Outside with Charlie: Squaw Valley

By From page B2 | September 20, 2011


Squaw Valley is a great outdoor recreation area year-round — summer hiking is as good as winter skiing.

Skiers at Squaw Valley are familiar with the Shirley Lake Express run. It is one of the best hikes — instead of skiing down to Shirley Lake, you hike up to it.

The resort is located between Truckee and Tahoe City. The Shirley Creek trail head sits at the junction of Squaw Peak Road and Squaw Peak Way.

The trail is relatively well marked with blue blazes, although some are quite faded. The trail is sketchy in places but is heavily walked most of the way so it is easy to follow. When in doubt, follow the blue blazes.

The trail is roughly parallel to the creek through a beautiful forest floor and over some rocks and boulders. Take time to explore the short side trails. There is still quite a bit of water in the creek — usually it’s almost dry this time of year, especially in the lower reaches.

Look at where you’ve been periodically to see what the return trip will be like and for some great views into the valley.

The hike is a little over two miles. Not everyone continues past the boulders that indicate you are just about there. Keep in mind that if you go up and over the granite to the lake, you have to come back down. Stopping at this point is perfectly OK.

The hike along the stunning creek with the views, the wildflowers and even some waterfalls is gorgeous. Negotiating the boulders to Shirley Lake is worth the effort. It’s a small, photogenic lake and there usually aren’t a lot of other hikers — fewer now with schools back in session.

If you have the legs and lungs for it, you can hike up the access road from the Shirley Lake Express Chair to High Camp, the most demanding segment. It no longer costs anything to ride the cable car back down to the village — but do make sure the cable car is actually running.

If you take your dog, take dog-poop bags, use them and take them back with you. There are no dog-poop fairies to do it for you.

This hike requires sturdy hiking shoes or boots. Hiking poles are a plus. It is somewhat strenuous but not overly so. Take enough food and water for the day, sunscreen and a hat. Plan on spending around four to five hours, more if you go to High Camp.

Weather can change quickly in the mountains. Check the forecast and be prepared.

Stay outside!

Charlie Ferris

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