Where to Go Snowshoeing & Cross-Country Skiing Near Sacramento
It’s not surprising that Sacramento draws so many adventure seekers — after all, we’re less than two hours away from the outdoor playground of the Sierra Nevada. In winter, that means snow sports galore! Downhill skiing gets much of the attention (as does sledding and tubing), but snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are also popular sports. Many of the larger ski resorts offer rentals and trails, but there are plenty of other spots where you can enjoy the serenity of nature while getting a workout at the same time. Following are some of the best spots for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing within just a few hours of Sacramento.
Located in Truckee, Tahoe Donner is one of the most popular (and closest!) spots to cross-country ski and snowshoe in the Sierra. Their Cross-Country Ski Center is a full-service shop with rentals, lessons and of course passes to access the 60+ miles of groomed trails that meander through meadows, over creeks and up to alpine views. They even have dog-friendly trails!
Royal Gorge, in Soda Springs, is another popular resort for cross-country skiing. In fact, it’s the largest in North America, with eight distinct trail systems for skiing and snowshoeing (and warming huts in each!). They offer lessons and rentals, plus skate skiing, which is a cross between cross-country skiing and ice skating.
Located off Highway 88 in Alpine County, Kirkwood is another player in the cross-country skiing and snowshoeing game. Although impacted by the Caldor Fire, their meadow is still open for skiing and snowshoeing, with nearly 10 miles of groomed trails to enjoy. They also have lessons and rentals.
Lesser-known Bear Valley sits on more than 3,000 acres in the Stanislaus National Forest. There are 38 groomed trails, including two kids’ trails, plus warming huts and a trailside café. Rentals are also available, and if you want to make a weekend of it, they have a lodge onsite.
All California Sno-Parks offer trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Some to consider include Donner Summit, just off I-80; Echo Lake, near Highway 50; and Carson Pass, off Highway 88. Permits are required to park at California Sno-Parks, and can be purchased online or at designated vendors.
Located across from the Donner Summit Sno Park, the Castle Peak Trail is a 6-mile out-and-back trail especially popular for snowshoeing. The first few miles are ideal for intermediate-level snowshoers, but the final ascent is extremely steep and only recommended for those with experience.
Offering views of Donner Lake from its network of trails, Donner Lake Memorial Park is a good bet for beginner snowshoers. There are numerous trails to choose from, including China Cove Trail Loop (easy) and Donner Summit Canyon (moderately challenging).
This scenic trail is accessed via the Crystal Basin Recreation Area off Highway 50. It’s a 3-mile uphill trek via snowshoe or ski to reach the winter cabin, which can be reserved in advance. At the summit are panoramic views of the mountains.