Alpine to McKinney Tour

  Blackwood Canyon from Barker Pass
Bob & Blackwood Canyon from Barker Pass
This long 2-day tour is actually doable as two separate very long day-tours. I did one of them on 4/20/98, starting early at Alpine Meadows, dropping down the drainage to Diamond Crossing, up to the Pass, and then out back to Tahoe via Barker Pass and Blackwood Canyon. And we did the other portion on 3/18/00, skiing up General Creek to near Richardson Lake, and then around to Barker Pass and Blackwood Canyon.

This isn't an exciting tour (use touring skis, not tele skis), but the valleys between Five Lakes and the Powderhorn Creek are quite scenic, as is the area back around Barker Creek (including some unique views of Desolation Wilderness peaks to the south). Nice and remote. So if you're looking for solitude in the greater Tahoe area, this is the place (I saw no ski tracks or snowmobile tracks during significant portions of my tours, just a lot of bear tracks).

Let's take it from the start: The tour starts just before the entrance to the Alpine Meadows parking lot; follow the drainage westward to Five Lakes. From Five Lakes, follow Five Lakes Creek downstream southwest, then south, about 5 miles to Diamond Crossing. Stay to the left of the creek, and not far from the creek. From the big meadow called Diamond Crossing, head southeast, then south, up along Powderhorn Creek about 3 miles to an unnamed pass at about 7700'. From this pass, traverse eastward about a mile over the next ridge, and then drop down into the northeast end of Barker Meadow. If you've made it this far on Day 1, congratulate yourself and set camp.

From Barker Meadow, ski southward along Barker Creek about 2 miles until Barker Creek turns west, then continue another mile south and southeast, picking up a dirt road route that should take you eastward towards Miller Meadows. From Miller Meadows, follow a moderately popular XC ski route via McKinney Creek to the McKinney/Rubicon trailhead, near Lake Tahoe about a mile or two south of Homewood.

Some options on this tour:

Parking is an issue at both ends of this tour. You could park for the day at Alpine Meadows, but not overnight. At the other end, there is no parking at the McKinney Creek trailhead. One option is to park 1.5 miles south at Sugar Pine Point State Park ($5/day). There is a SnoPark midway between the two ends of the tour, at the bottom of Blackwood Canyon (permit required; 916-653-8569). TART (916-581-6365, 800-736-6365) operates hourly bus service along the shore of Lake Tahoe, with transfer service every two hours until mid-afternoon from Tahoe City to Alpine Meadows.

This tour has the lowest average elevation, 6900', of the 24 tours in the series. Diamond Crossing is actually lower than Tahoe's lake level. Thus, I wouldn't plan on doing this tour much past February or March in a normal year (though I had plenty of snow the whole way in April '98). Due to the length and remoteness of this tour, you also don't want to attempt it unless you have favorable weather and reasonable snow conditions.

 Previous Tour  Ski Tour Index  Next Tour

General info and disclaimer about backcountry skiing

Go to Home Page