Winter just might be the ideal time to get outside in the Sierra Nevada. While deep snow is piling up for skiers and snowboarders at higher altitudes, if you keep an eye on the weather you can still mix up your outdoor pursuits beyond the lifts. Plus, the crowds of summer tourists chasing water sports have long since vamoosed. Here’s how to squeeze in some multisport fun when you aren’t shredding powder!
Snowmobile The Beautiful Mountains
“It’s too cold outside to go snowmobiling” said no one!
It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner or super experienced, the Explore Sierra Touring Company snowmobile tours are one of the top excursions in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Even if you have a family, they can sit as your passenger if they are under 16! The whole family will still be able to experience the gorgeous outdoors. If you are looking to spot some beautiful wildlife, then you are in luck. Riders typically see anywhere from 2-10 different animals, and the scenery is breath-taking. Snowmobile around Lake Davis with our expert tour guides, and experience the adventure of a lifetime!
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “My husband and I toured with Scott on a snowmobile tour. He was so nice, took his time to show us how to ride and operate the controls. It was so peaceful touring through the snow and trees and incredibly beautiful. Scott was very professional and even when we almost dumped the snowmobile onto it’s side around a turn he was cool as a cucumber and helped us get it back on trail.” – Dale Z.
Bike the Sierra’s Gravel Roads
Want to get in an easy spin to let your ski legs recover?
Winter is the perfect time of year to ride some of the Lake Tahoe area’s lower-elevation gravel roads and trails on your mountain bike or gravel/adventure bike (essentially mountain/road hybrids). If there’s too much snow above 5,000 feet, a typical winter outing for Tom Giller, lead mechanic at High Sierra Cycling in Reno, and his brothers involves heading south to Carson City and linking a mix of pavement and packed farm roads. (Scope your route on Trailforks.com.) But, for hero dirt wait for the snow below 6,000 feet along Highway 395 (to the north) to melt and then head out when the dirt refreezes. “It’s perfect frozen hardtack,” says Giller. “If you plan it correctly,” says Giller, “you’ll spend your time on ranch roads, gravel, and doubletrack.” Stop in at the shop for route advice. And don’t fear recent snow. “It gets mild quickly after storms,” says Giller. “We’ve had winters where we’ve ridden up high straight through February.”
Run Donner Pass
The Donner Party? Getting lost in a storm and cannibalizing each other never seemed like much of a party to us.
Better to head out on the same terrain for an hour-long winter run. The high-country running stays accessible longer than you might think—especially if you’re willing to run in studded “microspike” shoes or with Yaktrax (chains for your shoes). We have heard the Judah Loop is the best, and try to go way up high. It is the most fun! It’s about five to six miles, with views of Donner Lake, Castle Peak, and Sugar Bowl. If it’s too snowy, you can always head to lower-elevation meadows and run the boardwalks.
Winter Fish For Golden Trout
Need to mix up the fishing between fly-casting and rod and reel to keep the family happy?
You’re not alone. And the Sierra has you covered. After November 15, most of the golden trout fisheries are closed for the season, but sections of the Kern River (it flows out of Sequoia National Park in the southern Sierra) remain open year round for catch and release (with barbless hooks only.) The kids can fish nearby reservoirs all year long. High Sierra Outfitters in Lone Pine will set you up with the right knowledge and gear for both. On the Western slope of the Sierra, the Kern River—just minutes away from Bakersfield and the parched Central Valley if you can believe that—breaks up into a trio of outstanding fisheries much like the East Walker. The South Fork and Lower Kern River give anglers a chance at a rare grand slam, while the North Fork Kern River gives anglers a shot at whopper rainbows above Kernville.