The Kingsbury South to Star Lake hike follows nine miles of the South Shore section of the Tahoe Rim Trail, a 165-mile dog-friendly trail around Lake Tahoe. This is a challenging hike with significant elevation gain and steep ascents. It's also a longer hike, so it's a good idea to bring your camping gear and plan to stay overnight.
The Kingsbury South trailhead is a little more confusing to find than other Tahoe Rim Trail starting points, as it's located in a more densely populated area with many ski resorts. The parking lot is actually shared with the Heavenly Valley Resort's Stagecoach Lodge. Other than trail information, there are no amenities at this trailhead, though there are many shops and services in the surrounding area.
Despite starting in such a populated area, this is a less popular section of the Tahoe Rim Trail due to its difficulty and length. It's a perfect choice for fit pups and humans looking for some solitude. Bear with the trail section's awkward start under a ski lift through loose sand and mucky marsh—the rest is amazing. Once you get to the sign showing that you're nine miles from Star Lake, you'll start climbing through Jeffrey pine and red fir. Along the switchbacks are some boulders to scramble over.
As you continue climbing, you'll pass into taller stands of white and lodgepole pine. The views of the surrounding mountains and Carson Valley are spectacular up here. Then you'll descend through shady Mott Canyon, where there's another ski lift, as well as a meadow that's full of white and bright orange wildflowers during the warmer seasons. The scenery changes again as you climb out of the canyon on narrow singletrack along sheer granite ledges. As you leave tree cover behind, you'll emerge into high country where the panoramic views extend for miles. Pine gives way to sage and juniper.
At the end of the trail, Star Lake is an absolutely gorgeous sight, not just because of the way it's nestled into a bowl of mountains and surrounded by blazing pink wildflowers, but because of the relief you'll feel knowing you made it to your goal after so much uphill hiking. You and your pup may want to splash in the deep cold water or just sit back on the lake's rocky rim and take in the scenery as you enjoy a well-deserved rest.
The campsites at Star Lake are a perfect place to pitch a tent so you can start fresh the next morning for your nine-mile hike back. If you're an angler, bring your fishing gear—the lake is a popular spot to fish for brown trout. There's no better way to end your day than to cook a fresh-caught meal over a campfire to share with your hungry pup.