Echo Lake is located just a few miles to the west of South Lake Tahoe, and this makes it a very popular destination in the summer. During the winter, however, the road leading to the lake is covered with snow, which makes it a perfect opportunity for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
Start at the Echo Lake Sno-Park, and don't forget to pick up a permit beforehand and leave it on the dashboard where it can be easily seen. Permits can be purchased at local stores or online. If you can manage it, try to arrive before 10 a.m. to avoid traffic and find a parking spot.
Head back toward the main road to find the sign marking the Echo Lake Trail that is right across the street. If you are lucky, someone will have broken the trail for you; otherwise, be sure to pay attention to the route to stay oriented. Head northwest to reach the lake. In a healthy snow year there will be plenty of snow from the start, and once you are away from the main road and noise the trail becomes a peaceful winter wonderland.
After 1.5 miles you'll reach the lake. While the lake usually freezes in the winter, always proceed with caution as you test the surface. The dock by the lake is a perfect place to hang out and have lunch before heading up to the ridge if the conditions permit.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.
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