Van Vleck Storm Shelter


Difficulty 3 Intermediate
Length 4.8 miles round trip
6500 feet
+850, -850 feet
Navigation Road, marked trail and map
Time Most of a day
Season Late December through early April
Snowmobiles Not permitted [Please report illegal use of snowmobiles in this area.]
USGS Topo 7.5' series, Loon Lake
Start Junction of Ice House Road and snow-covered road to Loon Lake Campground. From Highway 50 turn north onto Ice House Road. Drive 24 miles to the intersection where you must turn right to stay on Ice House Road. Turn right and continue for 4.4 miles until you reach the snow-covered road to the Loon Lake Campground. This location is 0.9 mile before the Loon Lake Chalet.


The Van Vleck Storm Shelter, at the junction of the routes to the Van Vleck Bunkhouse and Shadow Lake (the tour to Shadow Lake has not been created yet — stay tuned), is an interesting destination for intermediate skiers. The tour passes through a wide variety of terrain and provides a place to get indoors if the weather is inclement.

Image of Van Vleck Storm Shelter
Van Vleck Storm Shelter

The shelter was constructed in the summer of 2002 with support from the Sacramento Backcountry Skiers, the El Dorado Nordic Ski Patrol, Snowlands Network, the Nordic Skiers of Nevada County, the Sierra Club, the California Department of Parks and Recreation, and the Forest Service.

The shelter is small and not constructed for planned overnight use. It is the above ground structure from a cast concrete vault toilet — without the toilet. That caused more than one person to exclaim, "it's a no shit shelter."

Mileage Log
Numbers in parentheses
correspond to mileage points on map

Miles: 0.0 - 0.4
Elevation change: -50 feet

From the trailhead (1) ski northeast on the snow-covered road for 0.4 mile until you reach the sign marking the Van Vleck turnoff (2). This tour follows the trail that heads east from the sign to the Van Vleck Bunkhouse while other marked trails continue straight ahead.

Miles: 0.4 - 1.3
Elevation change:+150, -150 feet

Ski east and then southeast for a total of 0.9 mile until you reach a bridge (3) across the South Fork of the Rubicon River. The bridge is an old railroad flat car.

Following the marked route in this section makes navigation through the non-descript, tree-covered terrain much easier. If you didn't have the markers you would first travel east toward a small ridge (it looks like a knob from the direction you approach it) and then you would travel around the south side of the ridge and descend to the bridge.

Miles: 1.3 - 1.8
Elevation change: +300 feet

Ascend the slope to the southeast for 0.5 mile until you reach a landing (4). The landing is an obvious cleared, flat place.

Miles: 1.8 - 2.4
Elevation change: +200 feet

Ski east and then southwest on a snow-covered road for a total of 0.6 mile until you reach the Van Vleck Storm Shelter (5) at a road junction. The road to the east heads toward Shadow Lake and the road continuing south leads to the Van Vleck Bunkhouse.

Miles: 2.4 - 4.8
Elevation change: +200, -650 feet

Retrace the route for 2.4 miles back to the trailhead (1).

Alternate Route

The following is an alternative to the descent from the Van Vleck Storm Shelter to the South Fork of the Rubicon River via the narrow road, which is often icy after trodden by skiers and snowshoers. It also offers skiers a wonderful opportunity to carve turns between scattered trees.

This route leaves the road a short distance north and below the Van Vleck Storm Shelter. Ski northwest and then north until you intersect the road once again a short distance south of the South Fork of the Rubicon River. If you are too far west you may miss intersecting the road and instead intersect the river in which case you must ski east to the bridge across the river.

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