Advice about Snow Trips

Parent Q&A

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  • hi everyone, My son got a season pass to Palisades (my sister lives near there) and is very excited to go up skiing alot but it seems that the buses that go from the bay area are currently not running. I couldn't find much info on bay area ski clubs that go up. Wondering if anyone has other ideas on getting up there (besides me driving him :) ? We live in Albany. Thanks!

    My daughter recently took Amtrak home from Truckee - Bus from Truckee to Sacramento Amtrak station which connects to the train from Sacramento to Emeryville. Warning - the bus departure from Truckee to Sacramento was pretty loose. They didn't leave Truckee for about 45 min while people bought breakfast etc. But they must know how much time they need because they arrived at the station at Sacramento exactly on time for the transfer to the train.

       Amtrak is running. He can take Amtrak from Emeryville up to Truckee.  Can someone pick him up in Truckee?  My daughter frequently rides Amtrak from Davis up to Truckee. 

    The Amtrak goes from Berkeley to truckee. It’s a gorgeous ride. He would just need to get a ride to the resort from there- UBer?

    If you’re looking for a ride only (as opposed to a ski group), Amtrak runs from Berkeley to Truckee.  It’s not too far from Truckee to Palisades.

    I just saw a sign in Sports Basement that they are running their Ski Bus to Palisades Tahoe starting Jan 8. $90 round trip. Proof of vaccination or negative COVID test required.

  • Easy casual sledding spots for small kids

    (9 replies)

    Hello!  Existing BPN advice on this is 10+ years old, so thanks in advance for your insight!  

    My 3 year old is urgently requesting a trip to play in snow, and we'd like to go!  However, we don't know much about the sledding and casual snow play scene.  What snowy towns are relatively easy to get to, sleep in, and find a place to sled down a small or medium sized hill?  Since we won't be skiing, would rather not pay a big premium to be right near a ski resort.

    Also, any suggestions for warm snow gear for small kids?  Please let me know if you have size 2T and/or Kids XS snow boots/ suits/ etc. to lend or sell.   Thanks in advance!

    We have enjoyed taking my niece to the sledding park at Bear Valley (she was 3 years old last season when we went). You can rent tubes or sleds there and it's super easy to walk across the field to the little snow hills. Our kiddo loved it. We took turns pulling her up the hill. Sledding is $15 and tubing is $20/person. Check out Also, Bear Valley is a much easier drive than Tahoe with almost no traffic getting up there (depending on where you're coming from and what time of day you leave). We stay in Murphys where there is no snow, but people who are skiing or want to be in the snow usually stay up the hill a bit in Arnold which is about a 20 minute drive up to the snow park. There are also several pull off the road snow play/sled areas, you just need to purchase a day parking permit (I believe it's $5 or $10 per car). 

    So I'm definitely a bit biased here, but I'd argue that the highway 108 corridor would be a great location. It's outside Tahoe so everything is cheaper and less crowded. The drive is almost always faster than getting to Tahoe (no pass to go over, in snow conditions you don't get the Tahoe multi-hour backlog). There is a formal snow play area (Leland), but a lot of people just drive up 108 until the snow is good and there's a hill. On weekends, there's usually a (not overwhelming) crowd marking the first good hill to snowplay on.

    Downsides are it's not Tahoe. So the restaurants and entertainment options are not as good. There are I think two casinos. Sonora is fun to explore and there is even an awesome train museum in Jamestown. You can ride a full size steam train and see the restored trained used in the Back to the Future film.

    We just took our 2 year old to Bear Valley. They have a sledding and tubing hill and he LOVED it. It is a little less than 3 hours away and has lodging options in condos and a hotel. Might be worth looking into. I've seen some really reasonably priced snow gear at Decathlon in Emeryville. We borrowed from the couple we went with but I know they also have had some luck finding stuff at the kiddie resale store in Rockridge. 

    Serene Lakes has a great sledding hill, and theres tubing at Soda Springs. Look at Donner Summit Rentals for vacation homes, or Clair Tappan Lodge if you want something more rustic.

    We got an airbnb rental in Truckee (specifically Tahoe Donner) that was affordable. The backyard was open space (a golf course in the summer) with one large hill and lots of small hills. Truckee also has a "snow park" with sledding, but there's a daily fee. Downtown Truckee is cute with some good restaurants.

    Back when my youngest was still a toddler, I did a day trip out as far as the Omega Diggins Trail off highway 20 and there was snow enough for her that time.  For me, I love driving the stretch of highway between Grass Valley and i-80.  I think I had intended to go further but she was satisfied so that was it for us.  I did a similar day trip out to the Tahoe Donner neighborhood back when my eldest was 2, tramped into the Trout Creek meadow area and called it a day after a short while.  My kids were great car nappers.  A week ago, with both kids now 9 and 12 years old, they played outside in the snow with a scouting group for a few hours at Hoyfjellet Lodge near Soda Springs.  The location near the summit had more fresh snow and way less traffic than the bigger resort areas.  Anyways, the kids didn't ask for the snow tubes that we brought.  Sand toys, snow scoops, and these days friends are all they seemed to need on these excursions.  From what I've seen, sledding can still be a bit intimidating for toddlers and it is a bit of work for the parents.  Another beautiful, easy to access, and typically quiet area is the Truckee River trail south of Squaw Valley.  If you examine the satellite images on Google maps, you'll see a turnoff for parking.  Follow the trail until you get a (private) bridge.  On the other side is a picturesque wide open expanse with towering trees.  Tahoe Donner also has a pay-to-play snowplay area that is very little kid friendly and more affordable if you get a guest access card with a short-term rental in that community.  In general, if you get a rental with a really long sloping north-facing driveway, or a yard where you can shape your own toddler run, then that may be plenty for a 3 year old.  For cute warm gently loved gear, you might want to call Dress Best For Less.  Sports Basement rents apparel too.

    We just went to Spicer Rd off of hwy 4 about 20 miles from Arnold. It is about a 2.5 hour drive from Oakland. Lots of short hills great for younger ages. My youngest is three. You need to buy a parking pass online for $5 before your go. Also it can be crowded we got there about a 11:30 - people were leaving for lunch. We packed a lunch and spent about 4 hours playing in snow. We went 3/4 days after a big storm. It takes a coupe of days for all of the roads to be plowed so don’t go if there is a big storm (12in) the day before. 

