Winter has arrived. The snow hasn’t, at least not yet. It’s certainly been cold enough in the higher regions of the county, which is good. The ground is cold, and when the snow starts, it will stick.
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Downhill skiers have been reporting decent conditions on man-made snow at Sierra-at-Tahoe, Heavenly and most of the other resorts in the Tahoe Basin. Other snow sports just aren’t happening right now.
There’s still plenty to do. Hiking at this time of year generally requires snowshoes. Unless your quest is very high in the mountains, you won’t need them. One of the nice, short hikes that is fairly close by is up at Lake Tahoe, right at Emerald Bay.
Eagle Lake sits above Emerald Bay. The hike to the lake is a two-mile round trip. Until the snow starts falling again, this hike simply requires good hiking gear. You will need sturdy hiking shoes or boots with good tread on them. Hiking poles with steel tips are definitely a plus and I have found them to be a fine addition to our treks through the mountains at any time of year.
Since the days are relatively short, plan accordingly. As the sun reaches its peak and starts to head back to the horizon, the temperature drops rather quickly. Your hiking attire should be in layers, with good gloves, a warm hat, and possibly ear muffs.
It is a short, beautiful hike. You will still need enough food and water for your time on the trail, plus a bit more for emergencies. It is important to remember to drink enough water even though you may not feel like it. In summer and fall, getting warm or hot during your treks reminds you to drink. Winter is different. You may not feel the need, but it is still there.
The lake is in the wilderness area, and you need to fill out the free day trip permit at the trailhead. Quite a lot of the hike is on the north facing side of the mountain, which means it will be colder with icy sections. The hike to the lake varies from easy to somewhat steep but is within the capabilities of most hikers in good shape.
The trail crosses the creek and waterfall and might be one of the iciest portions of the trail. Take your time. When you cross the bridge, you enter the wilderness area. Continue up the trail and you will be rewarded with a stunning view of Eagle Lake.
Winter in the forest is very quiet and wonderful place to be. Take the time to stop often and give your camera a work out. Make certain that your batteries are at full charge prior to your hike.
When you head back down to the trailhead, you’ll notice that the view changes. Keep your camera out. Take your time, as the icy portions will still be there, and this is really where the steel tipped hiking poles come in handy.
One of the fine things about this hike at this time of year is that there probably won’t be many people there. It is a completely different hike in the summer and fall seasons. Not only are the sights different, but there will be more hikers on the trail with you.
The cost to park in the picnic area is $7, unless you have a senior pass. With a pass, it’s free. Parking is also available along Highway 89 at the entrance to the picnic area.
If this sounds a bit too much for your talents or needs, simply park at Camp Richardson and hike along the shore of Lake Tahoe. It’s flat, probably with some icy spots, but always gorgeous. If driving to Tahoe isn’t in the cards, we have the El Dorado Trail right in Placerville.
The trail has two trail heads, one on Forni Road which heads out towards El Dorado, and the other right by the Ivy House parking lot, that heads east and ends on the south side of Highway 50 at Carson Road.
Take advantage of the not so snowy conditions. What counts is getting out and being active, especially given that the Christmas holidays typically involve lots of good, tasty food. A good hike can take care of some of the poundage that may come your way during this festive season.