Northstar California Resort: A Fun Mountain Resort Anytime of Year

As the winter months are behind us and summer is fastly approaching, Northstar California Resort is a go-to destination any time of year.

The mountain, which sits at 8.610 feet high located in Truckee in North Lake Tahoe, offers an array of winter activities along with golfing packages and mountain biking options during the summer to engage any type of traveler from the adventurous to the luxurious.

Northstar California Resort in Winter

Northstar California Resort is one of the most popular ski resorts in Lake Tahoe.

Northstar Mountain receives 350 inches of snow annually and accumulates 50 percent of coverage from snowmaking. The mountain is rated as an intermediate ski experience with 60 percent of their trails being a “blue square.” Northstar offers riders long trails, glade skiing as well as various black diamond runs to keep it fun for skiers of all levels. With seven terrain parks situated throughout the mountain—some designed by pro snowboarder Shaun White—Northstar allows riders the chance to do tricks on pipelines and superpipes weather and conditions permitting.

Aside from downhill skiing, the resort offers snow tubing, cross country skiing, snowshoeing and telemark skiing. There is also a 9,000-square-foot skating rink located in the middle of the Village at Northstar, just another activitiy to keep you busy while visiting Northstar. 

Ski resorts in Lake Tahoe
Ski resorts in Lake Tahoe, USA

Northstar California Resort in Summer

Not only does Northstar provide an adventurous 100-plus-miles of hiking and mountain biking trails—considered the most extensive lift-served mountain bike park in the Western U.S.—golfing at the Village’s 18-hole golf course and fly-fishing in the 10-acre-stocked reservoir are also enjoyable options during the summer.

Accommodation at Northstar California

Hotel, condominium and house rentals are available accommodations adjacent to Northstar and all are within walking distance to the gondola or mountain lifts. Northstar Lodging offers hotel-style rooms, lofts, studios, condos and homes to accommodate any size party.

There are also luxury villas located within Tahoe Mountain Resorts Lodging and slope-side options at Northstar Lodge by Welk Resorts. For an upscale retreat, Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe is a luxurious option at Northstar. 

Northstar Village

This open-cabana style pedestrian village is loaded with various restaurants and shops, a movie theater and many firepits among comfortable cabana seating positioned throughout to warm your feet after a long day on the mountain or get some vitamin D during the summer month. The laid back atmosphere enables travelers to relax while visiting Northstar making their experience complete. Paired with much entertainment scheduled throughout the year and snack and drink kiosks to unwind, Village at Northstar is the place to hang out in the late afternoons and early evenings of your visit. 

The Northstar village also features a skating rink for travelers to participate in either ice skating or roller skating depending on the season. Fun activities within the Village also includes a bungee trampoline to jump around in.

There are also centers to rent gear or demo equipment as well as lockers to store your stuff. 

complimentary shuttle makes getting to and from the Village exceptionally easy. Just call ahead, wait by the nearest shuttle pick-up and you will get where you need to go in no time.

Northstar Resort Lodging guests also have the opportunity to use the recreational center within the Village. For just $2 per day, enjoy the lap pool, sauna, tennis courts, health club and game room. Remember to bring your own towel to bypass the cost of renting one. Sign up for spa treatments and other holistic treatments to rejuvenate your body. The center provides the overall relaxation needed after an adventurous day on the mountain.

Northstar Village in Lake Tahoe, California
Northstar Village in Lake Tahoe, California

Family-friendly activities at Northstar Village

Northstar is a very family-oriented resort that becomes quiet early at night. For parents, take advantage of the many afternoon activities for children, while relaxing in the Village. And those without children, there are many taverns, bars and five-star restaurants to enjoy a night out. Ultimately, the mountain resort offers travelers a homey experience where they can take advantage of numerous ammenities and satisfy their adventurous calling no matter what time of year.


Hiking Along the San Andreas Fault in Southern California

Southern California is full of amazing hiking opportunities, but perhaps few are as interesting as those that run along the San Andreas fault in the Colorado Desert of the Coachella Valley.

