Snow Mountain


Difficulty 5 Advanced
Length 14.6 miles round trip
6100 feet
+3000, -3000 round trip
Navigation Road, marked, map and compass
Time Very long day
Season Late December through early April
Snowmobiles Low
USGS Topo 7.5' series, Soda Springs, Royal Gorge
Start Intersection of Troy Road and Old Highway 40. Exit Interstate 80 at Kingvale, turn west (left) onto Old Highway 40 (located on north side of the interstate), drive 0.5 mile to Donner Trail School, continue 0.1 mile to Troy Road, turn left onto Troy Road, and park. The tour begins on the south side of the interstate which is accessible by an underpass.


Towering 4000 feet above the "Royal Gorge" of the North Fork of the American River, Snow Mountain commands a 360-degree panorama. Ski to the southeast end of its ridge and you look straight down to the river below. On top of that, the route to Snow Mountain is truly superb and worth the trek regardless of whether you actually reach the peak.

The tour to Snow Mountain is very difficult, much more so than its 14.6 miles indicate. The need to continually navigate by map and compass, rocky terrain, and lots of elevation gain make it only suitable for strong, advanced skiers. But the rewards are unbelievable for those that make the journey.

Mileage Log
Numbers in parentheses
correspond to mileage points on map

Miles: 0.0 - 0.1
Elevation change: +50 feet

From the trailhead (1) ski southwest on the snow-covered road for 0.1 mile until you reach a road junction (2). This junction may be difficult to see if the railroad has plowed this first section; look carefully above the berm for a road heading south (left). Do not be discouraged if this first section is in poor condition; the snow-players do not venture far.

Miles: 0.1 - 0.7
Elevation change: +250 feet

Turn south (left) and follow the road for 0.6 mile until you reach the railroad tracks (3). Unless you are looking hard, you will not notice that you pass one road on your right in this section.

Take off your skis and cross the railroad tracks. Be aware that in heavy snow years the banks on both sides of the tracks can be difficult to negotiate. You may find a shovel useful.

It goes without saying that you should exercise extreme caution when crossing the railroad tracks — use both your eyes and ears.

After crossing the tracks, locate the extension of the road on which you have been skiing. It is marked with a sign indicating the start of the High Loch Leven Lake Trail. That ski trail is described in the High Loch Leven Lake tour.

Miles: 0.7 - 0.9
Elevation change: +100 feet

Ski southwest, at first on either the marked trail or the re-aligned road and then on their combination, for a total of 0.2 mile until you reach an obscure road junction (4). The junction is located approximately 100 feet before the sign indicating that you should turn right.

A great deal of change has occurred near the road junction since the trail was first marked in 1991. The trail sign marks where the trail used to turn onto Royal Gorge's Rainbow Interconnect Trail. They no longer groom the that trail and it is now over-grown so it is preferable to turn at the actual road junction. However, that junction is partially over-grown and some care is necessary in locating it.

In the "good-old days" you would be signaled that you had past the road junction when you encountered one of Royal Gorge Cross Country Ski Resort's warming huts. It no longer exists.

Miles: 0.9 - 1.0
Elevation change: +100 feet

Turn southwest (right) onto the lesser road and climb for 0.2 mile until you reach an obscure fork in the road (5). The fork is located where the road you are skiing on becomes significantly more steep.

Miles: 1.0 - 2.0
Elevation change: +150 feet

Veer south (left) onto the lesser road, descend into the creek drainage, and follow the drainage south for a total of 1.0 mile until you reach Nancy Lake (6). The road soon disappears, and you follow the creek and the drainage to the lake. Although you can ski on either side of the creek, crossing it where snow-covered, you should definitely move to the east (left) side of the drainage as you approach Nancy Lake. There is a vertical wall on the west (right) side of the drainage as you approach the lake. The tours to Peak 6893 and Matrimony Ridge are located along the top of the wall.

Miles: 2.0 - 2.3
Elevation change: Nil

Ski south for 0.3 mile until the terrain opens and becomes filled with a jumble of granite boulders and cliffs (7) that make skiing difficult. Where the terrain opens, Snow Mountain is visible for the first time.

Miles: 2.3 - 2.7
Elevation change: +100, -50 feet

Leave the drainage, climb onto a shoulder to the southeast, and then descend for a total of 0.4 mile until you reach a creek (8). In low snow conditions, even this route is not much fun, but it is the best alternative. You will get your first view of the Big Granite Creek drainage to the west from the shoulder.

Miles: 2.7 - 3.0
Elevation change: +200 feet

Cross the creek and climb southeast for 0.3 mile until you reach a flat area (9). Nearby is Devils Peak and in the distance to the north are Castle and Basin peaks. This climb marks the beginning of great ski touring terrain.

Miles: 3.0 - 3.2
Elevation change: Nil

Ski southeast for 0.2 mile until you reach a lake (10) near Peak 6979.

Miles: 3.2 - 4.0
Elevation change: +50, -250 feet

Continue south, hopefully picking up the road, and
descend for a total of 0.8 mile until you reach the east side of Huntley Mill Lake (11). Near the lake you will probably lose the road.

Miles: 4.0 - 5.4
Elevation change: +650 feet

Climb south, picking your route through trees and open areas, for 1.4 miles until you reach the saddle (12) south­west of Peak 7380.

Miles: 5.4 - 6.5
Elevation change: +650 feet

Climb southwest and then south on a broad spur for a total of 1.1 miles until you reach the northwest end of Snow Mountain (13).

Miles: 6.5 - 7.3
Elevation change: +50, -350 feet

Ski southeast along Snow Mountain's broad, flat ridge for 0.4 mile and then descend for 0.4 mile until you reach the cliff (14) above the "Royal Gorge" of the North Fork of the American River. There is a patch of trees at the end of the ridge where the cliff is located.

Miles: 7.3 - 14.6
Elevation change: +650, -2350 feet

Retrace the route for 7.3 miles back to the trailhead (1).

Elevation Profile
Elevation profile
Link to elevation profile
Link to waypoint data
Link to full page map
Link to see and submit reviews and corrections about tour