    I just went to the snow last weekend. I think toddlers don't last all that long at any given time. You might be fine with going to a snow park. The permit to park is just 5 dollars. We went to the Echo Lake snow park located before you get to South lake Tahoe. There were a few small hills which were fun to try.

    If you want to avoid the crowds and traffic try your find places on 88 and highway 4.  There are a number of places on 80 and 50.  Or consider going to Reno, spending the night, and then taking the Mt. Rose highway/431 towards Lake Tahoe for about 15 miles.  There's a wonderful play area.  When finished take 431 towards the Lake and enjoy the incredible views.  They are incredible.  The snow play areas in NV are free.  There's a fee for the ones in Nevada.  If you are into incredible scenery take 88 back to the Bay Area and have some fun in Pioneer or Jackson.  

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Questions More Snow Destinations Related Pages

2010 - 2012 Recommendations

Central California snow weekend?

Aug 2012

Hoping someone can recommend a good spot for a snow weekend in January, more or less equidistant between Oakland and Santa Barbara with activities for school-age kids and teens (skiing not required, but tubing and sledding would be nice). We'd love to rent a cabin but could survive in a motel. No camping! Sequoia would be perfect except that Google maps says it's a five-hour drive. Anyone know of anything a little closer? Thank you!

You're going to have a tough time finding any place that fits your bill. The only real option that is closer than Sequoia without putting the Santa Barbara people on a 6+ hour drive is Badger Pass in Yosemite. The next closest to you but significantly farther for them is Arnold/Bear Valley. Tim Mc.

Snow fun for kids near Truckee

March 2012

We are taking our young kids on their first snow trip, and are staying in Truckee. Would love some recommendations for a fun place to sled (as in rent a sled or disc and use it there) with the kiddos. Been skiing in Tahoe a million times pre-kids, but never just sledding. Thanks! sledding newbie

2 winters ago we went to a great sledding hill in a State Park near the lake. It was a about 20-30 'minutes from Truckee in a beautiful park. The cost was minimal and the hill was small enough for our little ones and big enough for the adults too! The had saucers available for use, dogs we allowed too which was great for us and there were some tables to pic nic on. I cant recall the name of the park but it was by far better than the sno parks and really pleasant. sledding momma

Snow park near Bay Area

Jan 2012

My kids have been asking to go to play in the snow. I have heard friends driving eight hours to go to Tahoe in the snow. Does any one know any snow park close-by? Some where that doesn't require long driving or snow chain. Thanks in advance, Lisa

We used to take our kids to Camp Sacramento at Twin Bridges on Highway 50. Here is a link to a discussion about it: I think your best bet is Highway 50. Buy a one-day snow park pass (local ski shops sell them or you can buy it at gas stations along the way) and keep driving until you see a snow park. You should still carry chains. It is a *snow' park after all... --snow lover

Well, it's four hours to the shore of Lake Tahoe - and you hit snow country well before you hit the lake itself - so anyone who spent eight hours getting there was stuck in a pretty epic traffic jam. Which happens; it's happened to me. Sometimes they have to close the roads entirely. I'll leave recs for snow play areas to others, but, *in good traffic and weather,* two hours or so from Oakland/Berkeley will get you to a high enough elevation that it snows. There is no closer snow than that (except for those unpredictable times it snows in Tilden!). Good traffic and weather is obviously the catch. If you can be flexible in your travel plans, just watch the snow and weather reports and commit to your trip when you see a good weekend on the horizon. If things are iffy, though, in bad weather, if you are going to the snow, that means there will be snow on the roads, and that means chains (although if you have AWD, you shouldn't have to use them). Snowbound

I've taken my son to Sugar Bowl near Donner Summit up Hwy 80 for a day in the snow. If you're not driving in a snowstorm or right after one it takes about 3hrs from the Bay Area. They have a little kids snow park, great tubing hills for the bigger guys,reasonable prices and a lodge. Nice because you don't need to buy your own snow toys. If you go to Tahoe it shouldn't take 8 hrs, more like 4-5hrs and you won't need chains (unless of course you're going on a holiday weeklend or in a storm). They keep the highways well plowed even if it does snow. There are a few free snow parks around Kyburz and Strawberry (before Echo summitt)- just bring a sled. However, no snow yet But always bring chains just in case when you're headed to the mountains. Let it snow

Low-Key Snow Area for Kids

Dec 2011

HI All, I'm looking for a low-key snow area to take my 2 year old this winter. My family does not ski, but we would love to have the opportunity to build snowmen, have a hill with a small incline for sleding, etc. We're not really interested in a fancy ski resort, in fact if it is far from a resort that would be a plus. We would like to find a place that we can drive to (e.g. the Sierras) and that will have a lot of family fun. A First Snow Day

Soda Springs: Easy to get up there and back in a day, unattractive to all but the most basic skiers and their patient families (despite what their website may suggest!), very family friendly, inexpensive, old-school resort. Also not a skier

We visited the Mt. Shasta area over President's Day weekend last year and it was perfect for us and our two children ages 2 and 5. I must confess that no one in our family had been to a place with falling snow before, and that we were grateful that it snowed only a little bit which made driving conditions easy for us rookies. We stayed at the Best Western Tree House right on Highway 5 and it was perfect for everyone especially because kids can play in small snow areas at the hotel plus they have an indoor heated pool for other family fun. The town of Mt. Shasta is cute and has some places to eat and shop. For more snow fun, we visited 'Snowman's Hill' and it turned out that our young kids were perfectly content playing at the bottom of the hill rather than trudging up; the snow was fluffy and soft and fun to jump in. There were kids of all sizes everywhere, some sledding and discing. going back

One good option for snow play is up Highway 4. Between Arnold and Bear Valley resort, there were (in previous years) a couple of spots along the highway where you could park and play on the side of the road. Plenty of room for snowmen, and some small hills for sledding. Depending on how long it has been since snow, the sledding tracks may be carved out already.

Another option we did one year is to stay at the Dorrington Hotel. It is an old hotel in that area. They have a big 'backyard' which you can play in, and at the time, they had piled up snow to create a hill to sled on. No frills hotel though.

Also places to stay in Arnold, or B in Murphys is an option. A few cabin rentals in the area too. A benefit of that area is it is closer to the Bay Area somewhat than Lake Tahoe, and traffic is much lighter, especially coming home on a Sunday. Bryan in Oakland.

Nearby sledding and nice place to stay?

