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Snowshoeing in Donner Memorial State Park

It's no secret that much of Northern California has been experiencing a long stretch of fairly dry weather. We could use a nice soaking (or three) in the Sacramento Valley and the snow pack in the Sierras is dwindling.That said, we still found a nice base of snow this weekend at Donner Memorial State Park for our first-ever snowshoeing adventure!


We decided to check out Donner Memorial State Park because the flat terrain seemed good for beginners. You can download the winter trail map here, if you're interested. From the Sacramento Valley, the park is easy to find and the trip only takes about an hour and a half, depending on traffic.

The park was covered in a beautiful blanket of snow and the two-hour nature walk was exactly what we were looking for. At the start of the Lake Loop Trail, we stopped to take photos and were treated to a bald eagle spotting:


Not a bad way to start the trek! The spring-like weather made for some slushy areas, but overall, the park was a perfect place to fall in love with a new hobby.


As we walked along, we came across this big fella:


No, my friends, this is not photoshopped. We found this double-headed tree just off the trail and could not stop staring!


It was even more impressive up close. I've seen trees grow together before, but the symmetry of this guy was something else!

The trail is a nice, easy loop that takes you along a short section of the south shore of Donner Lake. It was a beautiful place to rest for a bit, but I couldn't help wishing for a little more snow!


We ventured off the path several times to find some powder:


We've definitely found a fun outdoor activity in snowshoeing. As beginners, we weren't quite sure how difficult it would be to get started. Did we need lessons? What should we wear?

As it turns out, snowshoeing is super easy. I turned to the internet and found this somewhat cheesy video for beginners and this informative video for clothing advice. I opted to go with waterproof everything, since I knew I'd be getting into the snow to take pictures.


My husband, on the other hand, went with jeans, a few cotton layers and a waterproof coat because the weather was so mild. We were both happy campers, so I suppose the best advice is to bring lots of layers, know your body (do you run hot or cold?) and pay attention to weather conditions. Waterproof shoes (hiking boots or snow boots) seem to be the best investment since wet, cold feet can end an outdoor adventure pretty quickly.

We don't own snowshoe gear, so we borrowed what we could from a friend (thanks, Amy!) and rented the rest from our local REI store. After a little bit of research (read: we consulted the internet, friends and the nice folks at REI), we decided to go without snowshoe poles. The low snow pack and negligible elevation change on the trail meant we would be okay without them. Again, just take a look at the conditions and the terrain and decide what gear you need for your snowshoe adventures.


Your turn: Have any of you snowshoed before? What did you think? Any great trails we should check out? If you have advice for newbies like us, feel free to share your knowledge in the comment section!