Deep within Squaw Valley, half way between Truckee and Lake Tahoe is the most beautiful waterfall hike around the Tahoe Basin. The Shirley Canyon Trail is best in early summer as the falls begin to surge water from the melting snow off the 9,000ft peaks surrounding the valley. If you are looking for a family friendly waterfall hike, this is the best in the area.
The trail starts off in a small meadow next to Squaw Creek. The leafy trees of the meadow and the sound of rushing water are your first glimpse of the natural beauty you will be exploring on this hike. One of my favorites details of this hike is the wide range of terrain you will traverse along the way. We stopped often to check out the different areas along the way, the kids loved rambling along these fallen trees.
Next on the trail the creek grew and the rocks turned to boulders, perfect for climbing. I couldn’t help but take a ton of photos. It was just so beautiful!
Soon we were at the raging cascades. Perhaps because of the recent dry winters we’ve had here in California or simply because it just sounded so awesome, I stopped to take a video of the intensity at which the water was rushing.
As we continued on the trail, we stopped for a head dunk in the icy cold waters of the creek. It wouldn’t be a Matthews Family outing with a little competition. As soon as my husband dunked his head none of us could be outdone! Burr! But we were sure love a good dare in this family. We moved along the trail as it became more thickly forested. The tall pine trees, fallen branches and hollowed out trunks were a fun playground for the kids. We came across this shelter they stopped to play in for a while.
As we left the forested area, we bounded up a steep set of rocks to more cascades and our first glimpse of snow. From here we traversed down to the water over a wide expanse of large flat boulders and a view of the mountains across the canyon. We stopped here to take it all in and have a snack before continuing on. We had originally hoped to reach High Camp and take the aerial tram back down, but didn’t quite make it that far today. We were having too much fun stopping and playing and decided the top would have to wait for another day. When we did this hike over Memorial Day weekend, when there was still skiing happening at Squaw, which means ski patrol isn’t super thrilled with hikers on the slopes.
Whether you call this trail Shirley Canyon Trail, Shirley Lake Trail, Squaw Creek Trail, Shirley Canyon Cascades Trail, they are all the same thing. The trail begins not far from the village parking. Proceed back behind Plumpjacks, past the condos to street parking near the trailhead. I recommend getting there early as the trail is popular and nearby parking is limited. The trail is not really well marked so this creek and the Shirley Canyon Cascades will be your guide. There are also several painted blue arrows that help point you in the right direction. Best part, is it’s dog-friendly!