Jan 2011

There have been a few suggestions for places to go sledding recently, but I still haven't found what I'm looking for. I'm looking for a place that is about 2 or 3 hours away from the East Bay area. We just want a low key place to go sledding with our five year old. The problem is that my husband is a complete hotel snob, and only wants to stay at a really nice place (and he won't stay at B). Most of the places I see near sledding are rustic-type cabins, motels or B We want a place where we can stay one night. In search of snow

I recommend staying at a 'nice' place in the foothills and then just go up for a few hours of sledding rather than staying close to the snow. A 5 year old isn't ready to be out all day in the snow. That way everyone is happy. We like going to the SnoParks becaues the parking lot is plowed and other people are around. You need a parking permit which you can buy at local sporting goods stores. --Snow lover

The best place to go sledding is Cisco Grove. Period. They have good runs, a magic carpet which is key to keep you from having to drag the kids back up the hill (don't fool yourself, they will want you to pull them up), and it is the closest place. If you want infrastructure nearby, then you are talking about Squaw (the Inn at Squaw Creek is very nice). Next would be Heavenly. Heavenly has a family snow park with a magic carpet, but it also involves a gondola pass for each family member. Have fun! Kiddie Koncierge

For the person looking for sledding near a posh hotel, Ritz-Carleton just opened a new resort right near Northstar at Tahoe. There are a number of great places for sledding within a 30 minute drive -there are sno-parks at Yuba Gap and Donner, lots of tubing/sledding at Grandlibaken and Soda Springs, as well as lots of trails and a small sledding hill at North Tahoe Regional Park. Don't forget that you'll be spending most of your time outdoors and not in the hotel. Might be a good time to branch out and try something a little more rustic. Hope you have a great trip, no matter where you stay! michelle

Try Sledding in Strawberry. You could stay at the Strawberry Inn for a night. Across the street you can walk in and sled in the woods. It's beautiful! I have never stayed at the inn myself (a friend of mine did and said it was fine) as we usually rent a cabin in Twain Harte or Miwok Village and drive up to Strawberry. We always go to the restaurant at the Strawberry Inn after for hot chocolate and lunch or dinner. You can also sled at Little Sweden but it's right off of the road, a bit of a big hill and FAST for a 5 year old. The drive to Miwok is just under 3 hours, so it's probably just over 3 hours to Strawberry. We usually stop in Oakdale to break up the drive. Enjoy! Another sledding family

My kids are older now (we ski and snowboard) but before they were skiing age, I used to take them sledding. In my experience, I would avoid the snow parks (Yuba Gap, etc.) along Hwy 80--they're low- cost; as a result, hordes of people are there, there is no designated traffic moderator on the hill, and adults are mixed in with little kids...I've seen more adult-kid collisions on the sledding hills than I've seen now that we're skiing/boarding at resorts. On a slow day, I suppose the snow parks can be OK.

If you're thinking of heading on Hwy 80 toward Truckee, the Soda Springs ski area is fun for snow play. You have to pay to get in, although it is still pretty reasonable. There's a designated little kid area called 'Planet Snow' that has some snow activities (you can even get them on skis and point them down a small ramp). They have a snow tubing flume for bigger folks, but no typical sledding hill, though. I don't think you can bring your own sleds.

For an overnight stay, the best 'nice hotel' accommodations nearby is the Hampton Inn in Truckee. Hot breakfast in the morning.

Near Tahoe City, there's Granlibakken, and they have their own sledding hill. They charge $10 per person to use it (I recall, if you're just standing around and not actually sledding, I don't think you have to pay), so it is less crowded than the snow park free-for-alls. The hill is not moderated though and we were there once and our adult friend got into a pretty bad collision (not his fault, the guy took off without even saying sorry), and THEN they sent an employee out to moderate traffic the hill! So we haven't been back. We didn't stay there overnight, but I think Granlibakken has nice accommodations also.

Put a lid (either ski or bike helmet) on your child and have fun! CC

Serene Lakes has a great sledding hill-the Ice lakes Lodge is a very nice lodge nearby, which I'm sure would meet your husband's standards. look them up on the web, and they can tell you about the sledding hill.

Looking for CHEAP weekend getaway with snow

Dec 2010

My husband and I both grew up in cold climates and some of our fondest childhood memories are of playing in the snow. Our daughter is now 5 and have never so much as seen real snow, much less touched it, played in it, or built a snowman. We really want her to experience that and are looking for a way to take a short (2 or 3 day) trip...somewhere. It doesn't really matter where as long as there is snow. The problem, however, is that we don't have a car (so we need somewhere accessible by plane or train) and as we are student parents, we need something as inexpensive as possible. So my questions are: 1. What would be an inexpensive destination for us to show our daughter snow? 2. When would be a good time to go, both in terms of price and weather? Thanks! Snowbird

We've had lots of fun with the kids snow tubing. There are a number of places to go. Here's a link: Also, Dodge Ridge is pretty close. You can stay in Strawberry. There are also affordable bus trips for the day, if you want to go early and come back in the evening with no driving, a sure plus! Most hills have kiddie as well as junior hills, and pull ropes to get back up the hills. You can bring a picnic lunch. There are usually lunch rooms that sell lunch or tables where you can bring in lunch (all together at Dodge Ridge.) Lots of fun for all ages. Jane

Inexpensive Weekend Sledding Trip

Dec 2010

My soon to be 10 year old son wants to go to the snow for his birthday. Can anyone recommend a reasonably priced place in the snow for a family of 4? We stayed at a friends place in Tahoe last year and loved it because the kids could go sledding right out the back door. Are there any places to rent like that either in Tahoe or someplace else with snow within a few hours drive? We want to go in early January, is it hard to find rentals at this point? Thanks for any help! Amber

We had a great weekend in the snow last year at Long Barn Lodge in Long Barn (E. of Bay Area) Check them out at They have a hotel and cabins and an ice skating rink. We found great sledding by pulling off the highway a little farther up in the mountains. Some of the cabins have kitchens but there are not many food options if you stay in the hotel. Peri

We have gone to Clair Tappan Lodge, run by the Sierra Club for years and love it. My first trip there was in 1960 and it has changed very little. There is a sledding hill in the back, lots of families with kids, Xcountry ski and snowshoe rental on site and trails out the back door. The lodge staff cooks and each person does a chore. The lodge is not fancy at all and was built in the '30's. It has a 'secret passage' in the basement, alot of stairs and it's a walk up the hill from old Hiway 40. You can get a family room or a cubical for 2; all the beds are bunk style and you bring your own sleeping bag. Cost is about $50/night/person meals included. see CTL kid at 60

Snow play for 2 and 4 year olds

Jan 2010

Hi, we're looking for a weekend snow adventure for 2 and 4 year olds. We rented a house in Soda Springs last year, and sledded on the local hill. That was a nice area, but now I think we'd like a better place to sled, but don't want to shell out the bucks for the Soda Springs Snow Park, since our kids are too young to take advantage of all its features....So, any recommendations of good snow parks/places for sledding? Also, if you know of a nice rental house to go along with it for 6 adults and 4 kids, that would be useful too. Ready to sled

We've had good luck in the past going up Highway 4. Pretty close to the bay area, much less traffic issues than Hwy 80.

