SNO-PARKS – Park and play in the Sierra Nevada

One of my favorite things to do during the winter is to get out on a snowshoe hike with my friends and our dogs. We are quite the parade – generally three women and at least three dogs, all barking and romping around like they’ve never been outside before (the dogs, not the women). We are always out for a few hours, but nothing too strenuous – the point is to be outside, catch up on conversations, and let the dogs tire each other out. Living in the Sierras, there are plenty of places to go, but for the easiest parking, coordinating meetups, and toilets, we love our local SNO-PARK.

outdoor winter activities in the Sierra Nevada

Snowshoe hiking with friends and dogs. | Photo credit

SNO-PARKS are some of the most accessible spots for outdoor winter activities in the Sierra Nevada. There are 18 SNO-PARK sites throughout the Sierras that provide snow-cleared parking lots, toilet facilities, and access to snow play areas, snowmobile trails, and cross-country ski and snowshoe trails. These are popular spots, and they tend to fill up quickly on weekends – be prepared to get there early for the best chance of parking.


SNO-PARKs are identified by distinctive brown signs along highways. | Photo Credit Michael Perry via Flickr / Licensed under CC by 2.0

Activities vary at each location, and depend on the amount of snow. All sites are suitable for a snowball fight, and most are good for making snowmen and sledding. Cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and dog sledding are popular as well, but check in advance if the SNO-PARK nearest you allows snowmobiles. Bring your dog, but be sure they are under control both in the parking lot and out on the trails. Also, please bring your own poo bags to pick up after your dog.


You will need to display a SNO-PARK permit when parked at a SNO-PARK site from November 1 through May 30 of each year. Purchase your permit before arriving – permits are not for sale on site. You can purchase Day Permits ($5) or Seasonal Permits ($25) online or from permit vendors throughout northern California. Any vehicle parked at a SNO-PARK site without a permit properly displayed is subject to a $75 fine.

Take time to plan your trip – your common sense, skill level, use of proper clothing, and respect for the terrain and weather all affect your safety. Check road conditions, and keep a shovel and chains in your car in case snow impacts road conditions. Traveling in avalanche terrain? Check the avalanche forecast, and bring the basics – beacon, shovel and probe – along with the knowledge of how to use them.

And have fun!

Click here for a map and listing of all SNO-PARKS or select from the gallery below:

California State Parks OHMVR Division SNO-PARK Locations | Purchase Permits Online | Purchase Permits from Local Vendors