Today's post comes from Northern California local, Miranda Leconte. A photographer and former U.S. Forest Service Ranger, Miranda visited Northstar over the Fourth of July weekend to share her experiences here on Tahoe Ascent. Read on to discover more, and see her full bio at the bottom.
As a former U.S. Forest Service Ranger, solitude is not only a privilege, but also a necessity in everyday life. Simply put, there’s something special about enjoying nature and beautiful places without the crowds. And that's something I sought out to find on my recent trip to Northstar California over Fourth of July weekend. Below, discover how my husband and I found that solitude at Northstar beyond the hustle and bustle of summer around Lake Tahoe.
Fittingly, as a Lake Tahoe ski resort, Northstar has some incredible views. Ride the gondola, or hike up to mid-mountain, and you’ve got views of valleys upon valleys, mountains and wide-open spaces across North Lake Tahoe. Those mountaintops you’d be skiing down in the winter, like Lookout Mountain, you can even hike up after taking the lift from mid-mountain. Elsewhere, go to the Martis Valley Grille, located on Northstar's golf course, where you’ll be dining with a view of Castle Peak standing tall above the Martis Valley, or like us, can enjoy an amazing sunset over the Sierra Nevada mountains during one of the brewmaster dinners. We even found a little creek hidden behind the Village. All this provided an unexpected stillness during an otherwise bustling weekend around Lake Tahoe. We were immersed in nature to the sound of birds chirping, wind blowing through the trees and the occasional chatter among chipmunks running up and down the trails.
Lift-access hiking trails
If I had a whole day to spend just riding the lifts up and down the mountain, I would. And actually, we kind of did just that. The views were amazing, the breeze felt so good and there’s something about dangling your feet in the air while experiencing total peace and quiet that’s really appealing. It was comparable to being deep in the wilderness, with the mountain to myself, and without a worry in the world. I recommend bringing a backpack with snacks, drinks and other things you may want on hand (like sunscreen and a hat), although food options are also available mid-mountain at Downhill Grille.
From mid-mountain, I was able to tap into something I have never been able to shake since being a Forest Service Ranger: My hunger for the wild. But it's something that’s not available at a lot of ski resorts during the summer. Northstar, however, is characterized by miles of hiking trails (and downhill mountain biking trails), which were unbeknownst to me prior to our trip. Among our favorite spots from hiking around the mountain: A secluded creek running through the forest, overlooks facing giant valleys and mountains (like Lookout Mountain), and even a lake, Sawmill Lake.
Having fallen asleep under the stars countless times at work and for fun, I’ve developed a fascination for the cosmos. As such, I was stoked to learn that Lake Tahoe star tours take place throughout the summer at Northstar. We were greeted with hot coffee, tea and s’mores to enjoy around fire pits before an informative lesson about the solar system from local star guide, Tony Berendsen. We then were able to view the moon and planets up-close-and-personal, surrounded by mountains and tall trees, through heavy-duty Celestron telescopes (the photo below I took through the telescope with my iPhone!). The sky was completely lit up by millions of stars, drawing to mind memories of being in the wilderness as a forest ranger. Bundled up like that below the cosmos to combat the chilly nighttime summer mountain air will forever be one of my favorite things to experience.
Born & raised in the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California, Miranda had no choice but to fall in love with tall trees, open granite, and subalpine/alpine ecosystems. She was a U.S. Forest Service Ranger from 2013-2016 and holds tight to the belief that outdoor travel and wilderness wandering is essential for a healthy being. Miranda hopes to encourage others to get out and learn about their natural surroundings through her lifestyle and photography. You can find her somewhere in the Sierras educating and reminding outdoor enthusiasts on how to respect their environment without sacrificing adventure.