One of my favorite hikes along the fault is Pushawalla Palms Loop.

This hike offers different and amazing landscapes that were formed by earthquakes and tectonic plate movement along the fault.

Quick Primer on the San Andreas Fault Network

Scientists have learned that the Earth’s crust is fractured into a series of “plates” that have been moving very slowly over the Earth’s surface for millions of years. Two of these moving plates, the Pacific Plate and North American Plate meet in western California; the boundary between them is the San Andreas fault. This fault forms a continuous narrow break in the Earth’s crust that extends over 1,000 km from northern California southward to the Mexico border. Usually, these plates slowly collide, separate and grind past each other at a rate of about 50 mm per year. However sometime the plates lock in position until the stress created by the plates overcomes the strength of the rock. At that point, the rocks fracture along the fault and seismic waves radiate in all directions, causing the Earth to vibrate and shake. An earthquake occurs as the plates move feet or tens of feet in just seconds.

Since this scenario has been repeated time and again over 40 million years, it’s easy to understand that land on either side of the fault have slid in opposite directions over 450 km since the plates first came in contact with each other. Over the millennia, these quakes have pulverized rocks, changed the flow of rivers, ground down mountains, and created new mountains, hills, canyons, and valleys. Here’s a close-up view of the San Andreas fault area. The red line marks the San Andreas fault, and the small black circle shows the location of the hike.

General Desert Hiking Safety

Even though this is a relatively short hike, remember you are in a desert environment. Being prepared will increase the chance that you have an enjoyable excursion.

Here are a few basic safety tips if you are new to desert hiking:

  • Start early. Don’t hike during the hottest part of the day.
  • Know the weather forecast. You don’t want to be hiking in the desert during a thunderstorm due to flash flood concerns.
  • Stay hydrated; drink a lot of water. General rule of thumb is 4-6 liters/person/day
  • Know the signs of heat stress.
  • Cover your skin. Dress appropriately in light weight loose fitting clothes, hat, and proper shoes/boots.
  • Watch for plants and wildlife and keep your distance. Remember this is rattlesnake territory. Also, removing cactus needles isn’t pleasant and something you want to avoid.
  • Carry a trail map. Consider downloading an app such as AllTrails or MapMyRun or even better a GPS app to track your path.
  • Bonus Recommendation: Keep extra water and snacks in your car. Even hot water is better than driving home thirsty after a long desert hike.

Pushawalla Palms Loop Trail: 5 miles

Pushawalla Palms Loop is a well-marked trail located within the 17,000-acre Coachella Valley Preserve Area near Thousand Palms, California. The trailhead is located less than 15 miles from Palm Springs on Thousand Palms Canyon Rd. There’s plenty of parking on the main road but be prepared for crowds on weekends. The trailhead is open year-round and there are no fees or permits required.

The trailhead is the starting point for several area hikes, so make sure to follow the Pushawalla Palms trail signs. For the first 0.5 km, the path winds its way through a dry stream bed know as a wash. During the brief fall and winter rainy season, washes like this provide drainage channels for surrounding hills and mountains. These rains help to disperse wildflowers seeds which root in the sandy soil as the water slowly evaporates. Come spring when the grounds warms, the seeds sprout and the trail is lined with purple, yellow, and white wildflowers. This is not the image most people have of the desert. The wildflowers draw large crowds in the Spring, but fortunately, most people only hike a short portion of the trail to view the wildflowers.

After walking through the wash, the trail begins climbing Bee Rock Mesa. This mesa and the surrounding hills are wedged between two faults that have squeezed and uplifted the rocks and gravel to create this straight line of sharply defined hills along the fault.

The trail winds its way along the ridge of the mesa. Although this is not a knife edge, be careful since there is a 90-100 meter drop off on either side of the trail. Enjoy your walk on the mesa; take in the sweeping views knowing that 3+ miles directly beneath your feet is the San Andreas fault.

