On your next trip to North Tahoe or Reno, take the 10-mile side trip at Soda Springs on historic U.S. 40/Lincoln Highway. You get spectacular views of Donner Lake and the high Sierra, access to three ski parks – all completely different – and a side trip to a pretty cove at Donner Lake and the nearby Donner Party sites. You can then relink nearby with Interstate 80.
Once you pass Sugar Bowl and Donner Ski Ranch, the road tops a rim and descends toward Donner Lake. It gets steep and twisty and then crosses the historic Donner Summit Bridge; a pullout/parking area for viewing is just beyond the bridge on the left. You then cruise into Donner West and drive along the north shore of Donner Lake en route to Donner Memorial State Park.
Soda Springs: This is Tahoe’s best snow park for kids. It has three “magic carpets,” similar to an outdoor escalator, which take kids up to great tubing hills; $25 for all day; plus a KidsX Park with lots of small jumps for boarding. The downhill skiing portion has two lifts, 15 runs; $36 adult lift ticket. For more information, contact 530-426-3901 or www.skisodasprings.com.
Sugar Bowl: A personal favorite, the resort has stunning Sierra beauty in an expansive mountain bowl that acts like a snow collector. It has a reported 72 to 134 inches of snow right now, three progressive terrain parks, 13 lifts for access to 92 runs – a cruisers’ paradise with miles of corduroy. Plus they have the coolest baseball hat logo around. $80 adult lift ticket. For more information, contact 530-426-9000 (snow phone at 530-426-1111) or www.sugarbowl.com.
Donner Ski Ranch: Family-style resort, six lifts, 52 runs, the longest of which is 1.5 miles, with a fun side area that has a “magic carpet ride” for a kids’ tubing hill. $49 adult lift ticket. For more information, contact 530-426-3635 or www.donnerskiranch.com.
Donner Lake: Donner is one of the prettiest lakes in California, with its deep, clear cobalt blue waters – a mini-Tahoe. The lake is 11 miles long and 328 feet deep, nestled in a canyon at an elevation of 5,935 feet. The boat launch is on the northwest side. Anglers try for elusive large mackinaw and brown trout. Last week, the north end was frozen over. Entrance to Donner Memorial State Park is $8 per vehicle. For more information, contact Donner Memorial State Park at 530-582-7892 or www.parks.ca.gov.
China Cove Trail: While at Donner Lake, enter the state park entrance and drive to parking area/picnic sites for China Cove Trail. The trail runs along the shore of the lake and also cuts inland to sites where the Donner Party camped.