There are many places around Lake Tahoe for Scouts to have fun. In the winter, there is skiing (cross country and downhill), boarding, and snow camping – not to mention just playing in the snow. Sugar Bowl is a good place for snow sports because there are lots of beginner runs and several warm (inside) places to meet. North Star is also great, but on a busy weekend Scouts will spend a lot of time waiting for the lifts. Some Troops rent their gear before they get to Tahoe, but many resorts have beginner packages that include lift tickets, lessons, and equipment at a good price.
There is no place better for beginning backpacking than Five Lakes Basin, near Marin Sierra summer camp. Its only two miles to Milk Lake (swimming and exploring) and then another three miles to the Five Lakes Basin. Beautiful country and easily accessible.
Directions to Five Lakes Basin:
Carr Lake (to 5 Lakes Basin):
I 80 East to HW20 West: (158 miles, 2hr. 30 min. from Danville). Exit #161 at HW20 West (four exits past Nyack). Loop under the freeway and continue on HW20 West, 4 miles.
Right (North) onto Bowman Lake Road. Go 8.5 miles, about 18 min. on Bowman Lake Road, which is a narrow paved and winding road. Right to Carr Lake. Go 2.7 miles, about 15 min. on this rough gravel/dirt road. It is passable with a sedan. Continue to the parking area at the end of the road. There is also a small parking area on the right, about 60 yards before the main parking area. The trail head is on the left, just before you enter the main parking area, along a dirt road blocked by a gate. Follow the dirt road along the shore of Carr Lake until you get to the dam for Feely Lake. Go across the dam and turn left onto the trail. (Total drive time from Danville is about 2 hours 50 minutes, without any stops. Wilderness permits are not required, but fire permits are required.)
One of the best backpacking destinations in the Sierras is Desolation Wilderness, just southwest of Lake Tahoe. (Most trailheads are off Hwy 50) There are lots of good trailheads and much of the wilderness is accessible to day hikers coming in from Lake Tahoe. As a result its usually very crowded (including dogs), with only the complex Forestry Service permit system keeping a lid on over-crowding. Aloha Lake (about five miles from the Lower Echo Lake trailhead) is an incredible area. The lake is huge and dotted with rock islands in a beautiful setting. We went on a day hike from Aloha and saw five lakes in one day. If you can’t find a campsite at Aloha Lake, head back to Lake of the Woods. Do not push on to Heather Lake. Its beautiful there but Heather is in a “granite bowl” with very few good campsites.