Northstar California is a ski resort near Lake Tahoe that opens over one hundred miles of ski trails to hikers and mountain bikers every summer. While parking at the base level of the resort is free, many of the hiking trails can only be accessed via the ski lifts, which cost $16 per person to ride in the summer. The resort also sells several summer vacation packages, from a $30 lift-and-lunch package to full weekend adventures with lodging and other amenities.
At this pawriffic resort, dogs not only can stay overnight in luxurious dog-friendly rooms, they can ride the lifts—for free! The Big Springs Gondola takes pups and humans from the base level of the resort to the main lodge. From there, the Zephyr Express whisks hikers to the higher trails, which feature amazing views of the Sierra Mountains and Lake Tahoe. From this level, you can reach another dog-friendly trail not operated by the resort, the 165-mile long Tahoe Rim Trail.
From month to month, hours vary. Lifts may be open daily or only on weekends. Northstar posts updated information about the status of the lifts and hiking trails regularly on their website. Their website also features detailed maps of which of the dozens of trails on their property are open to hikers. Many are set aside for mountain bikers only, while others are multi-use, and a few are only for hiking. Make sure you check before you head for a trailhead, and be ready to move aside for cyclists on the multi-use trails.
One of the most popular hiking trails at Northstar is the out-and-back Sawmill Lake Trail that begins at the end of the Big Springs Gondola ride. The hike is a little over a mile each way with moderate elevation gain and leads to a beautiful alpine lake. If you and your pup are bursting with energy and looking for a longer route to Sawmill Lake, you can take the Village Run Trail from the base level of the resort to the same point where the Big Springs Gondola lets off. You'll gain 500 feet over the course of your mile-long hike.
On the highest level of the resort, at the end of the Zephyr Express ride, you'll find the Sunset Loop, a scenic half-mile hike with amazing views of the Pacific Crest and informational kiosks where you can learn about the ecology of the area. For a more strenuous hike, take the spur off of the Sunset Loop trail to reach the trailhead for Watson Lake. You'll gain over 1,000 feet of elevation over the course of the six-mile hike to scenic Watson Lake and pass intersections with several other trails, including the Tahoe Rim Trail. A moderate option is the 2.4-mile Lookout Trail, which begins near the exit of the Zephyr Express lift. With only a few hundred feet of elevation gain, you'll be able to enjoy expansive views from the top of Lookout Mountain.
Whether you're looking for luxurious lodging or no-frills hiking, Northstar is a great place to bring your pup for summer adventures.