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Taylor Creek Snowshoe Hike

Eldorado National Forest

January 15th, 2011

2.0 miles
150 vertical feet
Total Time: 3:53

Starting elevation
6283 feet
Max elevation
6407 feet

Rating: 7/10

Directions: From South Lake Tahoe, drive north on Highway 89. After passing Fallen Leaf Lake Road, turn left at the signs for the Taylor Creek Sno-Park. Follow the road to the parking lot. In winter (November through May), you'll need a Sno-Park permit. Day permits (as of 2011) are $5, and season permits are $25. Permits are not available on-site; they can be purchased online or at some local stores.   View Driving Map

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GPX File

It was a pleasant sunny winter's day in South Lake Tahoe. We headed up Highway 89, a bit past the Fallen Leaf Lake sign, to the Sno-Park at Taylor Creek. There were a few cars there, with a few people sledding, some snowmobiling, some cross-country skiing, and some snowshoeing. It's not a great place for sledding though; there's much better sledding at the Fallen Leaf Lake parking area.

Not knowing where the trail started, we instinctively headed toward the sledders on the eastern side of the lot. For reference, the trail actually starts as a wide snow-covered road on the western side of the lot. But, no matter. We strapped on our snowshoes, headed up an over a small hill, and soon reached the main trail.

Stream near the start of the trail

Bare aspens

Peering out into the forest

The trail passes through open forest, including a lot of (at this time) bare aspen trees. In fact, Taylor Creek is a great place to visit in the fall (as I had once before, 11 years ago). But now it was winter, giving the area a completely different look, but great all the same. Every time I go snowshoeing I think to myself, this is great, I should do this more often. The fresh cool mountain air, the crunch of snow underfoot. I won't lie and tell you this part of the trail is spectacular; it's not. But it's refreshing, and leads to better things later on.

We encountered many others along the trail, mostly snowshoers and also hikers (the trail is mostly packed down hard enough to allow it to be done with just boots), and quite a few dogs. There were a couple places with water running across the trail, but these were easily crossed with a big step or two (and the water was only a couple inches deep, anyway).

When the trail got close to Taylor Creek itself, a short side path led to the creek. We decided to keep going straight, knowing we'd cross paths with the creek later, anyway. At this point, the trail narrows and heads into denser forest, roughly paralleling the creek. For the most part, the creek is too far away to see for much of the time, although some side paths head to views of the creek.

After winding our way through the forest, we decided to stop for lunch at a sport close to the creek. While we were there, we saw some snowshoers coming from the opposite direction. They said that the lake was about 20 minutes away. I somehow convinced the rest of my family to head to the lake after lunch, even though the kids had been claiming they were tired from the start of the hike. There's something about snowshoeing that's hard on kids - or at least our kids. They can do a 6+ mile hike in the summer, but get them on the snow and they're lucky to do 2 flat miles.

Taylor Creek

So after lunch we continued along the trail, and just a few minutes later were greeted with nice views of the creek flowing around a bend from the dam. Soon we reached the dam itself. Snow covered much of the length of the walkway over the dam, but it was easily crossed. The first few steps onto the walkway provided some beautiful views. To the right Fallen Leaf Lake, with mountains and bare aspens reflecting in the waters. In fact, I had been to this very spot in the fall of 1999, taking a picture of those aspens (then with golden leaves) reflecting in the water. At one point along the walkway, you can glimpse a view of Mt. Tallac just over the treetops.

Walkway over the dam

Plaque at the dam

Looking east across the northern end of Fallen Leaf Lake

Looking east across the northern end of Fallen Leaf Lake

We crossed the walkway, then walked over some bare dirt to a patch of snow down by the water's edge. We enjoyed the views from there (similar to that from the walkway), then turned around to start the trip back to the car.

Looking east across the northern end of Fallen Leaf Lake

Bare aspens

Taylor Creek just downstream from the dam

Taylor Creek

The trip back was pleasant. We encountered a few more hikers, including some backpackers getting a late afternoon start. When my son asked if that was fun, I simply responded, "for some people it is." I'm still not convinced snow camping is for me (I've never tried it), but snowshoeing definitely is.

This tree immediately reminded me of the Washington Tree in Sequoia National Park

Aspens in the snow

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