Incline Ridge

  Sierra Dog
Sierra Dog overlooking Washoe Lake

  David Schneider teles
David Schneider teles some nice powder south of Diamond Peak resort
This tour is a sweet one, great snow, extraordinary Lake Tahoe and desert views (sometimes simultaneously), pretty much no snowmobile activity, and not too many people even know about it! With an average elevation of just over 8000', this is a fine route for mid- to late-winter; past early March you'll start to lose coverage lower down. There is plenty of parking at the start of the tour. You should also be able to park around the end of the tour.

The finishing trailhead is at Tunnel Creek. This (hopefully) snowcovered dirt road meets the highway on the north side of where the highway crosses the actual Tunnel Creek (not 1 mile north of there as the old 15' map indicates). To get there, take highway 28 to 2 miles southeast of the Country Club Drive intersection in Incline Village (or, 1 mile southeast of Ponderosa Ranch). There is no parking right at Tunnel Creek, but there may be some cleared roadside parking about 1/3 mile to the north, or maybe about 1/3 mile or so north of that. Be sure to park off of the pavement and watch for "no parking here" signs; also note that the scenic overlook to the south is not OK for ski parking. If you're finishing the tour at Diamond Peak resort, then of course you could park there (don't make it obvious that you're doing a backcountry tour).

Start at the popular meadow skiing area, Tahoe Meadows, just south of Rose Summit on the highway that connects Reno with Incline Village. Head generally southeast for a couple of miles through somewhat convoluted terrain, countouring around several peaks, ridges, and southwestward gullies, until you reach the ridgecrest with a view of the desert basin and Washoe Lake. You should reach this ridge around a 9050' unnamed peaklet.

  Tunnel Creek
Descending Tunnel Creek into Lake Tahoe
From here, very generally follow the ridge southward for two miles to the top of the Diamond Peak downhill ski area. If you want, you can wrap up the tour quickly from here by descending the resort slopes to the parking lot.

The more interesting option is to continue south along the increasingly sharp ridge, for a little over two more miles, towards peak 8703'. You'll want to stay on the lake side of the ridge for about a mile south of the resort's ski lift, and then cross over to the east side of the ridge. At some point near where the ridgeline starts to rise again (up to peak 8703'), start traversing down the east-facing slope to an 8000' saddle. Don't drop down too soon, as the lower slopes are steeper. Pop over that saddle into the Tunnel Creek drainage, and descend to the Tunnel Creek road route, which follows the north side of the actual creek. Ski Tunnel Creek road down to where it meets the highway.

Another option is to drop off the ridge to the southwest soon after Diamond Peak, towards the Mill Creek drainage. This route offers some decent slopes for a short while, but the terrain quickly turns difficult (dense trees and rocks) below 8000'. Also note that the lower mile and a half or so of this drainage is all private property owned by the Ponderosa Ranch resort, and yes, we found that they really do patrol it. So if you do this route, be sure to traverse northwest back into Diamond Peak ski area, starting your traverse around 7600', and entering the resort around 7300'.

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