Free parking can be hard to find when you’re looking for a place to romp ‘n’ roll in the snow with your pup. And while California’s 19 Sno-Parks aren’t quite free, they’re a bargain at $5 for a daily permit or $25 for a season pass. The program, operated by California State Parks in conjunction with other agencies, provides access to plowed parking areas in the snow zone where you can pause to ski, snowshoe, sled or just have a snowball fight.
Some Sno-Parks provide access to groomed XC and snowshoe trailheads and some don’t, but all welcome four-legged guests (just keep Fido on a leash until you’re far into the woods).
As for locations: They’re spread between Sierra County in the north to Mammoth Lakes in the south, with the majority situated in the vicinity of Lake Tahoe. Our favorites include Blackwood Canyon, off Tahoe’s west shore on Highway 89 (great for XC skiing and snowshoeing, but watch out for snowmobiles); Echo Lakes, at Echo Summit on Highway 50 (Pacific Crest Trail access into Desolation Wilderness); and Taylor Creek (South Shore access to Fallen Leaf Lake).
And then there’s Hope Valley, 12 miles south of the lake on the south side of Highway 88. It’s extremely popular, so get there early!
Wherever you park and play, be sure to pick up after your pet. Pack it in, pack it out, leave no trace, have a Plan B and be aware that, during this time of Covid, services may be reduced. Many problems have been reported due overcrowding, littering and un-emptied toilets and trash bins.
You’ll find Sno-Park maps, descriptions and more info here. Buy your pass or permit (valid through May 30) online or through regional vendors. Don’t be tempted to park without a permit: you’ll get a $95 citation.
A bonus: California Sno-Park permits are also valid in Oregon and Idaho.