Challenge V—Calling all Adventurers!

CONSIDERABLE CREST Snow Valley Peak above Lake Tahoe beckons the bold.Photo: Ron Erskine

Don’t look now, but in the wink of an eye, the holidays will be here. On New Year’s Eve, you will resolve to do a bit more of this and a lot less of that. By mid-January you will likely cast your resolution aside.

Instead, consider doing something bold; something that scares you a little and excites you a little; something you are not even sure you can do. Join me on July 15, 2017 to hike to Snow Valley Peak above Lake Tahoe.

But I’m not an adventurer, you say. I can’t walk a 13-mile loop or climb 2,500 feet to a 9,213-foot Sierra peak. Balderdash.

This is the fifth year I have laid down a summer challenge. Through the winter and spring, we do six local hikes to prepare for a tough ascent of a Sierra peak. Each year, from atop a windswept pinnacle overlooking an airplane window view, a very tired and very proud person tells me that they were sure they couldn’t do it. Don’t sell yourself short. You can do it.

On the last two challenges, Mount Hoffman and Round Top, the final portions of the climb involved scrambling and rough going that turned some challengers back. This year, the path to Snow Valley Peak is well-marked all the way. But make no mistake; Snow Valley Peak is no pushover. We will meet at 7,146-foot Spooner Summit, the pass on Hwy. 50 that separates the Tahoe Basin from Carson Valley. From there we will walk 6.5 miles and climb 2,500 feet to a jaw-dropping view of Lake Tahoe and Carson Valley.

This fall, I visited Snow Valley Peak. The first four miles of the trail climb gently through a landscape typical of the Lake Tahoe Basin. In a bright forest of widely spaced Jeffrey pines and red firs, here and there massive granite boulders that poke through a soft forest floor are strung together by a lacy groundcover thread of chinquapin and manzanita. Two miles from the top, I popped into an open sagebrush landscape with sweeping views across Lake Tahoe on one side and the Carson Valley on the other. Amazing vistas and a steady gale in advance of a coming storm gave me the full summit experience. You won’t be disappointed.

Whether it is best to encourage, shame, badger, or beg you, I will do it to get you to take on the challenge. Here is a schedule of the Snow Valley Peak hikes. I will post a detailed schedule at To receive updates and full directions and details about each hike as it draws near, email me at [email protected] See you on the trail.

  • Coyote Valley OSP. 9:00am, Sunday, Jan. 1.4 miles. Moderate.
  • Joseph D. Grant County Park. Cañada de Pala Trail. Saturday, Feb. 18. 8.8 miles. Moderate.
  • Uvas Canyon County Park. Knibbs Knob. Saturday, March 11. 4.5 miles. Difficult.
  • Round Valley Regional Preserve. Hardy Canyon/Miwok Trail Loop. Saturday, April 8. 4.8 miles. Moderate.
  • Henry W. Coe State Park. Hunting Hollow. Jim Donnelly/Steer Ridge/Middle Steer Ridge. Saturday, May 6. 7.5 miles. Difficult.
  • El Corte Madera Creek OSP. Purisima Creek Trail. Saturday, June 10. Steep.

Snow Valley Peak Challenge: Meet at Spooner Summit at 8 a.m., Saturday, July 15. 12.8 miles.


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