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Snowshoeing Tamarack Ridge

Lots and lots of wonderful new snow had recently dumped on our local mountains so you know what we did. We loaded up and headed to one of our favorite places above Shaver Lake to go play. Sure enough, we had a perfect day all to ourselves on the Tamarack Trail.

Where: Tamarack SNO-PARK, Sierra National Forest
Distance: 5.06 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevational Range: 7,459′ to 7,906′
Date: January 22, 2019
Maps: High Sierra Ranger District Winter Recreation Guide, Dinky Creek Topographic Quad
Dog Hike? Maybe

China Peak Mountain Resort was reporting 10 inches of new snow, 32-51″ of new snow over the past 7 days with a season total of 90- 136″. Their current conditions showed 42″ of snow at its base and 56 ” of snow at its summit. China Peak has a base elevation of 7,030 with a peak of just over 8,700 feet and that elevation matched the proximity and location where we were headed to snowshoe.

We drove up Hwy 168 to Shaver Lake and usually stop by Shaver Lake Sports to pick up a Day Permit for $5 which is required November 1 through May 30 for each vehicle parked at a SNO Park site. Just in case you didn’t know, they have moved across the street.

You can also purchase a Season Permit for $25 and we already had our Season Permit so didn’t need to stop this trip. There are several areas where you can purchase your permit and the SNO-Park link at the bottom gives you that list. In the past, you could also pick up a free map that is perfect for this area, but I hear that they don’t have this map anymore. It is called the High Sierra Ranger District Winter Recreation Guide and has the trails, along with additional information such as trail etiquette, winter travel safety and the type of equipment that you should bring to be prepared for winter recreation in this area. Some of the trails are only for cross country skiing and some are snowmobile trails. There are also areas just for snow play. Also note that there is a fine of $94.50 for parking in the SNO Park areas without a permit displayed. The money collected for the SNO-PLAY areas pays for plowing of the SNO-PLAY parking areas and sanitation facilities.

We continued up the road to the Tamarack Ridge SNO-PARK on the right side of the road, then made a pitstop at the restroom. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being the worse, this one was about a 5, kind of dirty and kind of smelly. But when you got to go . . .







The first part of the trail is on a dirt road that we accessed next to the restrooms and the snow was at least a foot deep or so with about 3 inches of new snow on top.










Our plan was to take the Tamarack Trail directly out toward Tamarack Ridge but we weren’t sure if we would be the first people on that trail and if we would need to break trail on that stretch of the trail. That could be a bit of hard work. Once we reached the unmarked junction to the trail that would take us out on Tamarack Ridge, we were very happy to see snowmobile tracks heading up the trail and that made the traveling much easier for our snowshoes on the somewhat packed snowmobile track.

Photo by Debra Sutherland

The snow was beautiful, especially where it created soft mounds over boulders.

The snowmobile tracks wound their way through the rocks and trees on the trail that we walked on.

Animal tracks crossed those tracks but we couldn’t be sure what critter left them, probably a deer.

Photo by Debra Sutherland

Those snowmobile tracks led us along amazing views of the higher country.

Photo by Gail Gilbert

And they led us out to the end of the ridge.

It wasn’t too long before we could see our turn-around and lunch spot in our sights.

I took a look behind me.

Not too much farther.

Then we reached our destination with a fantastic view of Shaver Lake.

Photo by Debra Sutherland




We found a bit of rock to sit on, took in the views and ate our lunch.





Photo by Debra Sutherland

We looked toward the valley and could see the fog lifting.

Photo by Debra Sutherland










And we could even see Bald Mountain Lookout.

Photo by Debra Sutherland

We just had to capture a group photo with the Gorillapod and timer.

It was soon time to head back and we pretty much followed the same trail we came in on.

Photo by Debra Sutherland

Photo by Debra Sutherland

But I had missed a big event. Lucky for all of us that Gail captured it with her camera and it was one of the best snow angels that I had seen Deb make.

Photo by Gail Gilbert

We all had a wonderful snowshoe adventure and couldn’t believe that we had this trail all to ourselves. The snowmobilers had headed other places when we did our hike and we didn’t see anyone until we hit the main trail on our way back. A family was playing in the snow along the main trail and two groups of cross country skiers were heading out as we headed back to the car.

This is a fantastic area to enjoy the snow. We have seen families with small children tailgating in the parking lot, with the kids playing on toboggans and building snowmen. It always puts a smile on our faces to see families enjoying this area. The great thing about this area is that it is big and you don’t need to get too far from the parking lot where you can feel like you have the place to yourself. Some of these trails are groomed for snowmobile trail, some are designated for cross country skiing and some of the trails are used by all. With that said, snowmobile operators may not be able to hear approaching skiers and snowshoers so you want to be aware and use caution when you hear them coming.

If you plan on venturing up to our local mountains, you need to be aware of the area, weather, route and limitations of your body and equipment. You may encounter icy roads, wind, cold and snow without any notice. Bring a good map and know how to use it. Let people know where you are going, including your planned route of travel, departure and return times. I always check the weather forecasts right up to the time of our hikes to avoid storms. Wear the right clothes and layer them. I didn’t come close to covering all of the information that you need to enjoy winter sports in our local mountains. There are many places that can give you additional information and the California State Parks SNO-PARKS Brochure linked under Sources is a good place to start for some good winter tips.

Dog Hike: Maybe

I didn’t bring Sally on this hike but she has hiked in the Tamarack SNO-PLAY area across the road. This is one of those instances where you will need to know your dog’s limitations and how well it can tolerate the cold, dressing them accordingly.

Here are the Sierra National Forest rules for pets from their website:

Domestic pets are allowed in wilderness areas. You are responsible for their actions as well as their welfare. Pets should either be leashed or under direct voice control. When camping in areas with other visitors, pets should be kept on a leash. Wilderness visitor’s who plan to travel into an adjacent National Park should be aware that National Parks do not permit pets.

When in campgrounds, public beaches or on trails local ordinances require pets to be leashed. As a consideration to others, please refrain from taking pets to beach areas to prevent contamination. Domestic pets are allowed in wilderness areas. You are responsible for their actions as well as their welfare. Pets should either be leashed or under direct voice control. When camping in areas with other visitors, pets should be kept on a leash. Wilderness visitor’s who plan to travel into an adjacent National Park should be aware that National Parks do not permit pets.

  • Clean up after your pet. It will only take a few minutes and there is no single action that will more favorably impress your fellow campers.

Map and Profile:

Tamarack Ridge Snowshoe Doarama

Tamarack Ridge Snowshoe Topographic Map

Tamarack Ridge Snowshoe Profile


China Peak Ski Resort

California State Parks SNO PARK Brochure

Tamarack SNO-Park Information

SNO-Park Information

Sierra National Forest SNO-PARK Information and Areas

Prior Blogs in this Area:

Snowshoeing at the Coyote SNO-PARK Area March 19, 2018

Snowshoeing Tamarack Ridge January 13, 2017

Tamarack Ridge Snowshoe Hike March 8, 2014

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