Squaw Valley cable car takes you up 2,000 feet

 

Contra Costa Times

A clever way to reach High Sierra trails without wearing yourself out is to hop the cable car at Squaw Valley USA.

The sizable cable cars - like big walk-in closets with windows - haul you 2,000 feet over the stunningly steep granite face. It's quite a good ride.

Once you reach the top, the trick for hikers is to walk right on by the beckoning blue of the heated pool edged by landscaped boulders and little waterfalls.

And just keep walking when you see the sign for the spa. And no, you're not here to try out the ice-skating rink or eat in the cafe. You came to hike the high trails.

But first you do need to step out on the High Camp deck to catch a view of Lake Tahoe.

You'll also notice the flapping Olympic flags commemorating the 1960 Winter Olympics, for which Squaw Valley was constructed. There's a small Olympic museum downstairs.

But back to the trails. You can see them branching out; these trails are above timberline. There are some easy hikes, however, such as the one-mile High Camp loop that takes you to the Links chairlift. This trail traverses the beginner skier/snowboarder terrain, so it really is easy. Heartier hikers might want to head to the top of Emigrant Peak, a trek of approximately three miles. The 360-degree view at the top treats you to views of Lake Tahoe and surrounding mountains.

A nice thing about hiking here is that when you take the cable car down, you get to relieve hiker hunger with ice cream at Ben & Jerry's. Then you can just keep on eating _ though if you're staying here at the resort, it would be nice if you'd shower first. It's very pleasant to stay at a condo here in the summer _ the village is quiet and relaxed. Most pubs and restaurants are open, but the teeming crowds of winter aren't spilling out the doors.

Intrepid hikers can head back up to High Camp for sunset hikes, and, on the nights of July 29-30 and Aug. 27-28, for full-moon hikes.

But if you're there on Aug. 12, you'll just want to lie back and look at the sky. The Perseid meteor shower will be the guest performer that night. For a fee, campers can pitch their tents at High Camp and use the telescopes with the help of an astronomer.

Squaw Valley, like most of the Lake Tahoe area, wasn't in the path of the Angora fire. That occurred about 25 miles south of here.

___

HIKING HIGH CAMP

-Squaw Valley is five miles north of Lake Tahoe on Highway 89. 530-583-6985, www.squaw.com.

-Squaw Valley hiking center has information about High Camp hiking, including sunset hikes and full moon hikes. 530-583-6985, www.squaw.com.

-The cable car runs from 9:40 a.m. to 9 p.m. with cars departing every 20 minutes. Tickets are $20 general; $16 youths and seniors; $5 children 12 and younger. After 5 p.m. prices drop to $11 for all but kids, who pay $5. 530-583-6985, www.squaw.com.

Lodging:

-A High Camp package at the Resort at Squaw Valley starts at $86.50, the midweek rate for a one- night stay in a condo. The package includes two tickets for the cable car, plus use of the pool and spa. Weekend rates are higher; package is available until Sept. 3.

-Perseid meteor shower campout is at Squaw Valley High Camp on Aug. 12. The campout, which allows campers to pitch their tents at Squaw Valley's upper elevations, includes a night of stargazing with an astronomer. Cost is $70 general; $50 for younger than 18. No dogs or campfires. Limited to 50 guests; reserve by Aug. 5. 530-581-7110; www.squaw.com.

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