Orion Trail - Inner Loop


Difficulty 2 Beginner-intermediate
Length 2.8 miles round trip
6500 feet
+300, -300 feet
Navigation Road and marked trail
Time Several hours
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 Loon Lake Campground. This location is 0.9 mile before the Loon Lake Chalet.


This, the inner of two loops that make up the Orion Trail, is a rare opportunity in the Loon Lake area to enjoy a loop through varying terrain. Along the way, there will be vistas to the south and one of stark Loon Lake to the north and below.

Image of Loon Lake
Loon Lake

This tour is rated beginner-intermediate because it is relatively short with modest elevation change. However, keep in mind that this tour would be significantly more difficult if it were not for the blue diamonds and signs that mark the trail. Therefore, it is important to keep track of the markers and turn back if you can't find the next one.

Time permitting, more accomplished skiers should consider the longer Orion Trail tour that includes both the inner and outer loops that make up the trail. It offers wonderful terrain and scenery as it winds it way to and returns from the base of Brown Mountain.

Image of Brown Mountain
Brown Mountain from outer loop

The Orion Trail was conceived and planned by dedicated members of the El Dorado Nordic Ski Patrol and marked by the Patrol and volunteers from Snowlands Network.

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 toward the Van Vleck Bunkhouse.

Miles: 0.4 - 0.9
Elevation change: +50 feet

Ski east for 0.5 mile until you reach a trail junction (3) where the Orion Trail branches off from the Van Vleck Bunkhouse trail. This junction is marked with a sign. You have passed the trail junction if you find yourself descending to the Rubicon River.

Miles: 0.9 - 1.4
Elevation change: +150 feet

Veer left at the trail junction to continue on the Orion Trail, and follow the marked trail as it loops east and then north of 0.5 mile until you reach a ridgetop (4). At the ridgetop you will encounter another signed trail junction. The Orion Trail's outer loop and Brown Mountain are to the east (right), and the continuation of the Orion Trail's inner loop and the trailhead are to the west (left). This is a wonderful place to enjoy a snack or lunch while enjoying the scenery.

Also noteworthy is another vantage point along this section of the trail. As the marked trail starts to turn north and head up a shallow gully, there is a low-lying ridge to the east (right). A short detour onto the ridge will afford you a good view to the southeast.

Miles: 1.4 - 2.0
Elevation change:
-200 feet

Turn west (left) and follow the marked trail as it first passes on level terrain to the north of a broad high point and then drops for a total of 0.6 mile until you reach the snow-covered summer Wilderness trailhead (5). It is in this section that you will have a view to the north of barren Loon Lake. An outhouse may be visible at the trailhead.

Miles: 2.0 - 2.1
Elevation change: Nil

Ski on the snow-covered road to the southwest for 0.1 mile until you reach a road junction (6). To the north (right) is a summer campground and the tour continues to the south (left).

Miles: 2.1 - 2.3
Elevation change: -50 feet

Turn south (left) and follow the snow-covered road as it loops south and then west for 0.2 mile until you reach another road junction (7). To the north (right) is the boat ramp and the tour continues to the south (left).

Miles: 2.3 - 2.8
Elevation change: +100 feet

Turn south (left) and follow the road as it turns southwest for a total of 0.5 mile 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