Chickadee Ridge is a short and sweet snowshoe with the added bonus of interacting with wildlife. I snowshoed this quick 2-mile trail for the first time earlier this week and fell in love with the adorable Chickadees that will eat birdseed straight from your hand. This is a great beginner snowshoe, so if you are new to the activity and enjoy wildlife, give this trail a try!
Length: 2.1 Miles
Elevation Gain: 351 ft.
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Trail Type: Out and Back
Features: Lake views & wildlife
Water on Trail: No
Dogs Allowed? Yes
The hike to Chickadee Ridge is a one of the most popular snowshoe spots in North Lake Tahoe, and for good reason! The trail itself is fairly easy and offers a rewarding view of Lake Tahoe with the unique experience of interacting with Chickadees.
My group started our snowshoe in the meadow next to the parking area. It was pretty windy when we arrived (I’d advise checking the ridge winds before heading out), so we headed straight for the trail in the trees to try to block us from the gusts. As I mentioned above, the area is extremely popular and because of this there are typically many snow tracks and a variety of trails heading out towards the ridge. If you just head in the general direction of the ridge, you can’t get too lost, however I used the AllTrails app to ensure we were on the correct path.
For most of the snowshoe, you will meander through the trees where you may see a handful of other snowshoers and cross country skiers. From the start the trail is fairly flat with just a slight incline. The true elevation gain doesn’t happen until just before the ridge, and even then the ascent isn’t too steep. When you arrive at the ridge, you will see a beautiful view of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding mountains and you will start to hear the chirp of the Chickadees.
To interact with a Chickadee simply go near a tree where you hear them and see them flying around (it will be pretty obvious). While near the tree, put some birdseed in your hand, hold it out flat, and wait quietly. Within moments you will have a few birds fly down to snack on the seeds in your hand. I got nervous when the first one landed on me, jumped a little and scared him off. Try not to do that! This is also a great photo opportunity, so have your camera ready before you pull the birdseed out. 🙂
When you are done hanging out with the Chickadees, just return on the same route that you came from. The snowshoe back is even easier because it’s slightly downhill. Plus, you will be giddy from interacting with all the cute little birds.
Before heading out on this trail, I wasn’t sure if we would be see any Chickadees, but we were lucky enough to interact with roughly 50-60 of them. Since this was my first time on this trail, I don’t know if interacting with that many of the cute little birds is common or was unique to when we arrived. I’ve heard other people mention seeing 10-15 of them, but the number we saw was just remarkable.
A few tips for getting the most out of this experience:
- If you plan to bring your dogs, just be aware that they might make interacting with the Chickadees a little more challenging. We brought our two Goldendoodles on our snowshoe and while they are well behaved and barely paid attention to the Chickadees, I did notice the birds acting a little skittish around them. I had my husband walk our dogs about 50 yards away and then we had a lot more Chickadees approach us.
- Bring bird seed! We purchased Chickadee specific bird seed from our local Ace in Truckee and it worked great in luring the birds us. Also, if you want the Chickadees to land on your hand, make sure not to drop the birdseed on the ground. We found that if there were seeds on the ground, the birds were way more likely to go for those rather than risk coming to us directly.
- If you are nervous, wear gloves. The Chickadees little claws definitely take a minute to get use to (they don’t hurt, just feel a little weird), so if you’re feeling a little apprehensive about it, just keep your winter gloves on. My sister did this and it didn’t detour the birds from coming to her.
- Go during the week. This is a super popular snowshoe and it gets busy on the weekends. You will have the best experience if you pick a sunny weekday for this activity.
The trail starts in the Tahoe Meadows off of Mt. Rose Highway 431. We parked here, which is also the parking area for the sled hill on the other side of the highway. There may be several cars parked in this area, even on a weekday, but don’t be alarmed as most will be there for sledding. If you bring your dogs, keep them on leash until you’re on the trail as the parking area is right off the side of the highway and drivers go pretty fast in this area.
Happy snowshoeing! 🙂