Living so close to the California border here in Carson City, many of the best snow play areas in the Sierras are just across the state line. If you’ve driven the mountain passes, you may have seen the SNO-PARK signs at the more popular recreational areas like Hope Valley and Carson Pass. Last winter I was unfamiliar with the SNO-PARK program, and unfortunately ended up avoiding snowshoe destinations in California. This year I did some more research, and have already bought my permit. All we need now is some more snow!
Here’s what buying a permit will get you. At each SNO-PARK, visitors have access to snow-cleared parking lots and restrooms, accommodating self-guided activities such as snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and general snow play. Snowmobiles seem to be the only activity that isn’t allowed at all sites.
A SNO-PARK permit is required for each vehicle parked at a SNO-PARK site from November 1 through May 30 of each year. Permits are sold as Day Permits or Seasonal Permits by permit vendors throughout northern California. Day permits are sold for $5.00 and are valid for one single day. Season permits are sold for $25.00 and are valid for the entire SNO-PARK season from November 1 through May 30.
We found our season permit locally at the Carson City Ranger Station, located at 1536 South Carson (where Stewart Street joins HWY 395). There are a few other locations in the area to purchase permits, and they are also available by mail. So if you plan to explore the Sierras this winter, don’t be unprepared without a permit. Check the SNO-PARK location map, so you don’t get all the way to your destination and find you have nowhere to park. The permits are much cheaper than the fine.
For more information, here is the official California SNO-PARK page.