Photo Album

Fall hike on a gorgeous day to the summits of Granite Chief, Needle Peak, and Lyon Peak, from Squaw Valley via the Granite Chief Trail and a section of the Pacific Crest Trail.  Class 2 cross-country with scrambles on the ridges past Granite Chief to Needle Peak and Lyon Peak. The ascent up the summit block of Needle Peak is a class 3 climb, but relatively tame with good handholds and modest exposure. I took a route up a crevice on the south side of the needle (near 39.20044° N 120.30109° W), which seemed more approachable than the route on the west side. They join close to the top. All three peaks are on the Tahoe OGUL Peak List.

Directions: The Granite Chief Trail starts on the right side of the fire station at Squaw Valley, with a parking  lot available across the street. Because of the high use near lodging facilities, there are lots of connecting trails. On the way up I ended up on a trail that really starts at the water tank at the end of Washoe Drive—this  established trail connects with the usual main trail after about a mile (near 39.20746° N 120.24411° W) and is actually easier to follow.  It would be a good drop-off point for shuttle section hikes along the P.C.T. On the lower trail (descent on the route below), avoid the turnoff up the Squaw Creek drainage (near 39.20292° N 120.24479° W). During the summer season, the Squaw Valley Aerial Tram will get you to High Camp at 8200 ft and cut off several miles, but with a limited operation schedule.

[Alternate routes? The summitpost entry for Needle Peak mentions alternate access from The Cedars (private) on Soda Springs Road, and a register entry talked about hiking in either over Granite Chief or ‘by the trail’.  There’s a use trail down to Needle Lake from the ridge east of the peak, so perhaps there is a connection from Needle Lake to the Painted Rock Trail (note parking restrictions). I haven’t found any description of access to Needle Lake though (vs. Little Needle Lake, which is to the south, described in J.P. Schaffer’s book). Or perhaps one can climb up from the Tevis Cup equestrian trail portion of the Western States Trail in the drainage south of the ridge, or from forest roads on the ridge west of Lyon Peak.]


15.15 mi (6.45 mi uphill, 6.92 mi downhill, 1.64 mi flat)
4900 ft total ascent
10:58:10 total time (9:13:09 moving, 1:45:01 stopped)
0:36:28 pace (1.6 mph average speed)
50.8 difficulty, 86.5 effort