Sam Bauman
Special to the Nevada Appeal

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July 16, 2010
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Try Heavenly's Gondola for fine hiking and viewing

It's easy when you live in Carson City to forget about some of the "tourist" things that don't attract you. There are lots of hiking trails around Carson City, from Dead Man's Creek opposite Washoe Lake Park to east or west Prison Hill. Then there's Riverside Park for views of the Carson River.

But when guests arrive or you've hiked most of the local spots, there's one that offers probably the finest view of Lake Tahoe around, rivaling those from midway of Homewood Ski Resort - long a local favorite.

So face it - taking yourself and guests to Heavenly's Gondola offers both hiking and a magnificent view of the entire lake, all 22 miles of it. Thanks to the same engineering that created the detachable ski lift, the Gondola cabins (which hold up to eight riders) ride cables to the deck, at 9,123 feet, where passengers can debark or ride on to the end. On and off is as simple as stepping over a curb, and there are always attendants on hand to help.

The Deck circles a stone peak populated with lots of little critters, enough to keep kids excited. After taking all the photos you and your guests could want, go back and ride the Gondola to the top.

You will get a few more feet of altitude before the Gondola begins its descent to the top terminal, where in winter the skiers unload for the short walk to the Tamarack six-seat ski life, not operating in the summer. But once you descend the two flights of stairs to the ground, there's hiking in almost every direction now that the snow has melted.

Long treks will take you to East Peak, shorter ones to ski trails now all rocks and fallen logs. The outdoor restaurant offers pretty standard Tahoe fare, but it's much tastier up there.

And the views are magnificent - the Desolation Wilderness, Pyramid Peak, South Lake Tahoe and on around the lake. Refreshments and beverages are available. Plenty of places to sit and marvel at the lake and all of nature around it.

In addition to hiking, there's a climbing tower (fine for kids with attendants on hand to help the kids make the top and ring the bell there). There's also something new this year, a slide that users have to work their way to through floors of netting to reach the start.

There are guides around to suggest best hikes and to tell the history of the Tahoe area, including when Kit Carson led an exploring party to a fine view of Lake Tahoe. (You can make the same hike from the California base via the cable car when it is running. The trail starts just beneath the outdoor dining area there and is easy to moderate. Haven't hiked it lately but I'm sure the trail still exists.)

When you're done for the day be sure and have cameras ready for the ride down. You can grab some excellent shots of the lake, Stateline and South Lake Tahoe as well at the looming tower of rock of to the east called The Castle. But that's another hike - and a fun one.

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The Nevada Appeal Updated Jul 16, 2010 02:29AM Published Jul 16, 2010 02:28AM Copyright 2010 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.