Up above the snow line, right on Hwy 4, there are usually a couple spots where people can pull off the road and sled down the hill between the trees, make a snow man, and enjoy the snow for free. I think there is also an official place to pay for sledding further up the mountain, but I can't see paying for it when there is so much free snow around.

One year when our child was 3 we stayed at the Dorrington Inn, which is right up in that area. it is an old hotel, and the rooms were small, but adequate. But the place has a big ''back yard'' for playing in the snow, and they sort of ''groom'' the driveway for sledding.

There is a sports place in Arnold right off the highway to get supplies. Bryan in Oakland

2007 - 2009 Recommendations

Soda Springs snow park?

Dec 2009

We are new to the area and plan to take our 4 girls (ages 10, 7, 3 and 1/2, and 7 months) to the Tahoe area over winter break. We found a ''Ski Soda Springs'' web site that seems to have lots of activities geared towards younger kids with no skiing experience (our girls have no skiing experience). Tubing, snow park, etc. Has anyone gone to this park? What did you like or dislike? Advice? We are just looking for a day of fun snow play and tubing - nothing too adventurous but something organized. Thanks!
1st time to Tahoe

Soda Springs is both the name of an area/small town and the name of the Soda Springs resort both at the Donner Summit exit(not Donner Lake exit) off of I80. It's the closest ski area to the Bay Area and great to travel to with small children as it is a shorter drive. Our family has owned a lakeside cabin, where we vacation, on Serene Lakes, part of Soda Springs, for 20+ years and when our kids were small we usually went to SS resort as it was more suitable for kids and easier to get around than Sugarbowl, with easier runs for the kids. They also have kids ski classes. A few years ago they started to have tubing and a little kids play area with a carousel and some other stuff. Our kids were over the moon with the new additions, especially the tubing where parents can see them sliding over the course. An adult would have to go with a very small child. Generally the resort is small enough to be child and family friendly and it is unlikely your child will be mowed down by another skier(as happened to one of our kids at Sugarbowl once, but he enjoyed being carted off by the paramedics). I think Soda Springs is a great place to visit with kids for a first time snow experience. We have 4 kids also and we could keep an eye on them quite easily there. Kids under 8 used to get free lift tickets but you would have to check that now(our kids are older) Donna

Family-friendly snow vacation?

Sept 2009

We're looking for a 3+ or 4 bedroom place to stay in the Sierras over a weekend in Feb or March (3 or 4 nights). We just want to introduce our young children to the snow! (2 or 3 families involved) We don't need to be too close to any of the ski resorts. We are interested in the greater Tahoe area or Arnold/Bear Valley (or anywhere else with good sledding!). We're very responsible and would treat any property with respect. Any suggestions for great places to stay? cf

We've enjoyed staying in this cabin in South Lake Tahoe. It's great for kids in the winter because there is a hill right across the street perfect for sledding, snow fort building etc. There are two bedrooms and a bathroom downstairs and the same set up upstairs, so it's a great set up for a family or to share with two families.
Snow loving family
This is a very family-friendly house in Truckee. The owners have little kids. The house has a pack-n-play, and little chairs and tables. Tahoe Donner is a very small ski place, so it is perfect for beginners. Our kids, who are 9 and 11, skiied all day with their friends. You can also easily fit more than one family in that house. The drive is 3 hours or so. We also enjoy going there in the summer when the kids can enjoy Donner lake, hiking, biking, and pool swimming. Truckee is fun!

Cabin in the snow for spring break

March 2009

This is, of course, last minute, but are there any members out there who have a place (cabin or house) up in the snow that is available for rent during the week of Spring Break (April 6-10)? I do not even know whether there will still be snow that week, but I promised my kids we would go this year, and we haven't made it up there yet. We are looking for a place any of the days between Weds, April 8 and Saturday, April 11. We are two parents, and two kids, ages 4 and 7. We do not have a dog. A big, expensive place is out of our range, but something reasonable would be great. Do you have such a place? Or alternatively, do you have a place to recommend? Thanks. Kim

This spring break we discovered a new home-away-from-home in South Lake Tahoe, when we stayed at 412 Barrett Drive, high in the mountains just above the lake. The weather was wonderfully changeable -- one day it was warm and sunny and we played on the beach; then next couple of days it snowed and snowed and snowed, so we made a snowperson outside, then warmed up in the hot tub and sat around the fireplace. My kids loved having two floors and 6 rooms to run around in -- and acres of trees all around. The view was fantastic; every window featured tall trees laden with snow -- until it all melted on the last day we were there. It was wonderful! to read the 412 Barrett Drive main and guest websites: Colleen

Fun, child friendly snow place

Feb 2009

We'd like to go to the snow this year. Does anyone have a suggestion for a good place to go? Something small and not too busy...where we can rent the stuff we need. Not necessarily to ski, but to play and sled and maybe ski if it comes up. We have two children under 4 years, and are trying to avoid the huge resorts. Mama

I LOVE Rustic Cottages in Tahoe Vista. Don't expect anything beautiful but for the price and the friendly service, it's great. They are little cottages with kitchenettes. You can borrow from their movie library, go into their common area and make waffles. In the morning they have fresh muffins and in the afternoon /evening they have fresh cookies and hot cocoa. They have sleds and saucers you can borrow and you can just go to the field across the across the way or to the beach across the street to play in the snow. There is also a sledding hill about a mile down the road and plenty of places to eat in Tahoe Vista and Tahoe City. patrice

