Granite Chief Trail

MODERATE 47 reviews
#29 of 164 trails in

Granite Chief Trail is a 6.5 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Olympic Valley, California that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking and snowshoeing and is best used from June until September. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

DISTANCE
6.5 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
1,965 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dogs on leash

hiking

snowshoeing

forest

lake

views

wild flowers

wildlife

snow

Directions from Truckee: Travel Hwy. #80 west and take the South Lake Tahoe exit and follow Highway #89 south for 8.5 miles to the Squaw valley junction. (If you are coming from Lake Tahoe, take Hwy. #89 north from Tahoe City for 5 miles.) Turn west on Squaw valley Road and drive 2.2 miles to the Squaw Valley Fire Station. Hikers must use the large parking area in front of the ski lift buildings and under no condition use any of the parking spaces around the fire station. The trailhead is located on the east (right) side of the fire station and is clearly marked.

hiking
10 days ago

I stay at Squaw Valley a lot and this is one of my favorite hikes. it’s definitely tricky to follow in the beginning I’ve done this so many times, as well as going off on all the alternate trails, that I have a good sense of it now but it took a while. Key is to always veer to the right when you get to the first sign that says granite chief trail keep following to the right there’s several other trails that intersect that are not real trails just stick to the right and you’ll find it. all trails map helps a lot. once you get in a little over a mile some people have put yellowish orange paint in certain places to mark where the trail goes over the rocks as well as some cains. but again when in doubt follow towards the right and you’ll pick up the trail.
I encourage you to go beyond Granite chief onto the PCT it’s just incredibly beautiful with amazing views. I always take this left over to High camp so I can take the tram down. note if you do this it can be very tricky/scary to get to high camp there’s two options you can climb up the hill straight after you pass tervis cup trail then take the road down to high camp, adds some extra time. or you can veer to the left to take the very very small not well traveled trail but it will require a little bit of rock climbing and scrambling down. not for the faint of heart and actually potential for injury. but I’ve made it OK each time I’ve done it.
once you are at High camp there is a pool there’s also a restaurant there’s lots of outdoor seating and the tram runs down every 15 minutes it’s free if you hike up and tram down.

hiking
18 days ago

this trail was incredible! we were astonished at how many different terrains and environments we encountered on our hike. if you want to walk through meadows, alpine forests, rainforests, deserts, boulder fields, and mountain ridges all in the span of 4 hours, then this is the trail for you.

we hiked up granite chief trail, then hooked up with the pacific crest and walked down to high camp to take the tram down. it was definitely a long hike, especially with the elevation gain, but not overly technical or difficult. if you're okay with a steady uphill and you've got sturdy shoes, it's a really satisfying hike. i would recommend starting out early--we started around 10 and it was already pretty hot (until we got up to the PCT).

a lot of other reviewers mention that the trail is difficult to follow, and in some places i agree--there are a few stretches of boulders where the trail mostly disappears. when in doubt, keep going up the mountain (you'll find the trail again before you get lost) or check the alltrails map. there's great service all the way up and the app's trail is accurate. i would argue that the easiest place to get lost is at the very beginning--if you don't know what to look for, it's very easy to end up on the shirley canyon trail.

overall, this hike was amazing. it had great views and scenery all the way up. if you have enough food and water, you can hike the ridge all the way around the ski basin--the PCT links to a trail that will take you farther up. it's also nice having high camp there to refill water/get food/take the tram (for free!). if i were to recommend one tahoe hike to a visitor, this would be it!

hiking
1 month ago

July 2018: I wish I had listened to the reviews! The hike starts in beautiful terrain but beware, this Granite Chief Trail is very very poorly marked. There’s a sign at the beginning, and then no markers whatsoever. This isn’t a problem in the wooded areas, where you can lose and find the trail in a few minutes, but it’s really problematic when you are scrambling over granite boulders, which start about 45 minutes in. I gave up and crossed over to the Shirley Lake Canyon trail. I’m a very experienced hiker and had never been in this area before, and this was incredibly frustrating. I don’t recommend this trail unless you are with someone familiar with it.

