Forestdale Creek


Difficulty 2 Beginner-intermediate
Length 3.2 miles round trip
7800 feet
+350, -350 feet
Navigation Road and marked trail
Time Several hours
Season Late November through April
Snowmobiles Not permitted when sufficient snow is present at the Hope Valley Sno-Park at Blue Lakes Road for snowmobiling. This means that the area is closed to snowmobiles nearly the entire snow season. [Please report illegal use of snowmobiles in this area.]
USGS Topo 7.5' series, Carson Pass
Start Red Lake parking area on Highway 88, 2.3 miles east of Carson Pass.


Forest Service adoption of the Alpine County Winter Recreation Project, a winter recreation use plan for the greater Hope Valley area, in the fall of 2007 brought new life to backcountry skiing in the Forestdale Creek area. This area was a long-time mecca for skiers seeking easy access, great snow conditions and solitude. That changed in the late 1980s or early 1990s as snowmobile use grew, the power of the machines increased, and the snowscape was quickly trampled and the solitude destroyed by their use in the area.

Part of the Project prohibits snowmobile use in the entire Forestdale Creek drainage, including along Forestdale Road, when there is sufficient snow at the nearby Hope Valley Sno-Park at Blue Lakes Road for snowmobile operation. This means that from early winter through most of the spring the Forestdale Creek area is off-limits to snowmobile use. Be aware that education of the snowmobile community to the change and compliance will be a process that takes time.

The terrain along the road that leads to the bridge across Forestdale Creek is quite level though there are small ups and downs that might challenge a rank beginner.

Upon reaching Forestdale Creek you can return or continue to explore the bowl that forms the headwaters of the creek without increasing the difficulty. It is an additional 0.75 mile over level terrain to the very head of the meadow area.

Intermediate skiers can climb past the bridge to Forestdale Divide that overlooks the headwaters. Intermediate skiers may also enjoy returning to the trailhead via Rabbit Ridge if snow conditions permit.

The bowl at the headwaters of Forestdale Creek is also well known for its excellent powder conditions mid-winter because many slopes are not touched by the winter sun. Equally as tempting for tele-skiers is the spring corn-snow found in the bowl.

The Alpine County Winter Recreation Project is the result of 17 years of relentless work by advocates for muscle-powered winter recreation that included two lawsuits. It goes without saying that you should be a member of Snowlands Network, the only advocacy group dedicated to representing your needs in California and Nevada, if you value winter backcountry solitude and outstanding recreation opportunities that is pollution-free and safe.

Mileage Log
Numbers in parentheses
correspond to mileage points on map

Miles: 0.0 - 1.6
Elevation change: +250, -100 feet

Locate Forestdale Creek Road and the trailhead (1) at the low end of the Red Lake parking area and ski south on the road for 1.6 miles until you reach the bridge across Forestdale Creek (2). There will be a meadow to the east (left) of the route for the first half-mile. Past the meadow you will climb gradually. Beyond the crest of the climb it is a short downhill run to the creek.

Cross the bridge and ski southwest (right) to explore the bowl that forms the headwaters of the creek if you desire to extend the tour.

Miles: 1.6 - 3.2
Elevation change: +100, -250 feet

Retrace the route for 1.6 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