Cross Country Skiing
There are a good number of XC options convenient to South Lake Tahoe. All offer Nordic, skate and snowshoe access. Here are a few of my favorites:
THE FREE ONES
Rabe Meadow, located next to Lakeside Inn, is really three big open areas surrounded by tree lined hills. Gentle trails lead all the way to the edge of Lake Tahoe. Since this is at Lake level, there is not always enough snow for complete loops. This is a dog friendly area, which can mess up the tracks a bit (dogs are smart, so they like to run on the firm tracks rather than blaze new trails). Skate Skiing can be very good in the spring when the snow is firm and consistent in the morning. Moonlight treks are great fun.
Blue Lakes road, in Hope Valley, is really a snow mobile route groomed over the highway. If you like fast, this is for you. Beautiful scenery along the Carson River.
SORT OF FREE
California Sno-Park are cleared parking areas off of mountain passes throughout the state. Permits are sort-of required (the “sort of” refers to the fact that I don’t know anyone who has ever been ticketed for not having a pass, but the state is in financial trouble, so why not buy one?). Grass Lake off of Luther Pass is always good. If you like XC downhill the trip from there to Hope Valley is a decent rush. Top of Red Lake Grade to Meis Meadow is another good choice.
Spooner XC is the best. Leased from Nevada State Parks by Patti and Max, it is pristine and offers variety for all levels (Max is a former Olympic Biathlete who knows how to lay down a mean track). Lots of gentle trails begin just outside the doors of their small lodge. The trail around Spooner Lake is very nice. Trails leaving the valley into the mountains get increasingly more difficult and offer endless possibilities. The Park Service offers scheduled guided tours on many full moon nights. Inquire about the wilderness cabins for a unique overnight experience. If you plan on being a semi-regular visitor to Spooner XC, their punch card is the best deal.
Kirkwood XC is another good choice. Located in the heart of the Sierras, snow coverage is most dependable. Their medium sized lodge is located next the historic Kirkwood Inn, built in the 1850’s. Decent place for lunch. Gaming Trivia: The Inn was built on the apex of three counties. Former owners mounted an illegal blackjack table on wheels so that it could be moved from one county to another depending on which law officer walked through the doors. Guess this worked pretty well for a while. XC trails are laid out much like Spooner, with an easy 7k loop around the resort valley and more difficult terrain on the north side of the road. I believe horse driven sleigh and dog sled rides are still available.