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Jonathan Stull | 01.04.2017

No matter the season, Lake Tahoe is one of the most scenic backcountry destinations in the country. During the winter, the mountains surrounding the alpine lake are coated with snow, and their slopes are open to world-class skiing and snowshoeing excursions that earned the area the Olympic Games in 1960—and perhaps again in 2026. Just a few hours’ drive from San Francisco, Lake Tahoe is a stunning backdrop for your winter weekend retreat from the city. At Outdoor Project, we have you covered with all the adventures you need for a few days in the winter white.

Camping is very limited in Tahoe in the winter, and the backcountry huts are the best option for winter stays. The Peter Grubb Ski Hut makes for splendid accommodations for two nights. Available by reservation in the winter, the hut opens up fantastic backcountry skiing terrain northwest of Tahoe on the Castle-Basin ridge with intermediate and advanced-level backcountry skiing. While stays during the winter can be crowded, there is such a diversity of terrain and outdoor opportunities offered here that the hut is a must-see enclave. The snowshoe trail to Andesite Peak begins here, and it yields striking vistas of the ski terrain and the Sierra in a relatively secluded setting. A multitude of snowshoeing trails are available near Norden, so be sure to snowshoe Donner Peak and Mount Judah for stunning views over Donner Lake. The collective accommodations of the hut make for a cozy place to return for the night, especially in the right company. 

From the Peter Grubb hut, circle Lake Tahoe to Emerald Bay. Camping options are few and far between here—the Ludlow Hut is an option, but it requires a 5-mile trek—so plan on accommodations in South Lake Tahoe. Emerald Bay offers some of the best lake vistas on Tahoe. It’s also one of the only places on Lake Tahoe with the potential to freeze over, creating a wintry moonscape along the lakeshore. The Rubicon Trail is one of the most traveled trails in Tahoe, and it is beautiful year-round, even when winter snow locks the trailhead behind the gated access to D.L. Bliss State Park. Let us not forget that snow-covered roads create some of the best snowshoeing and cross-country skiing opportunities, and that is certainly the case here. The hike to Rubicon Point showcases the stunning panorama of Tahoe that you might have to yourself. Be sure to check out Emerald Bay State Park while you’re here. While Vikingsholm is closed to museum tours during the winter, it is sure to make a stunning backdrop while visiting Inspiration Point, whose paved access, like D.L. Bliss State Park, is perfect for winter excursions on snowshoes.

A soak in scenic hot springs is a perfect way to close out your winter weekend in Tahoe. Circle Lake Tahoe to the Sierra Hot Springs, stopping off for the snowshoe to Martis Lookout or the quiet and secluded cross-country ski to Sagehen Summit on your way. The resort nearby offers overnight lodging if necessary, or continue your on your way home from the quiet, snowbound confines of California’s bluest lake.

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