Hiking Lake Tahoe’s Shirley Canyon

One of the hands-down best parts of living in northern Nevada is the access it offers to the Lake Tahoe basin. Case in point? Shirley Canyon. It’s considered one of Tahoe’s most beautiful half-day hikes, complete with tumbling waterfalls, a lake, stunning wildflowers, striking granite boulders, clean mountain air, and endless vistas. Here’s what to know about hiking Lake Tahoe’s dog-friendly Shirley Canyon.

Getting Started & What to Expect

Trailhead access can be found at the end of Squaw Peak Road, with road-side parking. Look for the big sign and trail map. It’s three miles to Shirley Lake, and another two miles to High Camp, with an overall elevation gain of 2,000. That means it’s considered a relatively challenging trail, and you should plan at least three hours for the round-trip hike.

Make sure to pack sunscreen, sunglasses, and a good hat, since this trail will take you between shaded and sunny patches. Wear sturdy hiking shoes, since you’ll be scrambling over some steep, rocky sections. You’ll also need water. While your four-legged friends can stay hydrated from the creek, you shouldn’t do the same. And don’t forget the snacks!

Keep the creek on your right as you reach the Shirley Canyon waterfalls — you’ll see three along the trail. Yellow or orange poles along the trail will keep you on track, but just remember to keep the creek on your right when you’re hiking in. About 2.5 miles in, you’ll hit giant granite slabs. You may need to scramble a bit on all fours to get up and over. This is sunny and relatively steep, but there are some trees along the side if you need a break. It’s a good opportunity to check out the wildflowers!

Once you’ve made it to the lake, feel free to take a dip — but fair warning, it can be chilly. Once you’ve rested, pick up the trail where you left it, and head uphill. You’ll hit a fork, with options to continue on the Shirley Canyon Trail or take Solitude Trail, but both are roughly two miles and lead to High Camp. Here, you can enjoy the cafe, take in the bird’s eye views, and hitch a complimentary lift down the mountain on the tram.

This is a fabulous way to spend half a day, and whether you’re escaping the hustle and bustle of the Bay Area or getting out of Reno, hiking Shirley Canyon is truly a breath of fresh air.

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