Lots of people see snow flying in the Sierra as a signal to put away their hiking gear for a few months.
Those people are missing out on some of the best hiking opportunities Northern Nevada and California have to offer. And it doesn’t take much in the way of special skills or fancy gear to take advantage. All you really need is a nice pair of snowshoes and a list of places to go.
That’s where Mike White comes in.
The longtime Reno author has published three guides to snowshoeing in the Sierra in the past 20 years. The most recent is titled “50 of the Best Snowshoe Trails Around Lake Tahoe,” and is published by University of Nevada Press.
White, who has several published hiking and backpacking guides, holds a special place in his heart for snowshoeing.
That’s because the snow tends to bring a sense of calm and quiet to the forests and mountains. Roads and trails that are bustling with activity in summer are beneath a layer of snow. And if you head out shortly after a storm, snow piled on trees makes the forest seem even more peaceful and quiet.
“You get that hush, the sound is absorbed by the snow,” White said. “You feel like you are more away from it all.”
White’s latest guide is different from his first, which Wilderness Press published in 1999.
The new book is aimed at beginners and intermediate recreationists. And there are more high-elevation trails featured. White says he focused on higher ground because global warming is making the low-elevation snowpack less reliable.
“Snow levels weren’t nearly as much of a concern as they are now because of global warming,” White said of his first snowshoe guide that published nearly 20 years ago.
Although the changing climate makes low-elevation snowshoeing less reliable, there is still plenty of terrain in the Tahoe area that’s typically covered with plenty of snow during the depths of winter.
In addition to trails, the book features places where people can stop for warm meals and hot beverages once they’re off the snow.
He also identified five of his favorite snowshoe hikes. Here’s a small sample of what’s included in the book.
1. Chickadee Ridge
Located at the west end of Tahoe Meadows, this hike is a short trip to get great views of Lake Tahoe. Winter snowshoe hikers here also get to enjoy flocks of chickadees that fly down and land on people’s hands.
2. Tahoe Meadows
This bustling area along Mount Rose Highway looks chaotic, especially on weekends. But people who are willing to hike farther from the road can enjoy plenty of solitude without having to climb any hillsides or navigate wooded terrain. It’s a great place to introduce kids to winter recreation.
3. Peter Grubb Hut and Round Valley
This scenic area near Donner Pass is a great getaway with views of mountain peaks. Stick to the valley floor if you’re not up for climbing and enjoy watching backcountry skiers who frequent the nearby slopes.
4. Spooner and Marlette lakes
These backcountry lakes are accessible from the Spooner Backcountry parking area of Lake Tahoe Nevada State Parks. Spooner is a short walk from the parking area. And people who want more adventure can snowshoe up North Canyon Road for a view of beautiful Marlette Lake.
5. Little Round Top
This snowshoe hike is accessible from the Carson Pass Sno-park. It provides incredible views of the peaks in the Carson Pass area. It’s iconic Carson Range terrain, be sure to bring a camera.