In summer, the bustling resort of Echo Lakes—10 miles from South Lake Tahoe—is a popular gateway into Desolation Wilderness and stopover for Pacific Crest Trail thru-hikers. In winter, the road to the lakes gets covered with snow and transforms into a winter oasis for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
From the Echo Lake Sno-Park, follow signs for Echo Lake. (You’ll see the sign poking out from the snow if there’s been recent heavy snowfall.) Follow the trail northwest to the lake. The first quarter mile takes you through alpine forest, before opening up to views of Lake Tahoe to the east. Before long you’ll see vacant summer cabins shrouded in the snow, and at 1.5 miles you’ll reach Lower Echo Lake. The lake freezes in the winter and becomes painted with snow.
You can sit along the empty boat docks, enjoy lunch, bust out a thermos of hot cocoa, and bask in the bright white of this winter oasis. And while you may see some brave souls playing on the frozen lake, we recommend not doing so because lake conditions change and it’s way too hard to judge how thick the ice is. Being a quiet observer is kinda nice sometimes.
Bonus Beers: When you’re done, warm up around the outdoor fire pits and one of 30 craft beers on tap at The Hangar.
Tip: Snowshoe rentals available at Mountain Mikes in South Lake Tahoe ($16/day).
Park at Echo Lake Sno-Park off Hwy. 50 near Echo Summit. Purchase parking permits online ahead of time, $5/day or $25/season, and can be used at any California Sno-Park. Dog-friendly!