Fairway Community Center. With extra time and energy, rather than backtrack you could head west three-fourths mile to the true summit of Cinder Cone (7,668 feet), descend the south ridge to the Fiberboard Freeway and then follow the road back to the trailhead. If you choose this alternative, be aware that encountering snowmobilers along the road is likely.

How to get there | Drive to the intersection of State Route 89 and Fairview Drive in Tahoe City, which is one-fifth mile north of the wye junction with State Route 28. Follow Fairview Drive for one-fifth mile more to the parking lot on the right-hand side for the Fairway Community Center and park your vehicle as space allows.

Be aware | The Fiberboard Freeway (Forest Road 73) is a major access for snowmobilers between Brockway Summit and Tahoe City. You may see and hear these machines at times along this route. Without a marked trail, snowshoers must be able to navigate safely to the destination and back, and be prepared for changing weather conditions. Avalanche danger is usually minimal in this heavily treed area, but recreationists can consult daily reports at sierraavalanchecenter.org.


Mike White
Born and raised in Portland, Ore., Mike White received a bachelors of art in Political Science from Seattle Pacific University. Cutting his outdoor teeth in the Cascades, he discovered the Sierra Nevada after moving to Reno, Nev.. Upon leaving his last real job, he began his second career in outdoor writing with an update to a guidebook to the Trinity Alps. Since then he has written or contributed to 17 additional hiking, backpacking and snowshoeing guides, as well as writing articles for Sunset and Backpacker magazines, and the Reno Gazette Journal newspaper. His latest book is “50 of the Best Snowshoe Trails around Lake Tahoe.”