One of the easiest ways to explore Tahoe in the winter is by simply going for a walk. Of course, in winter, that usually means putting on a pair of snowshoes. Snowshoeing is one of the most accessible winter sports and is suitable for most ages and abilities. The equipment is inexpensive to rent at most local shops and easy to use. No expensive lessons necessary.
Now, I am not saying that snowshoeing is easy and there aren’t many different levels. You could climb a 9,000-foot peak, like Mount Tallac, on snowshoes but I would not recommend tackling that big of an adventure until you have had a few years to build up the strength and endurance to make it that far and that high. Plus, it would not be appropriate for small children.
Instead, I suggest you start off small with the kiddos and find a groomed or packed trail for their first time. Luckily, there are several areas around the Tahoe region that provide trails accessible to just about anyone.
North Tahoe Regional Park
This public park in Tahoe Vista offers several groomed trails for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing or running. This park is popular with locals who use the trails throughout the year. The trails are groomed regularly and provide easy terrain for snowshoeing. Dogs are also allowed on the trails. Entrance to the park is free, but you will have to pay for parking. | northtahoeparks.com
Tahoe Meadows is located on Mt. Rose Highway (431) and offers several spots to snowshoe along the route. However, some of the trails off Mt. Rose Highway are difficult and steep. For the family, I suggest going to the Tahoe Meadows area just below the parking lot for the Mount Rose peak and Tahoe Rim Trail trailheads. Parking can be difficult to find on weekends and holidays but during the week parking is usually not a problem. The easiest spot in Tahoe Meadows to snowshoe is usually on the west side of the highway where the sledders and snowmobilers park and ride. The terrain is not groomed but it is typically packed down by the snowmobilers. This makes for much easier snowshoeing.
The terrain can get steep as you venture high but stick to the meadow and it will be much easier for the kids. If you are looking for easy terrain but maybe want to try out something a little harder, try snowshoeing on the east side of the highway. The trails are not always packed down, especially if you are the first people to snowshoe there. The terrain on the east side is still gentle but if there are no other packed trails, it may be difficult if there is fresh snow. Mount Rose is a much higher elevation than Lake Tahoe and sometimes gets feet upon feet of snow during a storm. After such a storm, snowshoeing can be more difficult.
Donner Memorial State Park
Located in Truckee on the east end of Donner Lake, Donner Memorial State Park is a beautiful and easy place to snowshoe. Park in the main parking lot for the park and head to the right as you enter the park. There is a small group of groomed trails that are flat and mellow and great for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. The trails all lead to Donner Lake and sweeping views of the mountains around Donner Summit. This is one of the easiest places to try out your snowshoeing skills and fun for the whole family, including dogs on leash. There is a parking fee, which includes entrance to the amazing museum. | parks.ca.gov
Developed for beginners and great for families, there is a well-marked series of trails to explore around Fallen Leaf Lake and the Tallac Historic Trail on the South Shore. The terrain is mostly flat and is good for the entire family. Sno-Park permit is required. | (916) 324-1222, ohv.parks.ca.gov/snoparks
Wherever you decide to to take the family snowshoeing, you are guaranteed to get your heart pumping while enjoying the beautiful terrain. And, as a bonus, you are having quality time with your kids without screens in front of their faces.
Snowshoeing with the kids
Tahoe City Winter Sports Park
Sugar Pine Point State Park | West Shore
Meeks Meadows | West Shore
Sand Harbor State Park | East Shore
Local cross-country resorts