2020-2021 Trailhead Parking Update

As the 2020-2021 ski season swings into full gear, there are increasing reports coming in from around the Tahoe Basin of parking tickets and towing occurring at popular trailheads. As such, TBA is providing some “Do’s and Don’ts” for backcountry trailhead parking. This list is by no means comprehensive and research should be conducted ahead of time to understand the local parking restrictions of where you intend to ski. Parking appropriately goes beyond just avoiding tickets. Search and Rescue equipment and personnel may be called upon to perform a rescue at any time. Illegally parked cars pose a safety liability for all involved. 

The Tahoe Backcountry Alliance is hard at work improving the access for backcountry skiers throughout the Basin. That process usually involves large amounts of planning and coordination with multiple agencies, stakeholders, and land owners.  We will continue to work with the community to find solutions to the increasingly complex problem of winter parking in the Basin. In the meantime, we ask that the backcountry community parks legally, mindfully, and with care. Coordinate and carpool whenever possible, using COVID considerations. There is public parking available at Truckee Donner community rec. center and Tahoe City Transportation center. Consider door to door micro transit options such as the Tahoe Sierra Transportation Company for trailhead access. 


General Guidelines:

  • Roadside parking is illegal throughout the Tahoe Basin and will most likely result in ticketing and/or a tow. Remember that snow plows are active for days after a storm and if parked cars block their activities, they will respond with a call to the sheriff or CHP. Please help by parking off the road in approved parking areas only. Do not park in areas that have not yet been plowed.
  • Parking on the shoulder of the road behind the snow clearing posts is still within the county snow storage easement and could result in ticketing and/or plowing in.  Again, the safest bet is to park in approved trailhead parking areas only.
  • If your preferred destination trailhead is full, please head elsewhere. Blocking in other vehicles or parking along the road is both a safety concern and poor etiquette, often leading to conflicts. Be courteous.  
  • Please do not park in homeowners driveways regardless of the current occupancy situation. TBA is hard at work establishing or improving existing trailhead access and it makes our task that much more difficult when homeowners associate backcountry skiers with people that park in their driveways. Again, this will most likely result in tickets and/or a tow.


Parking Etiquette Reminders:

  • Assess the standard at that parking area (What are other people doing? Straight in, angled or parallel to direction of traffic? If you’re the first, what would fit more cars?
  • Just because other people are parking there doesn’t mean it’s legal.
  • Have an exit plan from your spot.(Is there enough room in front of you? Did you leave enough room behind if you need to back up?) 
  • Park as close as safely and reasonably possible to other vehicles in order to maximize the number of parking spots.


Specific Parking Considerations:

  • Rubicon Peak: At this time, there is no legal parking to access Rubicon Peak. Backcountry skiers are being ticketed aggressively this winter. 
  • Ward Canyon: At this time there is no confirmed legal parking to access public lands from the Ward Canyon trailhead. 
  • Donner Summit/Castle Peak: Currently, the only legal parking for the Castle Peak area is at the Sno-Park location. If the spaces are full, we advise finding another spot to tour. This location is experiencing very high volumes of users and ticketing is occurring for illegally parked vehicles. 
  • West Bound I-80 Rest Area: In the winter the Rest Area is patrolled by CHP. This location is popular for snow play visitors and many rescues occur here annually as folks sled into the ponds behind the rest area. As such, CHP is diligent in enforcing the “No Snow Play” parking rules. In addition, during heavy snowfall, CHP’s priority is keeping spaces available for truckers. Parking here for backcountry skiing is risky–we receive mixed reports of ticketing each season– but this location makes a perfect drop off location for future transit or carpool options.

Be safe, have fun, and here’s to a great backcountry season!

The Voice Of Tahoe’s Human-Powered Winter Backcountry Community.