We just took our 5 y.o. to Yosemite (by public transportation: Amtrak to Merced, then linked bus right to our lodging, Yosemite Lodge). It's so easy to get around, and snow was just outside, and everywhere. The shuttle stops at many places, there are little sledding hills, nature walks, etc, an ice-skating rink, and a free shuttle goes to Badger Pass, which has a modest ski area, snow tubing, X-country skiing. Package deals let children and their families sample everything, and there's a ski program designed for 4-6 y.olds, in case they want to do more than an hour introductory lesson. We had lots of fun, and there were lots of other families with children who were friendly and accessible. Being there without a car was a treat and very easy. Monika

Snow weekend for families w/small kids

Oct 2008

I'm looking for a place for a weekend vacation for multiple families (about 3-6) with small children (all 5 years old and under) in the snow this winter. I thought possibly renting a house or two near each other might be fun. Any suggestions? Jodi

We've stayed at The Cabins at Strawberry ( and they're great. It's just the setup you'd want for multiple familes. Each cabin can accomodate 2-3 familes, and they're right next to each other, so you can rent 2-3 cabins and all be together. They have full kitchens, 2 bedrooms & 1 bath upstairs, 1 bedroom & 1 bath downstairs. The prices are very reasonable. Nearby is a fairly expensive snow-play park where you can rent innertubes and the like, but there's plenty of snow around in the winter for informal play. Enjoy! Christina

I always suggest Park City, Utah (I live here, so I may be biased). It is faster to hop on a flight from Oakland and drive up to Park City than it is to drive to Tahoe. Better snow,too. jan

I have organized similar trips of 35-40 people for my own group of friends for the last several years, both in the snow and summer trips.

I recommend renting vacation homes in the Serene Lakes / Soda Springs for a snow trip with multiple families with young children. I selected this location for our trip last year, based on a number of criteria, and it worked really well.

My criteria included:

There is snow on the ground pretty reliably, given the high elevation (7000 ft.). This is especially helpful with young children, to go in and out freely for snow play, for varying lengths of time, without having to drive.

It is near several ski resorts, for those who want to go skiing or snowboarding. It is hilly enough in the immediate area to provide low-key informal sledding opportunities. The Serene Lakes also freeze over, allowing a large level area for snow play.

It is easy to identify and rent homes in close proximity because Castle Peak Rentals ( rents most of the homes in the area and can help you identify homes that are close to each other. The reservation section of their website provides the actual addresses of the homes, allowing you to identify the home locations for yourself.

There are some homes large enough to function as a central gathering place for the group. We were very happy with Groves home, with a large indoor hot tub and sizeable living area, and there are many other alternatives.

There are reasonable prices for very nice vacation homes.

It is easy driving distance from the Bay Area. It is at Donner Summit, which is about a 3 hour drive from the East Bay, on Highway 80.

If you want to hire someone to help plan your trip, I would be happy to be your travel coordinator. I can help with identifying lodging to meet your needs, juggling who stays where, organizing meals, planning activities and outings, etc. Sally

Inexpensive first trip to see snow

Oct 2008

i want to take my 4 and 1 year old to see the snow for the first time. bpn has some recomendations but does any one know anything about sno-parks in particular and cheap hotels to stay in nearby? are they crowded/good place for such little kids? also, when is the earliest that we can expect snow in these areas? anon

What we discovered last winter was Highway 4 was the quickest, easiest place to go play in the snow. It is closer to the Bay Area than going up near Tahoe and much less traffic than Hwy 80. Just a few miles up from Arnold is about where the snow line is. There are small hotels, nice hotels, and cabins generally in the area. There is, I believe, one official snow park that you can pay to get into. There are shops in Arnold right on the highway to rent equipment or buy sleds. Bear Valley Ski place is a bit further up the road.

But we found a couple places where CalTrans plows the side of the road and people just park and climb up the hill. Free and plenty of fun for little kids. They will get tired pretty quick, remember.

We also stayed one night at the Dorrington Inn. It is a bed and breakfast with smallish rooms, but a nice accommodating staff. They have a big back yard, and they let us play there, build a snowman, and slide down a groomed driveway. That is an option as well. Bryan bg

As I shudder at the thought of traffic and chains on any of the snow routes (Hwys 80, 50 or 4), I recommend driving to Roseville and getting on the Amtrak to Truckee or Reno. The mountain route is beautiful. Taking the train to the snow from Emeryville takes 8 hours, so driving halfway is much easier with little kids. You don't really need a sno-park for toddlers and preschoolers, just a saucer in a city park will be fine. City parks in Reno are very accessible via the city's excellent bus system. However, I haven't found lodging in either place that is walking distance to the Amtrak stations that I can recommend, so maybe someone else has a good idea about that. --Amtrak traveler

Snow vacation w/ one year old twins

Feb 2008

I would love to take my one year old twins to the snow some time in March and I am looking for recommendations for family friendly places to stay, ideally a little cabin or house to rent, where you can walk from lodging to sledding, cross country skiing etc. It would be nice to avoid having to drive to activities. We are happy to go to tahoe, yosemite or anywhere in-between where there is snow in March. Thank You. Emily

Kirkwood. It's easier to drive to (3.25 hours from East Bay), the drive is more beautiful than Hwy 80, you won't have to drive once you're there, and there will definitely still be snow in March! If you stay in The Meadows, or Sun Meadows or Sentinels or Base Camp, you will be right next to the Meadow with ample room to sled. There is a great cross-country ski trail right there too. There is a shuttle bus on weekends that goes back and forth from one end of Kirkwood to the other (which your 1 year olds will love - my two-year old loves it). It is a good family friendly ski resort minus the attitude. Kirkwood fan

We went to Soda Springs Resort this week during the President's Day break. My 4 yr old and 6 yr old loved it!

They have an area called Planet kids where the little ones can ride the innertube carousel, learn to ski on a baby hill and innertube down a slope. My kids were too big for the carousel, but the 1-3 yr olds seemed to love it.

Soda offers two tubing tows that take you to the top of the tubing runs. All you have to do is sit in the tube on the way up, and enjoy the fun on the way down. The kids have to be at least 42 inches tall.

