Hike the Thunder Mountain Trail
Lake Tahoe › Squaw Valley
Added by Erika Johnson
This is a super fun, unique hike that features beautiful meadows, dramatic views, and a cable car ride back down.
The Thunder Mountain Trail is the perfect hike to explore the Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows. Squaw may be famed for its mountain ski runs in the winter, but when the snow melts in the summer, beautiful alpine meadows line the mountain and the ski runs turn into hiking trails! The Thunder Mountain Trail follows much of the winter Mountain Run, which lets skiers ski their way down the mountain from High Camp without taking the Cable Car.
This is a 3.2 mile one-way-out hike (you can ride the cable car back) with a 2000' elevation change. The distance and elevation change alone are not difficult, but the trail is narrow, mostly unshaded, a bit rocky and starts at an elevation of 6200' (higher altitude, thinner air), making this a good challenge for intermediate or motivated beginner hikers. This hike takes about 2.5-3 hours in total.
The trail is not an obvious path but markings are present in the form of paint streaks every so often on rocks alongside you. The start is just to the right of the bottom of the KT-22 lift. A slightly unintuitive dirt path will lead you to a wide bridge and a very steep start that quickly turns gradual as you enter the meadows. After that, just follow the paint streaks all the way up the mountain!
Continuing on the trail winding up the mountain, you will pass the Headwall Express ski chairlift (that's when you're about 2/3 of the way there) and eventually reach High Camp. There, you can grab a snack, check out the Olympic museum, take in the beautiful views of the mountain and Lake Tahoe, go for a swim in the High Camp pool, and finally ride the Squaw Valley Cable Car back down (for free instead of $35!) to the base where you started. The base also offers even more ways to celebrate your accomplishment of hiking all the way up Squaw Valley mountain, in the form of restaurants and shops :)
Here's a helpful map.
- Hiking Shoes
- Lots of Water
- Maybe a Hat
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More
Are we missing something?Suggest an edit
ReviewsLeave a Review
Intense but rewarding!
This trail offers plenty of scenic views and photography opportunities, and the minimal path markings really enhanced the sense of exploration and discovery. It was definitely a challenge, especially with the high altitude, but that feeling when you clear the last ridge and finally spot High Camp in the distance makes it all worth it. Plus the one-way hike makes for a fun story to share with others on the Cable Car ride back down!
More Adventures Nearby
Hike the Lam Watah Trail
Lake Tahoe / Lam Watah Trailhead
Lam Watah Trail is a 2.2 mile out and back hike, that will take you through Lam Watah meadows and ends at Nevada Beach.
Hike the Rubicon Trail
Lake Tahoe / Rubicon Trail, D.L. Bliss State Park
The Rubicon Trail is a through hike connecting D.L. Bliss State Park and Emerald Bay State Park. You can start at either point. I opted to start at D.L.