1 month ago

sadly when i used this app to find directions it took me 1.5 miles away from the trail and ended up in a neighborhood. then reset my location again ,4x's then it took me back..... i finally had to ask someone snd they pointed me in the right direction, saw the sign for the trail and then nothing. i kept watching the app and because i found no other signs to keep me on trail and the app already took me wrong, i turned back and found shirley canyon trail....it was great. wish i could have found this trail

hiking
3 months ago

April 23, 2018: No trail blazes at all. Had to use All Trails app constantly to stay on the trail. Very mixed conditions, some snow coverage, then sand and rock. Unfortunately I had to turn around about halfway up the trail, when I came to a creek that had to be crossed. A snow bank on my side of the creek was so tall (at least 6 feet) that I could get down and to the other side. All footprints in the snow stopped there, none continued at the other side of the creek. I looked for other spots along the creek to cross, but the area is too grown in. I talked to other hikers on the way down, who confirmed that that's as far as one can go at the moment. Wish I had known. It was still a beautiful day and nice elevation gain and great view of the ski resort and tram the whole time.

hiking
6 months ago

Overall a Kiss-A$$ amazing experience.
Our trip was an Over-nighter - A Snowshoeing - Backpack Camping Trip in February 2018. So my Review is in the Context of Winter Snowshoeing only.
The first thing I will note is that the many of the later parts of the trail are barely conducive to snowshoeing, unless you are extremely experienced or the snow is VERY deep. Technical Rocky steps - both up and down).
Secondly, there is one part of the trail (which we nicknamed the "Ice Field" where it is ESSENTIAL to stay Right On the Trail on the way down. It is a section of flat rock with a lot of water flow over it - and therefore, ice. Many of the "paths" down over this section (the trail closely hugs the uphill side) "cliff out" in a very dangerous way. We were lucky that this section was not covered with several inches of snow - as that would have been very dangerous. Use GPS.
The views were amazing and humbling.

11 months ago

Nice hike, once we found the trail.

hiking
11 months ago

Nice hike. It could use a few markers.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

This was a great hike! Spectacular views and a few beautiful meadows full of blooming wildflowers. We would rate this hike at the more challenging side of "Moderate". The trails are pretty well marked throughout. Up towards the last couple of miles there was a good amount of snow making it difficult at times to know which way to go. Bring your phone, and use the map associated with the trail. This map really helped us navigate when we weren't sure where to go, or thought we were off course. There is plenty of cell service all the way up, which is a pretty nice little bonus. This is an out and back trail, but you can take PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) across to the backside of Squaw and hike down to High Camp for that much deserved beer. It's really easy to get lost up here, so it would be a good idea to familiarize yourself with the area before heading out so you don't have to turn around and go back down the way you came.

backpacking
Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Great trail with beautiful scenery the whole way. I would strongly recommend a GPS as much of the upper portion of the trail is covered in snow and easy to lose your way. Be sure to stay right of the creek at the upper portion of the trail. Since the switch backs are all buried the last half mile or so will be spent cutting straight up the final portion of the mountain. Be prepared as you set off especially if you have never made the trek before. There are numerous water crossings and with all the snow this year the little creeks have a pretty strong flow.

hiking
Sunday, July 02, 2017

This is one of my favorite trails around the lake. However, it is easy to get mixed up at the bottom as there are a bunch of little trails. Make sure you keep your eye out for a trail which goes away from the river after you pass the Granite Chief trail sign. As of 7/2/17 there was still too much snow about 3 miles up, lost the trail and had to make our way back down.

hiking
Saturday, September 17, 2016

Great hike with gorgeous vistas. I'd suggest this is on the more technical end of 'moderate' though.
A nice feature of the hike is that it meets up with the Pacific Crest Trail at the summit of the trial such that you can take the Squaw gondola from High Camp down to the village.

