3 skiers and top of mountain

Cross Country Skiing and Snowshoeing

Plumas County is beautiful in winter–perfect for your next Sierra Nevada cross-country skiing or snowshoe adventure.

Virtually the entire forest is open for snowshoeing and Nordic skiing, with options ranging from beginner-level, groomed tracks to challenging peaks and backcountry callings for more advanced skill. Before venturing off, especially in an unmarked area, make sure to check weather conditions, bring adequate clothing, gear, food and water, and let someone know where you’re headed.

Nordic Routes and Snowshoe Hikes

Here are some of the top cross-country and snowshoe hike destinations and trails in our region.

Northwest Plumas

  • Lassen Volcanic National Park: Lassen is a winter-wonderland of adventure! From sledding and cross country ski and snowshoe trails around Manzanita Lake to more serious backcountry routes, there is something for every snow enthusiast. Read the Park’s Winter Activity Guide to learn more.
  • The Lake Almanor Recreation Trail: Closed to motorized traffic, this rolling path meanders through a conifer forest on the western edge of Lake Almanor. While not groomed in the winter, it is suitable for cross-country skiing and snowshoe treks.  
  • McGowan Lake Cross-Country Ski Area: In Lassen National Forest, in the shadow of Lassen Peak, the McGowan Lake Ski Area has 10 miles of non-motorized ski trails, some of which are groomed and some more suited for advanced backcountry skiers.
  • The Bizz Johnson Trail: A beautiful and unique non-motorized rail-to-trail, enjoy cross country skiing and snowshoeing at higher, shaded segments west of Highway 36, upstream of the Devil’s Corral Trailhead. There are also good opportunities after significant snowfall in the lower Susan River Canyon between Devil’s Corral and Susanville. Learn more from the Lassen Land and Trails Trust.

South Central Plumas

  • Bucks Summit and the Bucks Creek Loop: Bucks Lake Road is plowed in winter to Bucks Summit, which is a staging area for snowsports and snowmobiles. If you like steeper terrain, take turns up the PCT towards Spanish Peak. For a more moderate route, try the Bucks Creek Loop. There are also groomed snowmobile routes down to the lake. 
  • Snake Lake and Meadow Valley: Snake Lake is 7 miles from Quincy, on the Bucks Lake Road in the Plumas National Forest. This little lake and surrounding forest land dirt roads are a local favorite for recreation all year long. The Forest Service roads surrounding Snake Lake and Meadow Valley are great for snowshoeing and cross country skiing after a big snow. This area is lower in elevation (approximately 3,775-4,250′) so plan accordingly.

Southeast Plumas

  • Plumas-Eureka State Park: this lovely little State Park offers groomed nordic ski trails suitable for beginners. Head up the mountain to the Eureka Ski Bowl for more advanced terrain suitable for split-boards, telemarking, touring, or ambitious snowshoe hikes. Learn more about routes from the Plumas Ski Club.
  • The Lakes Basin Ski Trail: Starting at the Gold Lake Staging Area not far from Graeagle in the Lakes Basin Recreation Area. Open only to non-motorized users, the marked and groomed moderate trail continues 1.5 miles, paralleling Graeagle Creek.  There are also lots of backcountry routes and snowmobile tracks to follow in this area.
  • The La Porte area: La Porte offers good winter sports terrain and staging areas. During winter, La Porte is accessible only from the southern route (from Marysville/Oroville, via Highway 20 and County Road E-21). Skiers and snowshoers can follow snowmobile trails along Little Grass Valley Reservoir and can find other shared trails at Lexington Hill.

More Winter Sports in Plumas County

  • Park Rangers at Lassen Volcanic National Park offer guided snowshoe treks January through March at the West Entrance Visitor Center.  
  • When Chester gets a good amount of snow, the Olsen Barn Meadow and the trails around town offer great in-town cross country skiing and snowshoe opportunities.
  • Snowmobiling is popular in Plumas National Forest and Lassen National Forest. Read our Snowmobiling Guide to learn more.
  • Like downhill? For sledding, skiing, and snowboarding check out the two small ski hills in the region.

Know Before You Go

  • Trails and backcountry roads are remote. Know your route and download a map
  • Be prepared for winter travel and carry chains
  • Safety first! Check weather conditions, and always bring extra supplies
  • Some nordic tracks and snowmobile trails are shared and multi-use: Practice good winter trail etiquette 
  • Steep terrain means avalanches are possible! Learn more about winter backcountry safety.

Gear Rentals and Resources

Did You Know?

Snow in the Sierra is critically important! Nearly 30% of California’s water supply comes from snowpack in the Sierra Nevada.

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