Touring Tahoe’s Alps: Snowmobiling in Hope Valley

On the way back to the staging area with the Carson River running next to us. | Kayla Anderson

It was a snowy, wintry morning and for the first time in more than a month, the Tahoe Sierra was cloaked in snow. As quiet flurries continued to come down, a handful of people filtered into the Lake Tahoe Adventures headquarters to sign up for a snowmobile tour in Hope Valley. We all were fitted for helmets and borrowed or rented any warm gear we needed before boarding a tour bus to take us out to the Hope Valley Recreation Area.

Lake Tahoe Adventures manages snowmobile tours out of South Lake Tahoe that shuttles guests to Hope Valley. Between the two locations, Lake Tahoe Adventures has a fleet of more than 100 snowmobiles and runs several tours per day. Complimentary shuttle service is available from several locations for its guests.

The majestic mountain range that surrounds Hope Valley is reminiscent of European Alps, unlike anything else you’ll see in Tahoe.

Last season, Lake Tahoe Adventures was running six tours a day out of Hope Valley and every one of them was sold out. Even though the tours were running at 50 percent capacity because of the pandemic, it was clear that they were in high demand.

On this cold mid-February day, 20 people boarded the bus to head out to Hope Valley. About 95 percent of them were couples on their Tahoe vacation.

Everyone was cozy and quiet in the bus as we made our way out to Blue Lakes Road that was seemingly in its own little winter snowstorm; the surrounding terrain was blanketed in white.

A half-hour later, we filed out of the bus and stood in front of 30 to 40 snowmobiles. From here we broke off into groups and I met my tour guide, Paul Wright. He’s lived in South Lake Tahoe for seven years and has been a guide with Lake Tahoe Adventures for at least four of them.

Together we ripped along the flat and broad two-lane Blue Lakes Road, snowed over and closed to cars in the winter. We went through trees, climbed a small mountain and through a meadow where a scene in the movie “Die Hard 2” was filmed. Wright pointed out a mountain that looked like the Matterhorn. We rode 5 miles to Benny’s Cabins, named after the original landowner who eventually sold the land to the U.S. Forest Service. The cabins were featured in the movie “Misery.” It’s still a working ranch in the summer and deer/steer crossing signs marked the roadway.

Riding a snowmobile with heated throttle grips through this pristine landscape on a snowy day with a great guide was an adrenaline rush in itself, but there’s so much more to take in. Wright pointed out Lower Blue Lake, his favorite summer camping spots and miles of dirt roads by Tamarack Lake where he likes to take his motorcycle once the snow melts.

Hope Valley Campground near Upper Blue Lake does seem like a good place to take a staycation.

“You can fish, paddleboard, it’s a nice little escape for us locals,” Wright said.

As we followed Carson River, he pointed out where the Pacific Crest Trail passes through, and we stopped to make vertical snow angels in a good-sized snowbank.

It snowed the whole time and riding through fresh powder was amazing. Wright said that on clear days, the majestic mountain range that surrounds Hope Valley is reminiscent of European Alps, unlike anything else you’ll see in Tahoe.

Two hours later, we were back at the snowmobiling staging area and I was surprised to learn that we had traversed 20 miles. The whole experience seemed surreal, getting the amazing opportunity to take in Hope Valley via snowmobile. I couldn’t stop my ear-to-ear smile throughout the entire ride — even if it meant eating a snowflake or two. |