Spring And Summer Means Great Hiking In South Lake Tahoe.
Even better these hikes are minutes from our condo in Bavarian Village. Both hikes are located near Ski Run Blvd. and Pioneer Trail. First of all, make sure you have proper footwear, plenty of water, use and apply sunblock, and remember to dress according to changing weather conditions. A good sun hat and sunglasses are also a must. Make sure your sun hat has and attached chin strap so you don’t lose during windy days. Pack a lunch if you leave in the morning for a hike lasting more than three hours. Pack a beach towel to sit on during your break. Always take breaks during your hike to avoid overtiring which can lead to a slip or fall.
Proper footwear means hiking boots–not tennis shoes or sandals. Many trails are steep and can be treacherous! Rocks and downgrades are often slippery. Wearing the proper shoes is essential. I suggest high-top hiking boots which will prevent spraining an ankle. If you hike with kids please keep them close, especially on steep slopes. Make sure you take your cell phone with you with the battery charged in case of an emergency.
Also essential is plenty of water. We use plastic water bottles which can be wrapped in your sitting towels to keep the water cool. They are cheaper and lighter than purchasing heavier canteens. For longer hikes we use empty liter soft drink bottles. Taking too much water is much more advisable than running out of water at the end of your hike. Filling up your water bottles during your hike from streams is NOT recommended due to parasites often found in mountain streams.
Walking sticks: they take much of the pressure off your knees, especially on downgrades. They are also great for “pushing off” as you hike up steep grades. We also found they are great for keeping your balance on rocks or slopes. If you have used ski poles they make great balance sticks. I made our own walking sticks from dried (straight) pine branches found on some of our hikes. I sanded and stained them and formed finger troughs for easy grips. Once you get used to a walking stick you will never go hiking again without one.
Dress for the weather: Spring can mean cooler temps. The same is true for summer days in higher elevations. It could be 74 degrees at the lake elevation and below 50 at the mountain top. Dress in layers. On warmer summer days shorts are a must while spring may require long pants and jackets. Dress in layers so you can adjust to the weather.
Our Two Favorite Hikes
Just minutes from our condo and east of the Nevada state line is Van Sickle State Park. The park is located just behind the Stateline theaters and is adjacent to the Raley’s shopping center. The trailhead is located about 1/4 mile past the entrance on the right side of the paved road. Adjacent to the trailhead are water, restrooms, and a picnic area. This trail becomes steep halfway up the east side of the Heavenly Ski area and leads to several easier trails about a quarter way up. The more level mid-height trails are great for easier hikes. Spectacular views of the casinos and the west side of Lake Tahoe await you as you hike further up from here. As you reach the halfway point view the fire damage left by a careless smoker who flicked a cigarette out of the Heavenly Tram causing a massive fire in 2003. Reforesting this area continues through today.
As you walk further up you will find views like the one above. In the spring, nearing the top and heading east towards Kingsbury Grade you will pass a flowing stream. Use caution as you cross the stream over the rocks and then take a break using the cold water from the stream to refresh and rest. Do not drink the water. The steep uphill grade levels off after the stream as you head east to Kingsbury pass. Enjoy spectacular views of all of South Lake Tahoe from here.
Known Only To Locals: The Powerline Trail
Lets keep the secret! Not many tourists know about this hike. Enter the trailhead by driving to the top of Ski Run Blvd. Turn right on Saddle Road. Park legally a block or two from the trailhead. Hike west as this trail goes for at least eight miles following SLt power poles. Make it a day-long hike or turn back whenever you like as the rail winds into hidden valleys and steep ravines. The hike is mostly flat but there are some steep hills. About two miles in you will pass great lake views and homes built to the east of Pioneer Trail. Depending on the time of year you will pass two flowing creeks. When you reach Cold Creek you are about four miles in. Enjoy the call of the Blue Jays and the warm Sierra sun. Also, keep watch for mountain bikers as they sometimes come around curves at high speeds. Also more prevalent are coyotes, both in the populated areas of South Lake Tahoe and in the foothills where you are now walking. If you see any wild life be sure to slowly walk away as they likely do not want to see you.