Gabe on Northstar Lake
Sure, you can hike your way up to Sierra Nevada ridge lines, but in North Lake Tahoe, you can also “cheat” and get a lift. Northstar California and Squaw Valley USA are kicking off their summer seasons early this year due to the light snow pack, and at both resorts, dogs are allowed to ride up with their people on designated lifts.
Northstar opens its hike and bike park on June 7, with scenic lift rides priced at $10 for adults, $5 for children. Dogs of any age ride free, making this an affordable outing that the entire family can enjoy. Hop aboard the Big Springs Gondola for a scenic ascent to mid-mountain, then amble over to the Zephyr Express lift serving the mountain-bike crowd. Hikers with dogs (who must be leashed) are ushered into enclosed gondola cars for the next stage of the journey. From the top of Zephyr, the six-mile Watson Lake Loop connects with the Tahoe Rim Trail encircling the Tahoe Basin. A pretty alpine lake at the summit makes a nice place to paws for a splash and a snack. Or, save your appetite for a sit-down meal in the base village. Rubicon Pizza Company makes delicious pies served at dog-friendly patio tables, and other options are available, too.
Over at Squaw Valley, dogs are welcome to accompany their people on the iconic cable car that makes a dramatic, 2,000-foot ascent from the base area to the High Camp recreation complex at 8,200 feet. A round-trip ticket this year is $32 for adults, $25 for young adults and seniors, $10 for kids—and free for four-legged passengers of the canine persuasion. Plan to make a day of it. You’ll find many hiking choices here, along with a swimming pool and a dog-friendly restaurant where furry companions are welcome to join their owners at tableside.
For a relatively easy workout (not that anything is easy when coming straight from sea level to 8,200 feet!), follow a loop trail leading through gentle bowls, or take the mile-long fork to the Gold Coast chair. From here, more strenuous options will take you as far as your legs and lungs care to go, with stellar views of Lake Tahoe popping up at every curve. Rover doesn’t have to be leashed, but do be considerate of other hikers if your pup is the type who loves to distribute wet-nose plants.
If that big blue swimming pool and colorful umbrella bar back at High Camp prove irresistible lures, you can leash your buddy to the outside of the fence, buy an admission ticket and snag an inside lounge chair within petting distance. If you plan to linger, we suggest bringing a piece of shade cloth to rig on the fence, along with a collapsible water bowl. The high-altitude sun, after all, can be as hard on dogs as it is on humans.
DogTrekkers are welcome to join in many activities at the resorts this summer. Check Northstar’s website for lift schedules and information on dog-friendly guided hikes, geocaching and family movie nights. At Squaw, live-music Bluesdays at High Camp are scheduled Tuesdays in July, while the dog-centric Peaks & Paws Festival is set for Aug. 24-25 in the base-area village.
Note, too, that you don’t have to pay to get to get to High Camp or to the top of Northstar; hiking trails at both resorts will get you there, too, and you can ride down at the end of the day.