Squaw Valley USA's iconic cable car offers what is perhaps the most dramatically scenic mechanized mountain high at Lake Tahoe. Many passengers in the stand-up conveyance experience vertigo as dizzying panoramas pass before and beneath them during the 2,000-foot vertical ascent. At the top is High Camp, a sports complex with swimming pool, ice-skating rink, umbrella bar, tennis courts and restaurant.
High Camp is a great place to hang out and enjoy the views, but it's also the jumping off point for a web of hiking trails that lead around a wildflower-strewn meadow, over a ridge into a vast wilderness area and down Shirley Canyon to the base-area Village at Squaw and pet-friendly Plumpjack Squaw Valley Inn. At 8,200 feet and more above sea level, none of it comes easy, but all of it is beautiful.
DogTrekkers who would like to use High Camp's pool and hot tub complex 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 near the water, but they can be leashed to the fence 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 to keep Fido comfortable while he waits).
Should you choose to arrive by foot, allow about four hours for the strenuous, four-mile hike up Shirley Canyon. Unless you're a trail runner with serious confidence in your ankles, the hike down requires just slightly less time. Much scrambling over exposed granite slabs is involved, so pay close attention to ensure your dog's feet don't get blistered. Use your judgment when deciding to leash or unleash. It's not required on national forest land, but this is rugged terrain where dogs can disappear from sight in an instant.
With food and beverage available on both ends of the trip, a day at High Camp is one of the most rewarding summer experiences at Tahoe. As always at Squaw, active military and four-legged hikers ride free.
Word to the wise: Call about weather conditions before making the trip.
Photo:"Squaw's Iconic Cable Car" - Janet Fullwood