hiking
Wednesday, September 14, 2016

One of my favorite trails. Love being able to hike up to high camp and take the team down. When you hit the pct go right about a half mile, great views of granite chief wilderness, tinkers and Anderson peak. Can hike up to the top of emigrant and take the road down to the team or cut off just before going up emigrant from granite. The trail is good except one spot where a stream washed out the trail. Awesome vistas.

hiking
Sunday, August 21, 2016

Great hike! Only saw three people- all trail runners- my entire way to the PCT. Great hike starting near the fire station. I mixed up a couple of trails, but ultimately they all led to this one. The AllTrails app helped with this. Granite Chief trail was nice- quiet and great views. A little smoky this time of year, but what can you do. Moderate uphill for the majority. Hit the PCT and made a left, headed for High Camp. PCT to High Camp was great. Well maintained and nice views. Cut off to the left at a 2-way fork to get to High Camp. One fairly sketchy trail to get to the service road, then a quick shot to the Tram. All in all- a great hike. To get from the trailhead to the Tram is about 8 miles, so be prepared for that. Will hike again.

hiking
Thursday, July 28, 2016

beautifully quiet hike with amazing views. well worth the effort to the top:-)

hiking
Saturday, July 02, 2016

Gorgeous hike. Variety of terrain, beautiful vegetation, fantastic views. Not a difficult one, very few steep places. My 11yr daughter and 7yr son managed to do it (though with few "are we there yet") :)

backpacking
Friday, May 20, 2016

We backpacked through this trail. Amazing views and gorgeous scenery along the way. The first 3.4 miles were mostly uphill but the destination was beautiful.

hiking
Tuesday, April 12, 2016

I had a little trouble finding the start of this trail and so posted numbered pictures to help you get going... some snow fields this early... it's steady up hill...

hiking
Wednesday, July 29, 2015

One of my favorite, so secluded.

hiking
Sunday, August 31, 2014

We hiked the Granite Chief Trail up from the Squaw Valley Village area. The trailhead is next to the old Olympic Village, now Olympic Village Inn, right by the ropes course area. We kept on going and connected with some other trails (see our uploaded track in the Tracks section) that took us to a narrow trail that traverses over to the top of the Shirley Lake Express lift, from where it was just a short walk to High Camp. We took the aerial tram back down from there (the ride down is free for hikers who walked up). Nice hike with good views of the surrounding mountains and Lake Tahoe in the later part of the hike.

hiking
Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Hiked the Granite chief Trail with rick Hackman and Bill Vance on our way to the summit of Granite chief Mountain. The trail head is across the street from the west end of the Squaw village parking lot (really, it is; look for the sign that says "Trail" on the side of the building where they store the snow plowing equipment.) The trail climbs up Squaw Creek for about three miles to the junction with the PCT. Turn right (northish) to head for Donner Summit or left (southish) towards Granite Chief and Mexico. We went left. The trail follows the upper reaches of Squaw Creek with some great views of Lake Tahoe and Squaw Valley's High Camp. At about a mile and a half, there is a pass where the trail drops down into the Middle Fork of the American River. The ridgeline goes northwest to Granite Chief and southeast to Emigrant and Squaw Peaks. The route to the top of the Granite Chief is up about a quarter mile of sandy steep slope. Great views and geocache and summit registers on top. We went down by way of High Camp (the folks at Squaw Valley are nice enough to let you ride the tram down for no charge if you are crazy or ambitious enough to walk up.) The trail forks at the pass. The right hand is the PCT and takes you down to Whiskey Creek. The left fork is the Squaw Valley Connection Trail. A hundred yards or so down this trail, we found and followed a rough trail below the cliff face on Emigrant Peak towards High Camp. The trail goes about half way to the Shirley Lake Road and ski lift...the rest of the way is a scramble without a trail down a steep, rocky slope (not for beginners or the faint of heart...take the connection trail in that case.) Once you hit the road, follow it up to High Camp.

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