Hiking is hands down one of the best forms of exercise: It’s low-impact, making it a great choice for skiers and boarders with troubled knees, builds hamstrings to help protect the ACL (again—a bonus for those ‘skier’s knees’), boosts your heart rate so you get a cardiovascular workout and it’s meditative and serene, allowing you to enjoy delightful scenery and breathe the fresh air of the woods. An added bonus: You don’t need any special equipment, save for a sturdy pair of boots or trail shoes, some breathable layers and if you need a little extra traction, one or two retractable walking poles. Done.
Now for where to go: Squaw Valley and the Lake Tahoe region is a hiking mecca—literally a trekker’s dream. Pristine mountain vistas and views of the shining lake are hard to beat, and there are multiple trails to enjoy, for hikers of all levels and ages.
Squaw Valley also makes it easy to hit the trails, by offering free guided hikes with the purchase of an aerial tram ticket. First, you can enjoy the scenic ride to High Camp, and then you and your family can join a guide and walk along the 1.5-mile High Camp Interpretative Trail. Trips leave twice, daily, and the hikes depart High Camp at 12:30 and 2:30 PM, Friday through Sunday.
Five other hikes to try:
High Camp Loop (approximately 1 mile, easy to moderate) From High Camp, traverse to the top of the Links Chairlift before looping down through the upper mountain’s open bowls back to Hight Camp. (This hike is a beginner ski and snowboard area in the winter.)
High Camp to the top of Squaw Peak (approximately 2.2 miles, 600’ elevation gain, moderate to challenging) Follow the trail from High Camp, past the Gold Coast lift and up to the top of the Palisades for a view of the Granite Chief Wilderness.
High Camp to the top of Emigrant Chairlift (approximately 1.5 miles, 500' elevation gain) This trail offers stunning 360 degree views of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding peaks. The historic Watson Monumnet is located near the top of the chairlift.
High Camp to Shirley Lake & down Shirley Canyon (approximately 4 miles, moderate to challenging) This lovely half-day hike will have you meandering through a mountain canyon dotted by waterfalls and granite boulders. (Most describe this hike as ‘epic,’ and find it takes three hours. Of course, you can swim in the waterfall pools and stay as long as you like!) Start on either the Shirley Lake trail (a dirt road) or the Solitude trail (a single-track trail) and when the trails meet and you reach Shirley Lake, either hike back to High Camp and ride the tram down, or hike down the canyon. **This trail can be a bit hard to follow, so when walking down, remember to keep the creek on your left and follow it until you reach the base of the mountain. There are also some steep sections through the granite, so boots with ankle support are highly recommended.
Thunder Mountain Trail (approximately 4.5 miles, moderate to challenging) This hike is perfect for exploring Squaw Valley, and goes from the base up to High Camp. Start at the bottom of the KT-22 lift and walk towards the wide bridge, which marks the start of the route. You’ll see the trail indicated by blue markings, and continue from there up the mountain to just below the paintball fields at High Camp.
**The Thunder Mountain Trail crosses the summer construction access road, so be sure to watch for vehicles and machinery traffic. Do not hike along the summer construction access road, as it is closed for pedestrians.
If you are staying at Squaw Valley, you’ll also have access to dozens of other scenic Lake Tahoe hikes (like the Five Lakes Trail from Alpine, and more around the Granite Chief Wilderness) to try. Click here or visit squaw.com for more hikes, information and to download a hiking map.