I noticed rental cabins on the road to the snow park which are within walking distance. We will try that out next time. Have fun! innertubing mama

2004 - 2006 Recommendations

Resort with babysitting for big family Xmas

Oct 2006

Looking for that holy grail: a relatively affordable resort or hotel with onsite babysitting where 7 adults and 2 toddlers can be happy spending Xmas together. We'd like to go somewhere in Southern CA (LA, Santa Barbara, San Diego) or possibly Las Vegas. An alternative would be a great big condo without babysitting but with amenities like a pool to keep the kids happy. Any recommendations appreciated! don't want to spend Xmas in the car

Check out Montecito Sequoia. It's beautiful, provides food, babysitting, snow play, cross crountry skiing and accommodations for families of all sizes
Been There Many Times

Snowy vacation that is NOT TAHOE

Nov 2005

we want to take a vacation over the holidays that includes snow- it doesn't have to be downhill skiing or snowboarding, just enough snow that my 3 year-old will be able to frolic. we would like an alternative to Tahoe, anywhere within a 5 hour drive from the East Bay. thanks! snow lovin' mama

Reviews received (click for full review)

  • Arnold (2 reviews)
  • Lassen (2 reviews)
  • Yosemite (3 reviews)
    The Boreal Ski Resort was the answer for us, right off I-80. Perfect for a little snow vacation. Overnight stay was reasonable. Breakfast was provided in the small lobby and you can take it to your room. Bring your own dinner or lunch. Your room has a fridge and a microwave. Consider it indoor camping. (The nearby resort cafeteria has mostly overpriced junk food with the noisy atmosphere of grand central station). We had a lot of fun there and we came prepared. We were looking for something close by without all these curvy mountain roads, something that is practical and affordable and has snow play for kids. All criteria were met. The drive was 3 hours.
    Would go there again
    Hello, Have you considered the area around Dodge Ridge? Leland High Sierra Snow Play Area is a great place for kids from 1-99 who don't ski but want to have fun in the snow. It has a lodge area where you can warm up with some hot chocolate and some snacks and they have EMT's on staff. You rent an innertube (very reasonable) or bring your own plastic saucer (no metal or wood allowed) and slide down a groomed hillside. Twain Harte is nearby and so is Pinecrest for lodging or you could go to Sonora. See the link below for more information. It's a great place I highly recomend and it's much better than just stopping by the side of the road to slide down a snowy hill.
    Last year we went to Grass Valley and just drove up into the mountains until we got to the snow. Then we drove off down a plowed forest service road for half a mile, parked and played for a couple of hours. We weren't terribly well prepared (we had warm clothes, but no toys). Someone lent us a saucer sled for a little while, and we also found a plastic folder in the car that was pretty good for sliding on. It was a lot of fun, and fulfilled my child's desire for snow without leading to any of the negatives of snow like lots of money and tire chains.
    Mom of a kid who wanted to touch snow

    Weekend snow trip with small kids and our dog??

    Sept 2005

    We're thinking ahead to winter and would like a place to go for a weekend (or up to a week) where we can play in the snow with our two small kids and our dog. Any recommendations on a kid and dog-friendly hotel/inn/cabin? We're open to Tahoe (went there as a kid a lot, but it's sooo different now) as well as any other place. Ideally, we don't want to drive more than 3-4 hours and we're on a limited budget. I checked the website, but only saw one listing for a place that would take dogs... Thanks in advance

    every winter we go to Homewood lake tahoe with our two big dogs and baby boy to this place where the people are wonderful and there is a big state park where you can let the dogs run or do some snowshoes it is so wonderful the name is Tahoma Meadows and i believe they have a website to look at the cabin . good luck pascale
    Check out Sorensens Resort in South Lake Tahoe. It is great. Little wooden cabins in the snow. Lots of sleds on site to borrow. A wood fired communal sauna and dogs are welcome in some of their cabins. I highly recommend. Julie
    Hi , last winter we took kids and dog to a nice house near south lake Tahoe. The house is clearly designed for kids and the back yard is very large and open out to a creek. There is a crate for the dog and even complimetary dog biscuits. we found the place through Tahoe Keys Resort . their number is (800) My Tahoe, and web site is Good luck. d

    Family Lodging in Snow Country

    Sept 2004

    I am interested in recommendations for family lodging in snow country. Ideally, we would love something close to a ski resort so that we can trade off child care responsibilities/skiing. We also want to be close to sledding. Has anyone ever rented one of the cabins near Soda Springs? Anyone have any ideas near Bear Valley? We don't care what part of the Sierra we go to as long as we find a good place to stay that accommodates skiing, sledding and isn't outrageously expensive. Andrea

    A great fun family place in the snow is at my family's lovely new cabin in Tahoe Meadows at South Lake Tahoe, located in an environmental preserve on the Lake directed below the Heavenly Valley Ski Resort. We are happy to share this wonderful spot with other responsible families. The gondola to the top of the mountain is a 5 minute walk across the street. There is also a free shuttle on the road behind my cabin to Heavenly.

    My kids enjoy the sledding on the free sledding hill at the top of Ski Run Blvd. which is a 5 minute car ride or on the shuttle route. Casinos, shops, restaurants are all in walking distance; yet the cabin is in a gated natural area with woods and a one mile private beach. You can check out the cabin details at Please call me (510) 236-5988 or email with questions or for more information. Kay Starkweather kstarkwe AT

    We have a cabin near Bear Valley. If you email me what you are looking for, I can send you our info and rates. amelliott21 AT Anne Marie
    We've rented twice now with Soda Springs Rentals (once in the snow and once in the summer) and we plan to do so again this winter. The houses around Serene Lakes that are available for renting thru this company have been spacious and well stocked for cooking and lots of kids. They are definitely reminiscent of the ''70's era''. We found sledding behind Ice Lakes Lodge (and behind our own cabin!), but we weren't ready to take our kids out on skis (downhill or cross-country). But there was plenty of it nearby which it sounds like you would want. You can check out the lodging options and prices available thru Soda Springs at their website Good luck! Luisa
    Soda springs is a great place to rent a house, great sledding hill nearby, Royal Gorge Cross Country, Sugar Bowl for downhill, Soda Springs for tubing and beginner downhill. Try castlepeaks vacation rentals. me

    Simple snow play, cheap lodging for 2 & 4 year olds

    Jan 2004

    I am interested in recommendation for places to go for a quick snow trip from the east bay. I have consulted the web site and nothing quite matches what I'm looking for.

    What I'm looking for is very simple snow play - a small hill for sledding and enough room to make a snow man, throw snowballs, make snow angels, etc., for young children (2 1/2 - 4 years old).

