Wild West Squaw Valley: Historical Things to Do in Tahoe

Discover Squaw Valley’s Wild West Past: Historical Things to Do in Tahoe

From its early days as a booming mining town to its current status as a four-season vacation destination, Squaw Valley’s short yet illustrious history is tinged with Wild West magic and mystery. The famous explorer John C. Fremont was the first European to set foot in the Tahoe region in 1884, accompanied by his even more famous guide: the legendary frontiersman Kit Carson. When gold was discovered in the South Fork of the American River nearby in 1848 and the California Gold Rush began – the region’s destiny was forever changed by the influx of new arrivals seeking fortune, land, and a new life in the West.


Squaw Valley’s Short-Lived Mining Boom at Claraville

For a brief moment in time, a town called Claraville located at the mouth of Squaw Valley was one of the biggest mining operations in the Tahoe area. Claraville no longer exists, and its heyday as a mining town was over in just a few years. By 1864, most of the fortune seekers had decamped Claraville in favor of the Comstock lode in nearby Virginia City, Nevada. While Claraville is long gone, there are still many historical things to do in Tahoe where you can feel the spirit of the Wild West today.


Have a Cold One Nevada’s Oldest Bar: Genoa Bar & Saloon

With the vibe of a Hollywood Western, Genoa is the oldest city in Nevada. Belly up to the bar at Genoa Bar & Saloon, an Old West drinking parlor with historic memorabilia covering the walls. Built in 1853, the bar has welcomed many celebrities throughout the years, including Mark Twain, Willie Nelson, and U.S. Presidents Grant and Teddy Roosevelt. Raquel Welch also visited the bar and left behind her bra – and it’s still hanging on a pair of antlers in the bar!


Ride a Steam-Powered Train at the Nevada State Railroad Museum

All aboard! Located in Carson City, this unique museum is home to numerous locomotives and cars from the Wild West era, including several National Historic Landmarks. You can see a 1910 McKeen Motor Car and a 401 Edwards Motor Car from 1926. Explore the Jack and Marge Gibson Collection of 15 ½” scale models of locomotives, an impressive set of models that represent the full spectrum of locomotives. The Nevada State Railroad Museum is also a working railroad station where you can ride a vintage replica of a steam-powered train. There’s no better way to connect with the railroad heritage of the Old West.


Follow the Kit Carson Trail in Historic Carson City

Founded in 1851 as a trading post, Carson City is named after one of America’s most famous frontiersman: Kit Carson. Along with explorer John C. Fremont, Carson was in the group of the first Europeans to visit the area. Carson City’s trading post was initially a stopover for adventurers heading west to California, but with the discovery of the Comstock Lode (a massive silver strike nearby), it boomed into a proper city and railroad hub. It’s been Nevada’s state capital since 1864, and history buffs can follow the 1.4-mile-long Kit Carson walking trail to see points of interest on the west side Historic District. Find 24 intriguing historic sites from the mid- to late-1800s, including railroad magnate mansions and landmarks used in Hollywood movies. Some of the highlights of the Kit Carson trail include:


  • Carson Brewing Company – Home of Tahoe Beer since 1864.
  • Teresa of Avila Catholic Church – Built in 1870-1871, the church’s original wood frame is now covered in brick.
  • Bliss Mansion – An opulent, 15-room mansion with nine marble fireplaces built for a lumber magnate from clear sugar pine and cedar from his Tahoe mill.
  • Former U.S. Post Office – Built in 1891, it was the first post office constructed in Nevada.
  • Governor’s Mansion – The land here was originally purchased for $10.
  • Orion Clemens Home – Built in 1863, this was the home of Mark Twain’s brother. Twain was a frequent guest.
  • JD Roberts House Historical Museum – This Gothic revival house was originally built in Washoe City and moved to Carson City by train in 1873.


Be Part of the Story of the American West at Squaw Valley Lodge

Nestled at the base of beautiful Olympic Valley, our welcoming mountain resort offers ski-in/ski-out access in the winter and hike-in/hike-out access in the summer. Sophisticated yet casual, Squaw Valley Lodge is a comfortable home base for your adventures and explorations in the Tahoe region. Find fully-equipped, condo-style accommodations with full kitchens or kitchenettes. Relax in hot tubs with views of the mountains and go swimming in the summer. Our steam room and sauna are available year-round – and we also offer free parking, high-speed internet access, and complimentary morning tea and coffee in the lobby. When you’re ready to venture out, you can walk to Squaw Valley Village to explore cute shops, cool bars, and chic restaurants. Plan your mountain escape today and discover the spirit of the Old West living on in Squaw Valley and the gorgeous High Sierras.


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