Squaw Valley on the Cheap!

Yes! We still exist! And we’re still excited about bringing Bay Area Outdoor family adventures to YOU! And also to YOU!

But yeah. It’s been a little bit of a moment. However, we HAVE had some solid adventures in the past month that we want to bring to you, most notably the discovery that you CAN explore the hitherto-luxurious Squaw Valley for a much cheaper price than you might have previously imagined. Or, at least, a cheaper price than *I* had imagined. And with another month of summer ahead of us, I highly recommend trying to get in a family overnight or more up in Squaw Valley for not-so-much cash.

IMG_6932How can you do this, you ask? We spent a weekend in Squaw in June and did some recon. Let’s consider our options.

IMG_6915First, lodging. If you have an extra $200-800, then by all means, stay in the Village at Squaw Valley. I’m sure it will be delightful. (If you’ve got even more to burn, invite us. We’d love to experience the Village.) If you’re like us, we don’t have an extra $200-800 to burn. However, there are THREE campgrounds within 15 minutes of Squaw Valley that are $22/night. Granite Creek, Goose Meadows and Silver Creek Campgrounds sit between Highway 89 and the Truckee River. Are they luxurious? Nope. Do they have showers? Nope. Things they do have? Proximity to Squaw Valley, for considerably less than $200, and proximity to the Truckee River. This means that you (including Fido– campgrounds are dog-friendly) can absolutely get yourselves clean-ish (albeit quickly– the river was not exactly warm when we were there in June, and no soap in the river, please), and then you can relax in rather spacious, beautiful campsites, for a fraction of the cost of Squaw Valley proper.

IMG_6916Then activities! Clearly Squaw Valley is a hiking mecca in the summer. If you just want to experience trail beauty, the Granite Chief trail (above) is stunning. If you’re trying to do something epic, you can actually take this trail all the way to Truckee (about 15 miles away), but I wouldn’t recommend that for the tiny kiddos. However, because the Granite Chief trail follows Squaw Creek for a bit and then climbs to amazing views, you can bite off just as much as you think your hikers can do, and you’ll have an amazing time. You can relax by Squaw Creek if your hikers aren’t up for epic miles, and you can get all the way up to the Pacific Crest Trail (or even longer) if they are. The Granite Chief trail and the Shirley Lake trail (discussed below) both start near Squaw Village.

IMG_6935Another exciting trail for hikers that are a little more advanced is the Shirley Lake trail up to High Camp (pictured above). Just as an aside– this trail is not, in fact, “easy to moderate,” as advertised on several websites. It’s “moderate to challenging.” Yes, it’s fairly short– about 3.5 up to High Camp, but it’s 2.5K feet of elevation gain in those short miles, so it’s a climb All The Way. I did it with the almost-four year old, and thanks to the power of 400 Gummy Bears, she made it…. but it wasn’t an easy hike. Let’s be clear about that. The MOST AWESOME thing about this trail though, is that if you make it up to High Camp, you can take the Aerial Tram down for FREE, and your dog can come too!! This was a highly motivating factor for the small hiker. I’m not going to lie– looking out of the tram to see craggy mountains under you and the blue of Tahoe out in the distance? It’s great no matter how old you are.

Got bikes? Tahoe has an amazing bike path that goes from Squaw Valley to Tahoe City and then continues a ways along the Lake in either direction. Lots of bike rental places are available but again, this is Squaw Valley on the cheap, so I’m assuming you’ll be trying to save money and bring your own bike.

If your kids are a little older, and you’re there during the week, you can bring your yoga mat and throw down for a few sun salutations for FREE in the middle of Squaw Village every Wednesday evening! (Or you could talk one of your party into watching the younger set and go loosen your joints up yourself!) Thursday evenings, they show a free, family-friendly movie outdoors.

With all the money you’ve saved, you can feel not-ridiculous about eating at one of the fairly overpriced restaurants in Squaw Village. Or, if you still feel ridiculous, you can go back to your campsite and make some delicious s’mores and feel smug about your adventure that cost so much less than what people are paying just a paltry few miles away. (As an aside, you probably are better off going in to Tahoe City for groceries.)

Seize the remaining summer weekends! Or get crazy and head up during the week– there are still Saturday night campsites and lots during the week.

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