Go Take A Hike! – Part 1- Shirley Lake, Squaw Valley   1 comment

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No, I’m not trying to tell you to get lost. The high Sierra are filled with many wonderful places to explore the beaten or unbeaten paths, back country, hidden lakes, gorgeous waterfalls, or just enjoy nature while getting some exercise and fresh air.

One of the favorite hikes is what locals call the ‘Shirley Lake’ hike. Located at Squaw Valley, you can either take the tram up to the top and hike down (you’re now committed to doing the entire hike. No taxi to pick you up if you decide you’ve had enough fun halfway down), or you can start at the bottom and hike up as far as you like, and turn around when you choose to. (Take the road that is right of the tram building. Follow the road straight until you see some boulders in front of the dirt trail head veering off to your right. Follow until you meet up with the main trial head which will veer to the left and start rising uphill).

The bottom half of the hike is relatively easy, and even most kids can manage it. It’s the prettiest part of the hike as it follows Squaw Creek and there are waterfalls aplenty for most of the way…depending on what month you do the hike. Some years bless us with ample winter snowpack and the creek is flowing well into the fall. On years that mother nature gets stingy with the white stuff, the creek can stop flowing by August. Hike early in the summer and the water rushes and gushes. Later in the summer and you can hike up the middle of the falls while water gently flows around you.

Wild shooting star columbine surrounded by thimbleberry

Wild shooting star columbine and thimbleberry

Wildflowers greet you  throughout the hike. Look for columbine, penstemon, squaw carpet and thimbleberry, among many others along the trail.

Partway up the hike you enter the area we call ‘the enchanted forest’. Here the trees are thick and the area heavily shaded and mysterious. It has the look straight out of an illustration for any given book of fairy tales. One half expects to greet little red riding hood along the trail or a few pixies peeking out from behind the flora.

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The top of the hike is much more strenuous. Most of it is above the treeline, so it can feel pretty toasty up there on a hot summer day as you scramble across granite sheets of rock. Wear plenty of sunscreen. You’re at altitude and can burn easily here…and don’t forget plenty of water.

You eventually will come to Shirley Lake, which is at the bottom of one of Squaw Valley’s famous ski runs. After taking some time here to relax and catch your breath, hike the rest of the way up to Squaw’s high camp for some refreshments, swim in their pool,  and/or to take the tram back down. Make sure to bring money or a credit card. You’ll need to pay to use the pool or take the tram to get back to the bottom again. Otherwise you’re hoofing it all the way back down again.

 

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One response to “Go Take A Hike! – Part 1- Shirley Lake, Squaw Valley

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  1. Pingback: Your Summer Checklist – Part 2: Fun in the Sun | YOUR FRIEND IN HIGH PLACES

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