Hike of the Month: Skiing Down Frog LakeTMR Team, February 1, 2021 in Hike of the Month
While the backcountry huts aren’t open this winter, day use of the property is available. Backcountry skiers, snowboarders and cross country skiers will have a few different ways to access Frog Lake. All the routes listed in this guide have some degree of avalanche hazard, requiring proper avalanche education and equipment. Check Sierra Avalanche Center before heading out. There are numerous private properties in the area as well, so please consult a map and pay attention to signage so as to respect those property owners.
Castle Peak Trailhead (3.5 miles one way, 1,500 feet gain, 1,100 descent)
This route begins at the Castle Peak Snowpark located on Boreal Ridge Road off of Interstate 80. A Snowpark permit is required for parking at this location, which can be purchased at several area outdoor stores.
Starting from Castle Valley Road head north for a short distance before turning east in the Castle Valley Meadow toward Castle Creek, where there may be an open water crossing depending on conditions. Continue on rolling terrain north, ultimately gaining an open broad ridge that leads up to the farthest Castle Peak pinnacle to the east of the true peak. Continue east along the ridge from Castle Peak to Frog Lake Cliff.
The terrain gets steep and complex at this point with numerous avalanche hazards. The most straightforward route heads north at Frog Lake Cliff, wrapping around the northern ridge of Frog Lake with different options generally getting easier the farther west you go to the low saddle in the ridge. Pick the best option for avalanche conditions and your abilities and head down to the lake.
Johnson Canyon Trailhead (4.5 miles one way, 1,900 feet gain, 650 feet descent)
Our Wendin Way Trailhead in the summer, Johnson Canyon offers a mostly below treeline option following the route of a dirt road up the canyon toward Summit Lake to the west. A notch in the terrain at about 2 miles in allows you to continue north, contouring the upper headwaters of the South Fork of Prosser Creek. You’ll see the steep south-southeast slopes that gain the ridge accessing Frog Lake on the other side. Contour east and then climb the Southeast-east aspects of Frog Lake Basin to reach Frog Lake.
Donner Summit Rest Area (3 miles one way, 1,450 feet gain, 1,050 feet descent)
Parking at the Westbound Donner Summit Highway Rest Area is subject to California Highway Patrol regulations, so check on the acceptable duration for leaving your vehicle, or get dropped off, if using this option. No overnight parking is permitted.
Head north toward Castle Peak, contouring east to gain the ridge before reaching Castle Peak itself. Follow the ridge east to reach Frog Lake Cliff. The route down is the same as the Castle Valley route listed above.
The good news is that Frog Lake, along with neighboring properties we protected at the same time, is open to the public to enjoy this winter! Unfortunately, our hopes of opening our backcountry huts this winter aren’t coming to fruition quite yet, so overnight visits will have to wait a little while longer.
Our architects, engineers, and contractors made incredible progress this summer and fall on the planned renovation of the Eschenbach Stone House along with the new Albert M Rockwood Bunkhouse, Ted R. Hut and Morgan Family Hut. But recent storms have slowed that progress enough that we won’t be ready for prime time this winter.