After hiking 1.6 km, the Horseshoe Palm grove appears on the right-hand side of the trail at the base of the hill. This long string of palm trees extends over 1.5 km. These palms flourish in the middle of the desert because the fault beneath us has pulverized the bedrock allowing groundwater to seep close to the surface and nourish these trees. It’s not uncommon to see a straight line of palm trees or other vegetation growing along sections of the San Andreas fault.

The path follows the ridgeline for 2.5 km. By now the crowd will have significantly thinned out with most people returning to their cars. Unfortunately, these people assume the wildflowers in the wash are the best part of this trail – they are so wrong.

Over the next 1.25 km, the trail begins a gradual descent to the floor of the Pushawalla Canyon. A section of the trail has been heavily eroded by recent rainstorms. This isn’t a difficult area to navigate but it does require more careful footing.

After 3.2 km of hiking, you emerge on the floor of Pushawalla Canyon and are almost immediately surrounded by a lush green environment. In both directions, for as far as the eye can see, there are the Pushawalla Palms. Why is it called Pushawalla? Legend has it that Pushawalla was the name of a local Native American who lived to be over 100 years old. Allegedly he died when a summer cloudburst flooded the canyon he was in and swept him away. The canyon where he was found is called Pushawalla Canyon.

The California Fan Palms are the only palm tree native to the United States. The telltale sign of the California Fan Palm is the “skirt” of old dead palm fronds that cascade downwards around its trunk (rather than dropping off like other palms). Be careful walking around the fallen palm fronds. They’re often used by rattlesnakes for cover and shade; snakebites have been reported in the Pushawalla Palms area. It’s worth repeating, respect desert wildlife.

You can explore Pushawalla Canyon in both directions. Underground fissures caused by the San Andreas faults provide groundwater in the canyon an easy route to the surface. You’ll notice a small stream flowing on the ground. The stream often mysteriously disappears into the sand and then reappears further down on the trail. Be on the look-out for rabbits, coyotes, and all kinds of birds who are drawn to the water.

Often it feels more like you are walking through wetlands with tall grasses and vegetation encroaching on the trail. It’s strange that this beautiful desert oasis was created by faults and earthquakes that we normally only associate with damage and destruction.

After exploring the palm oasis, it was time to head back. There are several options you might want to explore. For our return we chose to climb out of the canyon via the rock gully that we had used to descent from the ridge and then follow a trail to the base of the hills. Walking on the desert floor provides a new perspective of the terrain. As we passed the Horseshoe Palm grove, we had a clear view of several people hiking on the ridge trail above us.

As we hiked further away from the hills, the vegetation became sparser. But remember, the interesting thing about the desert is that it hides its beauty so well.

If you are hiking in the late winter or spring be sure to move slowly and look carefully. You will find a variety of small and large flowering plants and maybe even a lizard or two along the trail.

After hiking on the desert floor for slightly more than 1 km, we climbed back up to the ridge and made our way to the car.

For this hike we logged 10 km, but various maps indicate typical lengths ranging from 6-8 km. Our excess mileage was due to our extensive exploration of Pushawalla Canyon. Even with a stop for lunch and photos, we completed the hike in 3.3 hours. In the satellite image below, the red dot marks the trailhead, and the green dot marks the intersection where we rejoined the ridge from the desert floor on our return route.

Hiking along the San Andreas Fault in the Coachella Valley is not about finding the “giant crack in the ground”. Millions of years of erosion have piled upwards of 3 miles of gravel and rock debris on top of the fault. Although the fault is buried, you know now that it’s easily visible by following the strip of green vegetation that runs in a straight line against an otherwise bare series of hills and brown desert washes. Hopefully, this information will encourage you to explore the San Andres Fault and Pushawalla Palms on your next visit.

Additional Resources

Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve

Places to Stay

There are countless resorts, boutique hotels and Airbnbs to stay at in the Greater Palm Springs area. Except during the Coachella and Stagecoach music festivals in April, obtaining a booking should not be a problem.

Places to Eat

Because the Greater Palm Springs area is such a tourist draw. There are eateries to meet any need.

Here are a few of our favorite spots to enjoy an after-hike dinners: