Cross-Country Ski to Drifter Hut

Rate this Adventure Lake Tahoe Tahoe Donner Cross Country Ski Area

  • Activities:

    Skiing, Snowshoeing

  • Skill Level:

    Intermediate

  • Season:

    Winter

  • Trail Type:

    Loop

  • RT Distance:

    9.6 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    980 Feet

Food Nearby
Forest
Groups
Scenic

Challenge yourself to 980 feet of elevation gain, then kick back in the warming hut at the top with incredible views of the Sierra Crest. 

Set out from the Tahoe Donner Cross Country center in Truckee at 6,650 feet elevation. Day passes range from $12 to $34, depending on time of day and skier age, and provide access to over 100 kilometers of groomed trails. 

Leaving the day lodge, there are multiple options for skiing up to Drifter Hut. A favorite route is to link up the Night Hawk, Little Dipper, Big Dipper, Boot Hill, Crazy Horse and Drifter trails. This route keeps you skiing on intermediate trails the majority of the way, until hitting the final pitch of advanced trail to the summit. Round-trip this route is roughly 15.5 kilometers (9.6 miles), though there are several options for longer excursions on both the uphill and downhill portions. 

Note: This is just one of dozens of routes to Drifter Hut through Tahoe Donner Cross Country. The trails are clearly marked with signs at intersections and trail maps throughout the ski area. Be sure to check the grooming status of the trails before heading out. 

Along the way, you'll ski through dense alpine forests until the woods open up while on the Crazy Horse trail (this is where the crowds, if there are any, usually thin out as well). The route gets progressively steeper as you climb, so remember to keep some fuel in the tank for the last few kilometers. 

After the final steep section through pristine snow fields, the trail levels out as you approach the Drifter Hut. The hut provides a welcome opportunity to rest your tired legs, have a snack, refill water bottles, and best of all enjoy the 360-degree views of the Sierra Crest. On a clear day, you can see across the valley to Donner Summit as well as Castle and Andesite Peaks. 

For a bonus ski, add the 3.3 kilometer out-and-back on The Far Side trail, which leaves from the hut. This additional jaunt rewards endurance-studs with yet another incredible view and photo opportunity.   

After the fun downhill, celebrate with an apres-ski beverage or a well-deserved, organic meal back at the lodge. This route, along with the entire trail system at Tahoe Donner, is available to snowshoers as well.  

Pack List

  • Cross country skis (skate or classic)
  • Poles
  • Tahoe Donner ski pass
  • Gloves
  • Sunglasses
  • Warm hat
  • Water
  • Snacks
  • Trail map
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Jenna Herzog

Writer, editor and photographer for all things outdoors and travel. Happiest when on the trail, photographing a sunset, drinking a beer or climbing on rocks.

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