Lake Tahoe has some of the most beautiful hiking areas in the Western United States. Nearly every trail has a view of Tahoe, another alpine lake or a waterfall, all surrounded by pine trees, aspen, manzanita bushes and granite boulders.
Hiking around this area can be both challenging and relaxing. Trails for all skill levels are available. The most popular hiking areas around the lake are the Tahoe Rim Trail, 165 miles of gorgeous trails that follows the rim of the lake, the Vikingsholm Trail that leads down from Hwy 89 to Emerald Bay and any of the trails in Desolation Wilderness. But there are several other well marked trails around the lake that new visitors to the area may not know about. Starting from the easiest to the most difficult, these trails are a great way to see the lake from all angles this summer and fall.
Moraine Trail is an easy hike through the surrounding forest of quiet Fallen Leaf Lake near South Lake Tahoe. This is a good trail for families. You can swim in Fallen Leaf Lake, so bring your swimsuit.
Take Highway 89 north approximately 3 miles from the ‘Y’ in South Lake Tahoe to Fallen Leaf Lake Road. Continue about 2/3 of a mile to Fallen Leaf Campground. Drive through the campground and park just before campsite #75 on the right. There is no fee for day use.
This moderate hike is 3.1 miles one-way to Emerald Point, but you can stop anywhere along the trail if you get tired. Following the shoreline of Tahoe, this trail offers some of the most scenic views of the lake. As you walk along, you can find secret little coves along the shore to swim and picnic.
Take Highway 89 north 10 miles from South Lake Tahoe to D. L. Bliss State Park. There is a fee for day use parking. Pets are not allowed.
The parents of a friend of mine used to own Marlette Lake when they ran the water company for Virginia City in the 1950s and 1960s. This moderate 5 mile one way hike doesn’t have views of Lake Tahoe until you climb the hills above Marlette Lake, but the aspen groves and the alpine jewel of Marlette are enough for a pleasant day hike.
Park at the Spooner Lake Trailhead, located in Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park, just northwest of the Highway 50/28 junction. A parking fee is charged.
This beautiful trail can be taken in stages. It is 1.7 miles to Floating Island Lake, 2 1/2 miles to Cathedral Lake and 5 miles to Mt. Tallac at over 9,700 feet. Each part of the trail offers spectacular views of Fallen Leaf Lake, Lake Tahoe and Desolation Wilderness.
The trailhead is located approximately 3 1/2 miles north of South Lake Tahoe on Highway 89. Look for the Mt. Tallac Trailhead sign directly across from the entrance to Baldwin Beach and turn left down the dirt road. Continue to the trailhead parking.
This strenuous 12 mile round trip hike is very popular, but many hikers only go halfway to the waterfall and lush meadow filled with wildflowers. If you do make it to the top, Mt. Rose, at 10,778 feet, offers views of Lake Tahoe, Reno/Sparks, Carson City, Donner Lake and even Boca and Stampede Reservoirs.
Take Highway 431 (Mt. Rose Hwy.) north of Incline Village. Park at the trailhead located one mile south of the summit.
Tips for day hiking in the Tahoe area
- Walking sticks come in handy and help you keep your balance when going downhill
- Be prepared with enough water and food for the entire day
- Wear sunscreen, a hat and good strong hiking boots and socks
- The weather can change very quickly up in the mountains, a hot July day can see thunderstorms or high winds in the afternoon. Bring a sweater or warm hat.
- Don’t litter and leave plants and animals where you find them
- Keep pets on a leash