Kids need outdoor play time, even in winter. With special considerations of recreation in 2021, sledding with your family is an excellent way to run, and slide, off some energy. Kids are spending record amounts of time in front of screens and need to breath some fresh mounain air. Here’s a free place to sled near Lake Tahoe, complete with a restroom and off-highway parking.
Find a Sledding Spot in a National Forest
Sledding at a ski resort is easy. You rent a saucer or tube and get an hour of time on their groomed hill. Sometimes the resort offers a magic carpet lift. It’s fun but expensive.
While groomed hills are nice. Natural hills are exciting, each run is a new adventure and kids can build obstacles and turns into their own DIY sled run.
Finding a perfect sledding hill is part of the allure. My boys look at the terrain and go for a feature that excites them. I look for facilities that families need, namely a safe place to park and year-round bathrooms.
To find a free sledding, I look at the national forests recreation area, like hiking trailheads. I also search for features like off-highway parking and a year-round restrooms.
Not far away from Incline Village, the Mt. Rose Highway (Nevada Highway 431) winds through part of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, connecting Lake Tahoe with Reno. The Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest is the largest national forest in the lower 48 according to the National Forest Service and protects the majority of land around Lake Tahoe.
The Mt. Rose Highway is a Nevada scenic byway that should not be missed for its scenic overlooks. It’s the highest year-round pass across the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range with a 8,911-foot summit. Along the Mt. Rose Highway is the Mt. Rose Ski Resort that’s popular with skiers from the West Coast and Reno.
About seven miles southwest of Mt. Rose Ski Resort is Tahoe Meadows, a year-round outdoor destination. It’s just pass the Mt. Rose Summit headed down into Incline Village.
With several areas to use head toTahoe Meadows and the adjacent Mt. Rose Summit. Some areas offer off-highway parking like the Mt. Rose Summit area and some don’t. This area can get congested during weekends and school breaks but there’s plenty of room to explore once you park your car.
TheTahoe Rim Trail Head
The Tahoe Rim Trail Headarea is the only area to offer off-highway parking and a year-round restroom. The restroom at Mt. Rose Summit is seasonal though it has a nice parking area.
This area gets passed up because you can’t see the perfect sledding terrain or the restroom from the highway. The hill starts near the parking area and slopes away from the highway, keeping the kids safe.
Depending on what type of sled or toboggan you use and the condition of the snow, I have seen kids go forever. My kids love the freedom to dig in the snow and make terrain features. In a good year, the snow is quite deep and I have sunk to my hip so you need to be a little careful with the younger kids.
The parking area is plowed fairly frequently and I prefer this area over the more popular sledding area father south. My kids can spend several hours frolicking in the snow and racing each other down the hill without running into other kids.
More Fun in Tahoe Meadows
The Tahoe Meadows area is a very popular for hiking year-round. So when the snow starts to pile up, hikers grab their snowshoes to explore. The family dog is a frequent visitor as well so look out for yellow snow.
If you own a snowmobile, find designated snowmobile parking farther south along Hwy 431. Arrive early for the best parking in this area, it’s limited.
Some skiers even use this area for backcountry skiing. Though it is more common to see cross-country skiers in Tahoe Meadows.
Prep and Pack Lake Tahoe
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More Lake Tahoe Fun for Families
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Know Before you Go
- Bring something to sit on. I have a padded wooden toboggan that I sit on when the carful of kids are playing.
- The snow in this area can get deep, use care when walking to the bathroom.
- I use snow shoes to explore though they aren’t required.
- If you didn’t bring a sled with you, you can purchase sleds in Incline Village at the Raley’s Grocery Store.
- The speed limit is 25 mph though motorists ignore this especially when coming off the Mt. Rose Summit driving into Incline Village.
- Be sure to check on road conditions before you head out at NVroads.com, especially the Mt. Rose Pass.