As anyone coming up to Lake Tahoe from sea level knows, that first day of hiking above 6,500 feet is a pant-inducing endeavor. But did you know that you (and your dog) can “cheat?”
At Northstar California and Squaw Valley USA, both you and your four-legged friend can get a ride to the ridgetops on dog-friendly conveyances that put you in the center of the scenery for the price of a lift ticket. And you’ll have lots of choices once there.
Lifts at Northstar, a four-season mountain resort off Highway 267, operate in summer primarily to serve an extensive mountain bike park. But you don’t have to pack a bike to access the terrain. Hikers and dogs are welcome to ride in enclosed cars on the Big Springs Gondola, Highland and Zephyr Express lifts, the latter of which lands riders just a short hike from the Tahoe Rim Trail, a 165-mile path encircling the Tahoe Basin.
Food and beverages are available on each end of the trip, and while there’s no dog-friendly lodging at the village base area, the Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe at mid-mountain welcomes canine guests, as do many vacation homes and hotels nearby. In addition, dogs are welcome to accompany their people on free guided hikes, geocaching excursions and summer movie nights sponsored by the resort, as well as star-gazing outings put on by the Ritz.
Lifts run daily through August 16 and weekends for a few weeks thereafter. Tickets are $13 for adults, $6 for children 5-12. Season pass-holders and kids under 4 ride free. Lift-and-lunch passes are $24 for adults, $16 for children. Dogs of any age ride free, making this an affordable outing the whole family can enjoy.
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. It’s a pricey outing at $34 (purchased in advance online) for adults, $22 for youth and seniors and $10 for children, but for a small stipend you can add access to the fabulous swimming pool and giant hot tub up top. You’ll find many hiking choices here as well, along with a dog-friendly, high-altitude restaurant where furry companions are welcome to join their owners at tableside.
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 and snag an inside lounge chair within petting distance (don’t forget a collapsible water bowl). Use your judgment when deciding to leash or unleash when hiking at Squaw. It's not required on national forest land, but this is rugged terrain where dogs can disappear from sight in an instant. And besides, a lot of visitors don’t like wet-nose kisses.
If you’re considering when to visit, mark your calendar for live-music Bluesdays Tuesdays, scheduled through early September at the base-area Village at Squaw. The dog-centric Peaks & Paws Festival benefiting the Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe is set for August 22 this year. Many restaurants at both Northstar and Squaw sport dog-friendly patio seating.