Taking in Tahoe


Largest alpine lake in North America

Earlier this month, we took a mini road trip to the beautiful Lake Tahoe area. We packed up our luxury car, our two dogs, The Little Man, and headed up to the Sierra Nevadas for a long weekend.

It was a wonderful three days featuring stunning lake vistas driving from North Lake Tahoe to South Lake Tahoe, hiking in Squaw Valley, and two bonus brief stops in the state capitals.

The weekend was fun, relaxing, and our total out of pocket costs were under $200 for the three days! It’s definitely an area we’ll be visiting again.


I had heard many great things about the region but this was our first time visting the area our selves. One area in particular that I have wanted to visit was Squaw Valley (home of the 1960 Winter Olympics) and the spectacular surrounding geography.

We left home during the middle of the week to avoid weekend traffic up to Lake Tahoe. This gave us a chance to enjoy the beautiful scenic drive up the mountains (The MC may have slept through most of it). Our hotel was in Carson City, Nevada’s State Capital. It wasn’t the best location for our itinerary, but I had trouble finding a hotel on points that was pet friendly in the immediate area. Carson City is ~30 mins from North and South Lake Tahoe and 1 hour from Squaw Valley, the spots we spent most of our time.

On the second day, we drove up to Squaw Valley and decided to tackle the Shirley Canyon trail.  We do wish we had started the hike earlier in the day, but we are not so good at being morning people :). Parts of it weren’t as much a hike but rather vertical scramble up the side of a mountain in full sun (with not-so-well-marked trail along points). However, if you’re intrepid enough to brave the trail, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic valley vistas at your final destination, High Camp, located more than 1,500 feet above your starting point. Ok, it couldn’t have been that bad, we did it with a baby and two small white fluffy dogs in tow!


The MC giving The Bichon a boost. She did pretty well aside from this little bit.

Three quarter’s of the way up, you come to Shirley Lake, which is a nice spot to rest, have a snack, and re-hydrate (we’re glad we brought lots of water, for us and the dogs!). If you continue up for another half hour or so, you can ride the gondola back down for free (it’s ~$40 per person to ride up if you don’t want to hike, but who wouldn’t want to hike?). After the 4.5 hour hike up, we were too tired to explore high camp and the last gondola ride was quickly approaching. If we had started earlier in the day, there would have been time to take a rest and keep going to the summit.

Shirley Lake

Stopped at Shirley Lake to rest


Stunning views as you climb up to High Camp at 8000 ft elevation


Free gondola ride back down. More stunning views.

We tried to find a nice spot to have dinner after the hike by the lake, however everything was swamped for the long weekend. We ended up in Heavenly Village resort, which while nice, may have been a little touristy! We did find a nice cafe where we could sit outside and had a decent meal (well, one of us did, the other may have gotten slight food poisoning that night…).

Our last day, it was raining in Carson City (oh how we could use some of that on the other side of the state line!), so we packed up after breakfast and headed to Sacramento. The (other) State Capital was hot, very hot. We stopped to grab a bite to eat at Rio City Cafe in Old Sacramento overlooking the river. It’s a great spot if you have dogs as they have a huge patio with a great view of the river. After a scrumptious lunch, we took a stroll through Old Town and when the heat got the best of us, we hit the road home.

Shrim & Salmon

Delicious meal at Rio City Cafe in Old Town Sacramento


Miles & Points Redeemed Out of Pocket Costs Source of Miles/Points & Comments
Transportation Gas for our own car  $56
Accommodation 30,000 IHG points $40 – pet fee IHG points accumulated through Chase IHG Rewards credit card (80K + $50 statement credit)
Food N/A $95
Entertainment N/A $0

Our out of pocket costs for the weekend were $191 or ~$64/day for two adults, one infant, and two dogs. The hotel would have cost us $340 if we had not stayed on points.


Since we did not have to fly or use any means of transportation other than our own car, fuel was our only cost in this category. It probably may have made sense to stay closer to Lake Tahoe since that is where we spent bulk of our first couple of days, however, needing a (affordable) pet-friendly accommodation limited us to stay further away.


I was able to find a hotel that was in decent driving distance to Lake Tahoe and accepted pets. (When we travel with our dogs, we usually get an Airbnb, camp, or something similar). The Holiday Inn Express & Suites in Carson City fit our needs well. We don’t stay in luxury hotels and do not care for many amenities. We also find that the lower tier hotel is more family and pet friendly, like the one in Oak Harbor, WA we stayed in during our PNW travels where they had free laundry for guests – this came in handy for our Little Man’s dirty clothes :).

Food & Drink

One thing we do look for in a hotel is free breakfast included in the rate. It’s not always the greatest, but having access to oatmeal, fresh fruit, and a cup of tea is always nice first thing in the morning – without having to leave the hotel and paying extra for it! We like to have a hearty breakfast so that we can have a light lunch and then have a nice dinner. This worked out well during our weekend in Lake Tahoe. We packed a lot of snacks – nuts, dried fruit, and avocados for the hike then had a protein and calorie rich dinner after.

The first day of the road trip, I had packed sandwiches and left over homemade pizza from the night before.

More Photos

Here are some more photos for your enjoyment!

Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe

Mini waterfall

Mini waterfalls along the Shirley Canyon Trail

The dogs fared well on the 3.5 mile hike.

The dogs fared well on the 3.5 mile hike.

Mountain Flowers

Wildflowers in the mountains


Stunning panoramic view of the sunset over Lake Tahoe

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5 Responses

  1. Looks like the trip was a lot of fun and very easy on the wallet! Nice pics.

  2. Ditching The Grind says:

    What an awesome trip! I’d love to make it up to Lake Tahoe one day.

    • The DJ says:

      You definitely should … the next road trip possibly?! We were up in that area again this past weekend and had an incredible time. If you ever decide to, let us know and we will be happy to give you some recommendations.

  3. Sounds like a wonderful trip! 😉 Sorry to hear about your food poisoning. Ugh. Hope some of the scenery made up for it!

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