January

Experience state parks year round.

Lake Tahoe State Recreation Area

Straddling the California-Nevada state line, this park in the Northern Sierra is one of the most popular outdoor recreation areas in the United States. Enjoy almost endless fun in the snow among plenty of pine trees and high country trails.

Photo Credit: Kathy Yates

Lake Tahoe

Getting There

Tahoe State Recreation Area is located in the High Sierra in Placer County, a quarter mile east of Tahoe City on Highway 28.

Want to skip the Tahoe traffic? Try the Amtrak California Zephyr line to Reno-Tahoe.

Things to Do

In January Tahoe is blanked in snow, so now is the best time to try out the area’s best snow sports.

  • Downhill skiing/snowboarding
  • Cross-country skiing
    Try Royal Gorge Cross Country Resort, a 6,000-acre winter wonderland groomed for cross-country ski adventures and powered by beautiful views. Beginners can try this easy loop—embark from Summit Station along the Palisade Trail, and continue up the intermediate Stage Coach Trail, a moderate climb with open vistas of Devil’s Peak. About 2 miles in, Deer Lake Trail leads to the Wilderness Café, a small cabin in the woods with a fireplace and vegetarian chili for sale (cash only!). After refueling, it’s time for the final feat—ascending the Yuba Trail, the last leg of which is a steep climb paralleling a downhill slope that leads you back your starting point. Advanced cross-country skiers can do the 11.2-mile out-and-back to Point Mariah for sweeping vistas of Royal Gorge. Full details at Weekend Sherpa.
  • Sledding
  • Backcountry Snowshoeing
    Try a guided backcountry snowshoe trek up Donner Peak with Tahoe Trips & Trails, operated out of Cedar House Sport Hotel. Beginners will feel comfortable on this roughly 6-mile (round-trip) trek through Truckee backcountry with a WFR-certified guide. Tucked in the Sierras at nearly 8,000 feet, the trails here have none of the crowds you’ll see on the alpine slopes. Donner Peak is a kingdom of views, with vistas spanning Donner Lake, Mount Lincoln, Castle Peak, and beyond. Full details at Weekend Sherpa.
  • Fly a Snowkite
    At the Sierra Snowkite Center— run by North American snowkite tour champion Tyler Brown, your chance to soar comes at the center’s Intro to Kite Flying lesson. Tyler or one of his staff will get you kitted up with a 3-meter ripstop nylon kite (advanced snowkiters use larger ones) and teach you the techniques. Then it’s time to take the reins and start ripping across the snow-blanketed meadow at speeds of up to 20 m.p.h. or…whatever you’re comfortable with! Before you know it, you'll be carving through the fresh snow doing powder turns like the cutback transition—a sweet, smooth 180-degree turn. Full details at Weekend Sherpa.

Where to Stay

Lakeside camping is available in the park May 24 through September 30 (closed to camping September 16 through May 23). Since it is too cold to camp in January, try some of these local places:

  • Cedar House Sport Hotel, a husband-and-wife owned 40-room resort cleverly combining modern comfort and thrilling adventures. Guests can join the hotel’s in-house tour company on professionally guided, personalized adventures (like the snowshoe above. Non-guests can also partake in the tours), then return for a soak in the hot tub. Rooms have a flat-screen TV, Egyptian cotton robes, and heavenly down comforters imported from Germany. Try the golden beet salad and the 48-hour-braised short ribs at the on-site restaurant, Stella. More details at Weekend Sherpa.
  • Sorensen’s Resort combines the best of relaxation and outdoor adventures. Tucked 20 miles south of Lake Tahoe in beautiful Hope Valley (dubbed the California Alps) Sorensen’s is pure wilderness charm: 36 cabins—including nine lovely log cabins—along with Bed and Breakfast rooms, most with wood-burning fireplaces and mini-kitchens. Husband-and-wife owners John and Patty Brissenden and their stellar staff are friendly, kind, and in the know! They’ll give you the inside scoop on miles upon miles of trails for adventures, many starting right from your cabin door. Relax in their on-site wood-fired sauna or venture 20 minutes to soak your bones in Grover Hot Springs. At night, kick back next to the corner fireplace at the resort’s intimate, farm-to-table restaurant. The wine list is excellent and the food is fresh. Save room for the homemade berry cobbler. More details at Weekend Sherpa.

Trip Tips/Things to See

Lake Tahoe is one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. Be sure to get out and explore the area. You won't be disappointed!

Nearby State Parks

Take a drive around Lake Tahoe and you will discover several state parks along the way:

  • Ed Z’berg Sugar Pine Point State Park (11 miles south on State Highway 89)
  • Ward Creek State Park Property
  • Burton Creek State Park
  • Donner Memorial State Park
  • Kings Beach State Recreation Area
  • D. L. Bliss State Park
  • Emerald Bay State Park

Some parks are closed seasonally, so if they aren’t open when you visit in January, try again in the summer!

More Resources

Department of Parks and Recreation: Official Park Webpage

Cooperating Association: Sierra State Parks Foundation

More Fun Ideas at: Weekend Sherpa

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California State Parks Foundation

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