You don't have to be a skier to enjoy the Sierra Nevada winter wonderland. A snow tube, sled, or snowshoes are all you need to enjoy a great day at numerous slopes and snow play areas close to Reno and around Lake Tahoe. Snow play areas in Nevada are somewhat informal, while over in California there is a Sno-Park program run by the California Department of Parks and Recreation and other agencies. Many of the Lake Tahoe ski resorts also have snow play areas.
AddressMt Rose Hwy, New Washoe City, NV 89704, USA
Tahoe Meadows has separate areas for snowmobiling and non-motorized snow recreation that includes sledding and snow play. The area is along both sides of Nevada 431 (Mount Rose Highway), about 15 miles from Reno and the intersection of 431 and U.S. 395. It's mostly public land within the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. You go past Mount Rose Ski Tahoe, and you'll see Tahoe Meadows just to the west of the Mount Rose Summit. Parking is right along the highway, so be careful unloading and loading your car. The snowmobile area is on the north side of the highway.
You can get to Galena Creek Visitor Center and Recreation Area easily from Reno even when it's tough going higher up in the mountains. There are no big sledding and tubing hills, but you can snowshoe the summer hiking trails like Thomas Creek, build a snowman or snow fort, have a snowball fight, and let your dog enjoy a romp in the snow. It's also a beautiful place for winter photography. To get there, take the first entrance to Galena Creek Recreation Area from the Mount Rose Highway, just after the road enters the forest. Drive past the Visitor Center to the parking area at the end of the road and you're there.
AddressIncline Village, NV 89451, USA
This snow play hill is in Incline Village on the Chateau golf course driving range. Get to Incline Village by taking the Mount Rose Highway to Nevada Highway 28 on Lake Tahoe's north shore. At the intersection, turn left for Incline Village.
North Tahoe Regional Park is in Tahoe Vista, California, on Lake Tahoe's north shore. The park is operated by the North Tahoe Public Utility District. North Tahoe Winter Adventures, located across from the upper-level restrooms near the main parking lot, rents sleds for snow play.
AddressHope Valley, CA 96120, USA
Hope Valley is in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. This beautiful area is south of Lake Tahoe at the intersection of California Highways 88 and 89. Winter activities available onsite include snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, dog sledding, and winter wildlife viewing. From the website, you can download the Carson Ranger District Winter Recreation Guide, which gives you information about the winter recreation opportunities in Hope Valley. Note that the Blue Lakes Road and other parking areas in Hope Valley require you to have a Sno-Park permit from November 1 through May 30.
AddressSpooner Summit, Nevada 89703, USA
Located at the corner of Nevada Highways 50 and 28 near Lake Tahoe (nine miles south of Incline Village), this area provides slopes for sledding and snow tubing. Be aware that the parking area might or might not be plowed. Since this area is in Nevada, a Sno-Park permit is not needed, and there are no fees for snow play. Bring your own stuff—there are no rentals or other services.
At this winter sports complex in Tahoe City, you can ice skate, sled, cross country ski, and snowshoe. It has a restaurant and bar, along with a lodge if you want to refuel and warm up.
Boreal Playland Tubing at Boreal Mountain Resort, about 10 miles west of Truckee on Interstate 80, is snow tubing heaven, with two moving carpets and groomed tubing lanes. Admission includes all-day snow play. There is no age restriction for tubing, but riders must be able to go in a tube alone and not on someone's lap. Children under 42 inches tall can only do snow play.
At Heavenly Lake Tahoe, you'll ride your tube down a 500-foot run and then ride a magic carpet back up to the top of the hill. Besides thrills, you'll get spectacular views on the tubing hill. Heavenly is in South Lake Tahoe overlooking the water.
Tahoe Donner Snow Play Area in Truckee is all about riding downhill on a tube or sled. It's gentle enough for younger kids, and the tubing lanes are monitored. Build a snowman, make snow angels, and have a snowball fight to round out the day. If you need a hot drink or a snack amid all this winter fun, a food truck parks at the entrance to Snowplay on weekends.