Tahoe is at its glorious best in summer, and the hike up Shirley Canyon to the High Camp recreation complex at 8,200 feet is a classic. It’s also one that demands extra considerations if you’re trekking with a dog. The steep, 4.4-mile climb gains 2,000 vertical feet to reach the goal, hugging a crashing stream all the way.
Your pup doesn’t have to be leashed in this rugged terrain (use your judgment, as dogs can disappear from sight in an instant), but it’s mandatory in summer to get an early start so her paws aren’t fried on hot rock. Unless you’re a hard-body trail runner, allow three to four hours for the high-altitude trek.
Shirley Creek cascades from the top of the trail to the bottom, filling a lake along the way and providing lots of lap-and-splash opportunities for your pup. Follow the blue blazes spray-painted on granite slabs to stay on course, and stop at the lake for photo ops and maybe a cool-off dip. In August, the impossibly scenic route is made even more gorgeous by the sight of delicate wildflowers sprouting from cracks between boulders.
Once arrived at High Camp, you have several options, including a web of trails leading around a verdant meadow and into the peaks beyond. Those who want to use High Camp’s pool and hot tub complex ($10 for adults, $5 for kids, changing room and towels provided) should arrive early to nab a table and chairs in the far corner of the patio area, next to the back gate. Dogs aren't allowed inside the fence, but they can be leashed to the other side and remain within petting distance while their lounge-lizard owners soak up some rays or take a dip (remember to bring a collapsible water bowl for your fur buddy).
The pool complex includes a colorful umbrella bar, while outside the enclosure is a patio restaurant where your dog is welcome to lounge at your feet as you chow down on barbecue or what have you. After the respite, you and your pup can get a free ride down on Squaw’s iconic tram (alternatively, you can skip the hike up and pay $49 for a round-trip ride).
What to bring:
• The usual sunscreen, drinking water and pickup bags
• Money for the pool, bar and restaurant
• Swim suits for the humans
• Long leash (not retractable) or rope for tethering your dog while you chill at the pool
• Collapsible water bowl
• Dog food if you plan to be at High Camp during normal feeding time
• Booties for the dog if hiking during the hot time of day
Tip: You don’t have to commit to hiking all the way to High Camp. The waterfalls and swimming holes encountered about a mile from the trailhead are so picture-perfect you might decide to splash, play and call it a day right there. You’ll find plenty of places to eat in the nearby Village at Palisades Tahoe.
Directions: From the Palisades Tahoe parking lot, walk down Squaw Peak Road and find the trailhead on the left as the road curves to the right.
Photo Credit: @maevethegreatwith28