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Pole Creek Snowshoe

Lake Tahoe + Northern Sierra, California

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Pole Creek Snowshoe

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  • Parking is on a plowed shoulder area where Forest Road 08 meets Highway 89. - Pole Creek Snowshoe
  • The trail follows Forest Road 08 as it winds its way up into the backcountry.- Pole Creek Snowshoe
  • Pole Creek can be skied or snowshoed, though conditions of the trail itself may make one more favorable to the other.- Pole Creek Snowshoe
  • A wide three-way junction just short of 2 miles in marks the fork toward Silver Peak (left), or the continuation of Pole Creek Road (right).- Pole Creek Snowshoe
  • A small bridge over the creek is the only time the Pole Creek Trail actually encounters Pole Creek. This spot, at 2.5 miles in, also makes a good turnaround point.- Pole Creek Snowshoe
  • Continuing up the trail gives way to views across the mountainous landscape - here the top of Silver Peak becomes visible through the trees in the upper right corner of the picture.- Pole Creek Snowshoe
  • The Truckee River Habitat Restoration Group has placed several informational signs along the road.- Pole Creek Snowshoe
  • Sweeping vistas trade off with forest canopies as the trail continues to climb in elevation. - Pole Creek Snowshoe
  • The dense forest, with the sounds of wind through the trees, makes you feel distant from everything else.- Pole Creek Snowshoe
  • Silver Peak is visible along the Pole Creek Trail.- Pole Creek Snowshoe
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Access to other backcountry destinations.
Cons: 
In low-snow times, road can remain open to car traffic.
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Region:
Lake Tahoe + Northern Sierra, CA
Congestion: 
Moderate
Pets allowed: 
Yes
Groomed trail: 
No
Highest point: 
7,595.00 ft (2,314.96 m)
Net Elevation Gain: 
1,500.00 ft (457.20 m)
Parking Pass: 
None
Preferable Season(s):
Winter
Total Distance: 
10.00 mi (16.09 km)
Total elevation gain: 
1,700.00 ft (518.16 m)
Trail type: 
There-and-back
Trailhead Elevation: 
6,086.00 ft (1,855.01 m)
Typically multi-day: 
No
Current Local Weather:
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Adventure Description

Adventure Description

Pro Contributor

The Pole Creek trail follows Pole Creek Road/Forest Road 08, which typically remains closed to traffic and covered in snow during the winter season. The trail sits just north of the Olympic Valley and Alpine Meadows ski areas, and in contrast to those polished resorts, it offers access to backcountry skiing and overnight stays in a backcountry hut for those willing to take on the grueling climb.

Beginning behind a closed gate where Pole Creek Road intersects with Highway 89, the climbing begins immediately. Those sticking to the length of the trail will eventually climb over 1,500 feet on its 5-mile course. Pole Creek itself only comes into view once at a point where the trail crosses from the south to the north side; the rest of the trek is through forested backcountry with occasional views of Silver Peak, which is popular for backcountry skiing, as well as the Big Chief rock formations and Northstar ski slopes in the eastern distance.

During snowy periods, the gate at the forest road entrance remains closed; however, in times with less snow, the gate is open and the auto traffic has a tendency to compact the snow into icy tracks. In icier periods, snowshoes may be more desireable than skis. A popular turnaround point tends to be the Pole Creek crossing at 2.5 miles in, though hikers willing to take on the next 2.5 miles and 1,000 feet in elevation gain will reach the Bradley Backcountry Hut, one of the Sierra Club's network of backcountry huts in the northern Sierra that is open for day use stops and overnight rentals. 

The hut, along with the wide meadow and smaller ski bowls in its vicinity, makes for a great place to stop and then to retrace the hike back down. After 10 miles and just about 1,700 feet in total elevation gain, the parking area at the bottom of the hike will be a welcome site!

No amenities of any kind at the trailhead or along the trail. Be sure to park behind the snowmarkers and completely off of the road.

Backcountry Safety

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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Nearby Camping + Lodging

(24 within a 30 mile radius)

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(118 within a 30 mile radius)

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