Max Jones, famous for The Flume Trail and his long-time stewardship of the Spooner XC ski area, once told me that three things are needed for successful winter recreation: plowed parking, packed snow, and winterized restrooms.
As you can imagine, these things cost money. California SNO-PARK is one program that provides winter trail access for $5/day or $25/season. Click here for SNO-PARK locations and information.
All of the local (Tahoe Donner, Royal Gorge, Tahoe City XC, Auburn Ski Club) cross-country ski areas welcome snowshoe runners, but this is a more expensive venture. Of these, Auburn Ski Club (ASC) at Donner Summit is the most affordable. ASC is also host to our Racing Gnome snowshoe race on Sunday, February 3, 2019! (Click here for the Racing Gnome registration.)
If you are new to snowshoe running, see Coach Peter’s article on basic snowshoe running gear here.
If you are willing to forgo the restrooms and take your chances on snow packing conditions, here are three winter trailheads for free:
Cold Stream Canyon
Much of lower Cold Stream Canyon is part of Donner Memorial State Park, but the Cold Stream Canyon Rd is a public, plowed road where you can park for free.
- Exit Interstate 80 at Donner Pass Road, Exit 184
- Proceed through the four-way stop onto Cold Stream Rd
- Pass our partner hotel Truckee Donner Lodge on your right and continue on the paved road
- Park where the pavement ends
- Lat/long of parking: 39.318866, -120.231351
From the parking, you can go up the roads into Cold Stream Canyon or follow the flatter terrain in the main park area.
Prosser Hill OHV
Nestled just north of Truckee, Prosser Hill OHV provides free parking and a forest snow experience for those willing to explore. Snow is often packed by snowmobile users.
- Take I-80 exit 188B (89 North) toward Sierraville/Lake Tahoe
- Follow the signs through the roundabouts to stay on CA 89 North
- The Prosser Hill OHV Staging area is 4 miles north of I-80 on the left
- Lat/long of parking: 39.386911, -120.185683
Look for user-packed snow and make your route!
Tahoe Donner Powerline Trail
Paved parking at the top of the Trout Creek bike path also provides access to the Tahoe Donner power line trail. This route is less scenic, but extremely easy to follow under the power line (shown here on the summer trail map.)
- Take Northwoods Blvd north from Donner Pass Road in Truckee
- Paved & plowed parking is at the top of the hill on the right, just past the Coyote Moon Golf Course.
- Lat/long of parking: 39.33667, -120.20911
The paved & plowed Trout Creek bike path is downhill (east) of the parking. The Powerline Trail snowshoe route is uphill (west) of the parking on the other side of Northwoods Blvd. Expect mixed conditions of user-packed and untracked snow. Follow the power lines about 2.5 miles up and back, crossing the street a total of three times each way.
Get out there and try it out, and you’ll be all ready for the Racing Gnome snowshoe race on Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019!