    I would like the least driving possible from the Berkeley/Albany area. Lodging can be motels, cabins, house rentals, or other options, preferably cheap. I would prefer to avoid crowded areas like snow parks. A modest hill near the lodging would be perfect. sally

    I wrote a while ago asking for places to go for informal snow play with a minimum of driving from the East Bay. I have my own experiences to share, as well as a couple personal responses to my earlier post that I'd like to include for other people's reference.

    We went on a quick trip in February to the Cisco Grove stop on I- 80, which is shortly before Donner Pass. We stayed overnight in Auburn and drove the rest of the way in the morning, but it can also be done in a 1-day round trip. There is a restaurant, gas station, and informal snow play area, with plenty of room for sledding, tubing, making snowmen, etc. On the day we went, the snow was pretty dry because it hadn't snowed recently, but it was still a good introduction to the snow.

    We just returned from a great 3-day snow weekend in Truckee. We rented a vacation home from Donner Lake Realty (www.donner-, (800) 392-5253). The house we rented was #58 on their site, on Cottonwood Street, near Maple, with a great informal snow play area at the end of the block. They have several rental houses in that area. The weather and snow conditions were great. There are several ski resorts nearby. It took just over 2 1/2 hours to get there, at off-peak traffic hours.

    The personal e-mails I received with other snow trip recommendations are included below:


    I saw your post on UCB looking for snow play areas. In 2 weeks we're going to the Strawberry Cabins which is south of Lake Tahoe/ north of Yosemite. It is near a snow play area (uh oh, probably crowded), but the cabins sound really lovely. It is, apparently, one of the closest snow guaranteed areas to the bay area. Here is their web site


    Sally, we just did a really fun, super-cheap snow trip with our 3 year old and 2 year old. We just drove up I-80 to the rest area at the top of Donner pass! It has a bunch of really gentle hills that are great for sledding. We didn't even have sleds, we just used garbage bags. We went sledding, threw snowballs, made a snowman, made snow angels, then got back in the car, drank our thermos of hot chocolate and ate our picnic lunch, and drove back home. Totally cheap, and a good time was had by all!

    Incidentally, we had stopped off at one of the commercial sledding/tubing places, and found it to be crowded and expensive, so we ended up just pressing on and found the rest area instead. Sally

    2003 & Earlier

    Inexpensive snow trip

    Feb 2003

    My 5 year-old wants to see snow. We, the parents, are not exactly snow enthusiasts (we had too much of it), nor do we ski or like windy mountain roads, but Tahoe seems like the closest place for a weekend trip to the snow. Do you know of an inexpensive place to stay where one could just have fun building snowmen and alike? We are on a tight budget since one of us just got laid off, but I'd still like to make this happen. A motel room would do. We don't need a fully furnished house.

    As an alternative to Tahoe, I would recommend the Bear Valley area. It's east of Stockton on Hwy 4. Only 3 hrs to get there and a much easier drive than Tahoe. On the other hand fewer motels, but I have noticed some--if you search around on the web you should find them. Deborah
    Idon't have a very specific recommendation for you (we DO ski!) but suggest that you not go all the way to Tahoe. Look for places to stay in the Grass Valley area -- I'm pretty sure they've got snow that low right now, you won't have to deal with winding roads, and you'll avoid the worst of the ski resort crowds.

    As for where to build a snowman, look here: You can get a one-day Sno Park permit for $5.

    One note of caution about where you stay: Fireplaces and laundry facilities are *really* nice after a day of snow play. You might be a lot happier in 'lodge' type accomodations, which is usually cheaper than renting a house, but offers a lot of amenities you won't find in a motel. Holly

    We just spent Christmas up at Tahoe, and I was looking for a somewhat similar experience to what you describe. Basically, I wanted to be up in the snow, but not necessarily to go skiing. I wanted to hang out, maybe go skating and walk around town while enjoying Christmas lights, hot cocoa and the view of the lake and mountains.

    We stayed at the Fireside Lodge B -- myself, my husband, our baby and my mother-in-law. The rates were $85 - $165.00 per night, and we were on the upper end of that because we stayed in a condo, but it was one of the better deals I found for cabin- style accomodations on the web. I found the lodgings at the Fireside Lodge to be perfectly fine -- they provide motel-style rooms, cabins and a condo for rent. The owners are really nice people, very knowledgeble about the area and they really bent over backwards to make sure we had a nice stay. 1-800-MY-CABIN

    That said, I didn't really enjoy South Lake Tahoe much at all, other than the food and the day trip boat cruise we went on. The area along the South Shore is centered on the highway strip that goes around the lake and there's not really a ''town'' area -- it's just motels and buildings and shops an either side of the highway, which isn't really what I was looking for. It's amply evident that the focus of the area is on catering to the ski slopes and in Stateline, the casinos. There is a nice wilderness area not far beyond Emerald Bay, and there's a local park in South Lake Tahoe that looked pretty nice and you might be able to go there to build a snowman.

    There may also be other towns around the lake that offer more of a ''hometown'' sort of feel, but between Emerald Bay and Stateline, that's not what we found. You also really need to have a car to get anywhere, especially if the snow is deep, because it's really really hard to walk around with no sidewalk, when the snow is up to your hips and you don't have snowshoes. I would however, highly recommend the boat cruise on the lake on the M.S. Dixie II. We were able to sit back, enjoy views of the lake, and the audio about the lake's history and geography were very interesting. Beth

    We have often stayed at Echo Lodge (off of Hwy 50 near Echo Lake). It is part of the California Alpine Club. They have a lodge at Tahoe and up on top of Mt. Tam. You can stay for about $11 per adult and $8 per child, which includes all your meals! However, it is a family hostel, not a hotel. So, you have to join CAC and pay annual dues (about $85/year). The lodges have both private rooms and dormitories. You eat communal meals and everyone signs up to help once during the day in the kitchen, or setting the table, etc. Our family has really enjoyed meeting other families, going on group hikes, and sharing in meal preparation, etc. It is definitely a ''deal'', but you have to enjoy this type of hosteling. I think California Alpine Club has a web-site with more information. They also host lots of events at the club up on Mt. Tam. Pat

    Tubing Day Trip

    March 2001

    Folks, I remember seeing from time to time on TV shots of a ski place, I think off of 80 somewhere, that is pretty darned lowkey and not too expensive. I recall seeing a ropetow like device hauling kids in saucers up to the top of a hill. We'd like to take our 10 and 7 year old to the snow, but we can't afford much, so the idea would be to head out at like 6:00 AM, spend a few hours going up and down this hill, and then driving back. Does anyone know the place I'm describing, or have ideas of how we might accomplish this very basic snow experience? Thanks. Bond

