The spring of 2023 is one for the record books. By the end of March, we’ve had 13 atmospheric rivers that brought 713” of snow to the Tahoe Sierra, according to the Central Sierra Snow Lab on Donner Summit, and more storms are expected. It’s also been abnormally cold and Interstate 80 has been closed so often this year I’ve lost track.
But signs for Spring are all around. The birds have been active and the bears have begun to emerge from their dens (read our tips for living with bears in this edition). And while I’ll enjoy more time cross-country skiing and snowshoeing this spring, I’m also ready to pull out my hiking boots.
Every spring, readers ask me the same questions – what can I do in Tahoe this spring? Are the ski resorts still open? When are the golf courses opening? When should I put my boat in? Where can I go hiking?
So, to answer these questions, I’m debuting our first guide to the “Best of Spring” featuring some of my picks for the best activities to enjoy in the Tahoe Sierra. Share your favorites with us @TheTahoeWeekly on Facebook and Instagram #thetahoeweekly #tahoebestofspring.
It’s one of the best seasons for spring skiing at the region’s downhill and cross-country ski areas. Palisades Tahoe will be open until July 4 this year, with most other ski areas offering extended seasons, as well. Find the list of resort closing dates in this edition or at TheTahoeWeekly.com/winter.
As the snow beings to melt (eventually) at lake level, the upper elevations will hold onto its snowpack for likely months to come. It’s a great time to enjoy spring snowshoe outings and one of my favorites is Chickadee Ridge, which I rarely mention in Tahoe Weekly due to overcrowding and a lack of parking in the winter. However, in April, the crowds have dissipated and it’s easy to find parking on the weekdays.
The 2-mile roundtrip trek offers panoramic views of Lake Tahoe and you’ll be serenaded by swarms of mountain chickadees. Park at the top of Highway 431 at Tahoe Meadows (the flat before the summit) and head south to southeast into the trees climbing uphill toward Lake Tahoe.
Tip | I always check a map before heading out and have the AllTrails app on my phone. The paid account offers downloadable maps you can use when there’s no cell service (which is anywhere in the wilderness).
Other outings | Roundabout, Donner Summit, Winnemucca Lake and Castle Peak.
Water skiing, boating & paddling
It may seem like the snow will never stop, but it will, and as the weather settles this spring, the glassy waters of Lake Tahoe will bring with it ideal conditions for morning water skiing.
Boat ramps are open year-round to access Lake Tahoe at Cave Rock and Lake Forest, but winter conditions on the lake are too dangerous for most recreational boating. But that will soon change and there’s something magical about taking a boat ride on Lake Tahoe to enjoy the snow-covered peaks and shorelines.
Spring is also a great time to pull out the kayaks and paddleboards. Just remember that the ice-fed waters of Lake Tahoe and other local lakes are frigid and cold water shock can set in quickly if you fall in.
Tip | Always wear a flotation device, stay close to the shoreline and never go out alone.
Practice your golf swing
Yes, the golf courses will open this year and a few are planning to open by the end of April (read golf course opening dates in this edition). In the meantime, you can get ready for golf season, by practicing at one of the local golf simulators at the Incline Village Championship Course, Old Greenwood or Tahoe Donner.
If you really can’t wait until the greens are clear, you can join the Snow Golf Tournament on April 22 at Palisades Tahoe.
Bird watching is a favorite spring pastime and is easy to enjoy even if you need snowshoes to do it. The Sierra Valley Preserve north of Truckee is a great daytrip to enjoy bird watching and the snow will melt there much sooner than around Lake Tahoe. As well, the Tahoe Institute of Natural Science will host its Bird Walks in Incline Village, Nev., starting in May.
While Tahoe is an outdoor lover’s paradise, sometimes you just want to grab a bite and a beer and enjoy some time indoors. There’s no shortage of indoor activities from rock climbing walls to bowling alleys, axe throwing and escape rooms. We even have indoor skate parks and an indoor mini golf course. Then there’s the 33,000-square-foot Woodward Tahoe with trampolines, foam pits, and an indoor skate park.
Hiking is going to be challenging this year while we wait for the snow to melt. Lower elevation locations around Lake Tahoe will melt first so keep that in mind before heading out, like Truckee.
The lower elevation sections of the Tahoe-Pyramid Trail (think Farad) will be accessible soon, along with trails around Donner Lake, Martis Creek and Elizabethtown Meadows in Truckee.
Around Lake Tahoe, trying hiking at Sand Harbor State Park, Rabe Meadow, Cove East Trail and on the grounds at Tallac Historic Site.
You can also enjoy the many paved trails that are cleared year-round like the Legacy Trail in Truckee and the paved path from Tahoe City down the West Shore. Visit tahoebike.org for conditions. The Tahoe East Shore Trail, while not plowed, usually melts out early in the season.
Keep in mind that any of these trails may have icy spots or be muddy. Mountain biking on muddy trails damages them, so don’t do it.
Tip | I keep my snowshoes in the back of my car until all the snow melts. You don’t want to get to a trail only to discover it’s too deep for your hiking boots. I also keep a pair of cleats in the car to slip on my shoes for icy conditions.
Like Chickadee Ridge, I rarely mention Eagle Falls in the Tahoe Weekly because of overcrowding. But spring is a great time to visit the falls once Highway 89 is open at Emerald Bay. You can easily walk (or snowshoe) to the lower section of the falls and reach the first bridge. The trail to Eagle Lake likely won’t melt for some time, however.
The parking lot at the falls doesn’t open until May, but there is small parking area along the highway and another on the north side of Emerald Bay a short walk away. Both will be plowed as conditions permit but parking on the highway is prohibited and dangerous (and your car will be towed). If that’s the case on your visit, keep driving and visit Sugar Pine Point State Park on the West Shore or the grounds at Tallac Historic Site on the South Shore.