August 16, 2015

Hiking At A Ski Resort

Ron: "What do you want to do for your birthday?"
Me, a few days later with internet info at the ready: "Let's take Rufus to Northstar and go hiking."
Ron: "Sounds great!"

Northstar Ski Resort is located just outside of Truckee, CA and is a 2 hour drive from our home through the Sierras and Tahoe National Forest.  It's a great place to go for winter activities like skiing, snow boarding and ice skating.  I had no idea it was also famous for summer time fun too.  Some of the more popular fair weather activities include golfing, mountain biking and hiking.

I had read on another website that there was a free gondola ride to the mid mountain lodge and from there we could hike many trails.  That's not entirely true.  Let me explain.  The Northstar pass for hiking is $13 per person and includes the gondola ride to the mid mountain lodge and also another lift (Tahoe Zephyr Express) located at the lodge to get hikers to the top of the mountain.  We went to what we thought was the Northstar gondola only to find out it is owned by the neighboring Ritz-Carlton properties.  THIS is the free ride I had read about :-)  However, it limited us a bit because we couldn't ride to the top of the mountain.

looking back down to where we started our ride
The gondola dropped us off at a very posh resort where the rich go to soak up sun and sit by the tepid waters of the resorts over-crowded pools.  We weren't ready to shell out $18 for a pulled pork sandwich however, so we made our way over to the nearby Lodge at Big Springs (owned by Northstar).   Once at the lodge we picked up a trail map and choose our route.  We'd hike to Sawmill Lake.  It's a quick 1.1 mile long trail with 530 feet of elevation gain.  After we satisified our hungry bellies with a tasty and filling lunch ($26 for a big burger, an even bigger chicken sandwich and a gatorade) we were off.

FREE charging station, one of two that I saw in the lodge

bikers on the left, hikers on the right

your bike goes up the mountain ahead of you, a worker at the top takes them off the lift
Before we left for our hike we put on Rufus's Ruffwear booties.  When we had Apollo he once nearly tore off a toenail simply trying to get up the embankment and out of the river.  It was quite painful for him to walk back to the car.  His toenail was removed and he had a bandage on his foot for 2-3 weeks while it healed.  That experience is not something we wanted to repeat!

found a big enough rock to sit on while putting on his booties

he practiced with them at home a few times, now for the real test...
follow the leader...

I feel like a dwarf among these giants

our trail went right past these fun slalom turns meant for the bikers
At first, I was in the lead with Rufus by my side.  We quickly discovered that Rufus would rather follow the leader so Ron went ahead of us.  The day was perfect: mid 80's, shady trail among the giant pine trees, a light breeze, quiet all around (we only saw three other people on the trail) and a beautiful mountain lake at the end of our journey.

Rufus ponders the lake water to decide if he wants to take a dip
Ron tosses in a few rocks to entice Rufus into the water
contrails from the planes working on putting out nearby fires

Rufus did go in the water for a brief moment-too quick for the camera! 

After a small snack we headed back to the lodge.  Funny how the trip back seems to pass by quicker than the trip out.  Back at the lodge we needed to decide how we'd get down the mountain.  We could either walk down to the car or walk back over to the posh resort with the free gondola ride down the hill.  We decided to walk the short 3/4 mile trail down to the base.

not a sound was heard from this little hiker on the ride home

All in all we ended up hiking nearly 5 miles.  Rufus was a tired pup!

What a great way to spend my birthday!!


  1. Looks like a great birthday hike! I'll have to check in on those hiking booties. Hurley has also torn off a nail while on our 5er steps. (now they have carpeted covers). Very painful indeed.

    1. They make different types of booties for different terrains. Be sure to measure Hurley's paws (front and back) because Rufus has smaller back feet than front feet. I called and spoke with someone at Ruffwear and she advised me what to get according to our specific measurements and needs. Hopefully Hurley healed quickly and is back to hiking and kayaking again!

  2. What a fun day in the mountains - glad it wasn't smokey! I need to get Tessa some booties. It's the one thing the vet recommended to avoid torn pads which take a very long and painful time to heal. Rufus looks like he took to them quickly :-) So nice to the have the trail to yourselves, clearly the bicycle trails would be much busier! Great pic of the three of you.

    1. We all had a fun afternoon! I just wish it wasn't so far away. I heard about a good hike in Auburn so I'll have to look that one up for a future hike. The booties worked great. We tried some cheaper ones from the pet store but they didn't stay on his back feet and they were simply too long for his scrawny legs. We did see or hear an occasional bike go past on a nearby 'bike only' trail but we choose a 'hiking only' trail for this adventure. Thanks!

  3. Wow - looks like a beautiful hike! Thanks for all the great info! We will have to check it out when we go west!

    1. The Sierra mountains are full of great places to hike. I thought this would be a good 'starter' hike for us as this was Rufus' first hike and we haven't been on the trails in a long time either...
      We're looking forward to more adventures!


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