A List of the Best Summer Hikes at Lake Tahoe Ski Resorts

Claire Weiss |
Base-to-base gondola from Five Lakes trail. PC: Claire Weiss

While we are waiting for winter to return, it’s fun to explore the summer look of your favorite mountain you’re used to seeing covered with snow.

If mountain biking isn’t your thing, fear not; here’s your guide to the best hikes around Lake Tahoe’s ski resorts:

Palisades Tahoe – Olympic Valley:

  • Shirley Canyon is probably one of the most gorgeous hikes around Lake Tahoe. If you’re not staying at PlumpJack Inn or one of the condos, park at the Village parking lot and walk to the trailhead. It’s considered a challenging hike as after a few miles through the woods you will need to navigate the granite slabs to Shirley Lake. Follow the blue marks etched on the granite to stay on course. Conditions are now prime on the trail, with raging waterfalls and wildflowers blooming everywhere. From the lake, you can either turn back or continue the trek to the resort’s summit and take a tram ride down to the Village.
Squaw creek (Shirley canyon trail) PC: Claire Weiss
  • Granite Chief is another great trail leading to the ridge of Granite Chief Peak and intersecting the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Follow PCT southward to reach your favorite Granite Chief lift ski area. Beware of the creek crossing along the trail.
View of Silverado area from Granite Chief trail, June 2023 PC: Claire Weiss

Palisades Tahoe – Alpine Meadows

  • Five Lakes trail starts at a cross-section of Alpine Meadows Road and Deer Park Road and goes up beneath the base-to-base gondola and across the valley into Granite Chief wilderness. You can see the top of the KT22 chair and even the McConkey Eagle from the trail. Continue through the woods to reach the lakes, where you can cool off in their refreshing waters. For more adventure, continue through the meadows and connect with the PCT heading towards the summit of Summit Six chair. Look into the bowls you used to ski, like Estelle bowl,  Beaver bowl, or hike up Idiot’s Delight. From there, you can either hike back down the same route or you can continue the journey to Palisades Tahoe via PCT and descend the Granite Chief trail to the Palisade Tahoe Village.
Estelle lake, June 2021. PC Claire Weiss

Northstar at Tahoe Ski Resort

  • Sawmill Lake trail  – it’s a  short and mellow trail ( ~2 miles out and back ) from the mid-mountain lodge. Ascend to the mid-mountain either on foot or via gondola from the Village. The trail traverses through the woods, and there is no problem finding shade on a hot day. The trail leads to a charming alpine lake, privately owned yet accessible with a special fishing permit. Don’t miss a few interesting information stands along the route. Did you know that Mount Pluto is an extinct volcano that erupted approximately two million years ago and formed a volcanic dam on the north side of Lake Tahoe?
Under Village chair, Northstar. PC: Claire Weiss
Sawmill lake. PC: Claire Weiss

Heavenly Mountain Resort

  • Heavenly Valley Ski Resort trail (California side) is a delightful 7-mile moderate hike. You will pass under First Pride, Gunbarrel Express (remember those huge moguls last winter?), and Aerial Tram to reach the Observation Deck. Traverse upwards, crossing under Patsy and Powderbowl Express to finish the loop. There are lots of wildflowers and vistas along the trail.
  • Kingsbury Grade to South Camp Peak trail (Nevada side) – relatively short, moderate, and highly favored by Alltrails users hiking with their dogs! The trail starts at the base of Stagecoach (no lift lines!) Hike up a few switchbacks and then merge with Tahoe Rim Trail at the junction. It will lead you to Van Sickle Trail towards Heavenly Gondola. 
Under Heavenly Gondola. PC: Claire Weiss
Lake Tahoe view from Van Sickle trail. PC: Claire Weiss

Kirkwood Ski Resort

  • Snowkirk, Caples Crest, Vista, and Lower Corral loop – it’s a moderate 4.2 miles hike with 850 ft elevation gain. Start at the bottom of Solitude, hike up, and pass under The Wall and Reut. Continue beneath Snowkirk and ascend to the bottom of Caples Crest. From there, venture on a loop to the top of Caples Crest, providing a view of the mountain’s backside.
Wildflowers, Kirkwood PC: Kirkwood ski resort

Sugar Bowl Ski Resort

  • Mt Judah loop trail is a ~5-mile scenic hike that starts near Donner Pass trailhead. While popular and possibly crowded on weekends, the hike rewards with great views and lots of wildflowers. You can hike clockwise or counterclockwise, passing beneath Mt. Judah Express and Jerome Hill Express. Ascend Mt. Judah and reach the top of the Summit Chair for amazing views. Don’t miss the hike to Donner Peak for fantastic vistas!
Under Mt Judah Express chair, July 2019. PC: Claire Weiss
Waiting for snow at the top of Summit chair. PC: Claire Weiss

Mt Rose Ski resort

Though there are no official trails on the resort, numerous trails are nearby. Remember that Mount Rose Resort is located on Slide Mountain.

  • Galena Falls is relatively short (~5 miles out and back) and a popular route. This season with such an enormous snowfall, the trail was not accessible until recently, but it dried out completely, and you probably won’t see any snow patch along the trail. 
Galena Falls, July 2023. PC: Claire Weiss
  • Mt Rose Summit – if you’d like a more challenging route, you can summit Mount Rose itself. It’s a pretty but strenuous hike (~10 miles out and back). From the top, you can see your favorite runs on the NorthWest side of the resort. There are a few streams and a lot of wildflowers along the trail. Starting at approximately 9,000 ft elevation, this area is an excellent escape from the summer heat, as long as you’re acclimatized to the altitude.
Lake Tahoe view from Mt Rose Summit. PC: Claire Weiss
View of the Northwest area of Mt Rose ski resort from Mt Rose Summit. PC: Claire Weiss
Wildflowers along Mt Rose trail. PC: Claire Weiss

Diamond Peak Ski Resort

  • Diamond Peak hike is a relatively short (~2.5 miles) hike to the top of Lakeview quad, where you can enjoy panoramic Lake Tahoe views from the deck of Snowflake Lodge.
  • Folsom Camp loop – a 6.3 miles route starting at the resort, ascending to the top of the Ridge chair, and following along the ridge to Tyrolean Downhill, a famous bike trail, but an early start will help you avoid the bustling bike crowd.
Snowflake lodge. PC: Diamond Ski resort

Homewood Ski resort

  • Quail lake vista trail offers beautiful views of Quail Lake and Lake Tahoe. Homewood, situated closest to Lake Tahoe, provides easy access from the parking lot to Homewood Marina. You can rent kayaks or SUPs there or swim in Lake Tahoe.
Quail lake. PC: SierraSun

Sierra-At-Tahoe Ski resort

  • Sayles Canyon loop – it’s a 6 miles loop that starts near Twin Bridges and goes up to the Base area of the resort and then veers along Easy Street to the top of Rock Garden, crossing Nob Hill, then merges to Bryant Trail and goes down and crossing West Bowl under W Bowl Express and Poma. Due to the Caldor Fire in August 2021, approximately 80% of the resort was affected, and you’ll encounter some burned areas along the trail.

If you are missing, skiing – Mammoth Mountain is still open until August 6th. So, come for a few laps of summer skiing. If you’re lucky, you will watch World Cup champion Mikaela Shiffrin training on the race course near Chair 23.

Mikaela Shiffrin training at Mammoth, July 30th, 2023. PC: Claire Weiss

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