    Soda Springs has a very fun tubing set up where a rope tow pulls giant inner tubes up the mountain. The kids go down one of 4 set tracks, with curves, bumps, etc. They also have a rope tow to take a saucer up to the top but the inner tubes are the best! about $10/person for 2 hours. And the adults enjoy it almost as much as the kids. If you have skis the kids can ski and tube for around $1215 each all day. It's less than 3 hours from bay area take Norden exit and it's less than a mile from 80. Christine
    The place you're thinking of may be at Kingvale, just this side of Donner Summit off Highway 80. They have a rope tow and rent huge inner tubes (more fun than saucers, according to the experts in my family) that the kids ride down the hill. It's about 2 1/2 hours (weather permitting) from the East Bay, 50 miles or so past Auburn. Can't remember the cost, but it's definitely cheaper than skiing; you can rent by the hour or half day. I recommend bringing a folding chair, something to read, and a thermos of coffee if you're planning on watching for any length of time. There's also a little stand that sells hot chocolate for the kids. Nina
    Soda Springs ski resort (Soda Springs exit off I80) is small, inexpensive, and very familyoriented. It also offers tubing: a kind of ropetow pulls you up on a giant inner tube and then you ride it down. There is a combined ski/tubing lift ticket: $20 for adult, $16 ages 817. I think there is a cheaper tubingonly ticket. Peggy
    I have been looking for the same and found Leland Meadows, here is the website: Have not yet visited. Sally
    We recently went to Sonora, which is only 120 miles away (going 580 east and then connecting to 120 to 108). Anyway, just 20 minutes east of Sonora we found some great sledding areas free. There's one place that they call Little Sweden (no sign or anything, I think it's the local name) but it was a great hill and a lot of people were sledding and tubing down it. Further north in Strawberry, we found another commonly used informal site....again, a lot of tubing and sledding. We did go check out Leland Meadows, where you pay for access to the hill, but they didn't even have rope towing and their hill didn't particularly impress us, was very crowded, etc. so we just headed back to the informal sites. Had a lot of fun, and is very accessible for a day trip. And you avoid all the traffic on I80. Suzanne

    Weekend Visit to the Snow

    I would like to know where are the best (not necessarily the most popular) places, not farther than 4h driving, to spend a weekend playing in the snow and enjoying outside activities with 2 preschoolers. Simona (Dec 1999)
    In response to the families who would like to visit the snow, I would highly recommend Soresen's Resort: (916) 694-2203 or (800) 423-9949. They are located in Hope Valley, only 1/2 hour from South Lake Tahoe. Sorensen's is a cluster of cabins, most all of which have cooking facilities. Prices range from $80-200. The last time we stayed there, we rented a cabin with a bedroom, living room (with a futon for extra sleeping), eating area and kitchen for about $110. There's also a very good restaurant, where you can get breakfast, lunch or dinner. No TV or phones in the rooms, but there is a phone available in the main cabin. Hope Valley is isolated and quiet. In fact, there's really nothing there except Sorensen's. You can rent ski equipment at a place just down the road and get ski lessons. There are many cross-country trails in the area, including a large meadow area just across the road and a long, easy trail about 2 minutes away that also has a bunny hill for sledding. If you want to ski on groomed trails (and pay a trail fee), Kirkwood is just about 15 minutes away. Also, Markleville is nearby--a small town where you can buy groceries--and Grover HotSprings is just 5 minutes outside Markleville. The hotsprings are like a giant hottub: great for soaking after skiing. I also think you can get dogsled rides (we haven't done that, but I've seen the dogs out on the meadow) and sleigh rides. My husband and I go up every winter for the skiing and the peace & quiet. We haven't yet gone with kids (ours is just 1 month old), but I've seen little kids sledding and skiing there. I think it would be ideal: we plan to go with baby as soon as she's old enough. Alison


    Lake Tahoe, actually right around the lake, is *great* for sled-riding -- there is a public park with a nice big hill, with a long flat spot at the bottom so you don't end up in the lake. Call the realty offices in Tahoe and someone will find you a rental condo. Take another family along to split the cost and let the overflow of kids have a sleepover in the living room.

    Some of the Tahoe ski resorts have great cross-country skiing -- I've been to Squaw. I saw a lot of babies in backpacks on the trail. Andrea (1996)

    Economical Snow Getaways


    During the holidays (and after), I would like to take my 2 children ages 6 and 10 to the snow for sledding, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, or even snow boarding. And making snowpeople, of course. They will need lessons for the skiiing/snowboarding as they have no experience (and I have very little).

    Can anyone recommend places to go? Ideally, the more economical the better. Last winter we went to Bear Valley and rented a hotel room in February for 2 nights. Had a good time but would like to see if we can avoid the room costs and concentrate on a full day of lessons, snow fun.

    Should we rent skis here and take them up? We have a 4-wheel drive. Will we still need chains? (You can tell I'm inexperienced when it comes to snow.) Kathleen K.

    Just a reply to Kathleen K. on the snow trip. I would advise renting wherever you go for 2 reasons...1.) in case the equipment breaks or you want to switch lengths or go from skis to boards (important for a 10 year old!), you can exchange it immediately at the ski area instead of being stuck with it; and reason #2.) is because wet, long, sharp (those edges are sharp) skis in the back of your 4 wheel will still take up alot of room and possibly cut your upholstery, suitcases, etc.

    Second note is that even with a 4 wheel drive, go slower than you think you should on wet pavement. If you break all four wheels loose at the same time (i.e. on black ice or super slushy snow), you will spin just like any other car. Chains work great but can be very tiring for long distances.

    Beyond that, have fun. Personal favorite places to ski (as a kid and with kids) are Sugarbowl and Homewood and Mt Shasta Ski Park. Family places; big wide bowls to goof around in, great views and friendly other folks! Kathleen H.

    From: Aleta

    Re: Ski suits/equipment Check all the thrift shops. I bought the entire gear for myself under $10.00. I always rent the skis so I don't know about skis but have found disc & sleds. I didn't care for NorthStar but loved Boreal near Truckee, great place for young kids (4, 6, 10, 12, 14 yr). I've only gone twice first time 2/95 and on 12/14/97.