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Caples Lake to Emigrant Lake

Located In:

9.6 miles out-and-back.

Difficulty Level:
Moderate to hard.

Photo by Craig Cooper.


Know Before You Go:
This is a snowshoe hike in wintertime, which adds to its difficulty; come prepared with snowshoes, gaiters, plenty of warm layers (including a windbreaker), sunglasses, and ample water. Don’t cross frozen lakes unless you’re familiar with how to protect yourself, and download the map beforehand, as service wanes. A permit is required from the Carson Pass Management Area. Finally, remember to Leave No Trace.

Fuel Up:
Enjoy no-frills American fare (burgers, sandwiches, chili cheese dogs, etc.) and $3 Modelo drafts in relaxed mountain environs at 7800 Bar & Grill ( sited at Kirkwood Mountain Resort.

Photo by @heyexplorers


Why We Love It:
A challenging snowshoe adventure in the mountains is always fun; and, when the snow melts, the area boasts some of the Sierra’s best wildflower blooms.

How to Cross a Frozen Lake

1] Check with locals. Area authorities should be able to tell you current safety conditions.

2] Carry “ice claws” in an accessible pocket. These will help you pull yourself out from freezing water and onto the ice if you take an unexpected polar plunge.

3] Tread lightly and keep your distance. Wear skis or snowshoes and walk with at least 15-25 meters between your partners so you don’t all fall in if the ice breaks.

4] Check ice thickness frequently. Every 150 feet or so, use an ice axe to break through it and test thickness. If cracking occurs, return to shore. Blue ice is safest; white ice indicates melting and more dangerous conditions.

If you fall in, stay calm, ditch the skis/snowshoes, swim to the edge, and use your ice claws to help you up while kicking hard. Once enough of you is on the ice, stay in a lying position and roll yourself away from the breakage. Seek dry clothes, shelter, and hot water immediately.

Photo by Lynn Ramos @exploring_with_five_kids


by Ryan Martinez
Photo 1 by Craig Cooper. Photo 2 by @ryder_from_down_under. Photo 3 by @heyexplorers. Photos 4 and 5 courtesy of Alpine County Chamber of Commerce. Photo 6 by Lynn Ramos  @exploring_with_five_kids.