Hiking Mt. Tallac

Things to Do — By christinanellemann on August 10, 2010 at 10:00 am

One of the highest hikes in the Lake Tahoe area is probably the one with the best view. Mt. Tallac in South Lake Tahoe is 9,735 feet high. The trail to the summit starts at 6,480 feet and is about 9.6 miles round trip. For an average hiker the hike should take about 6-7 hours to finish with a lunch break at the top. On nearly every part of the trail to the summit you will be able to see views of the surrounding mountains, Desolation Wilderness, Fallen Leaf Lake and Lake Tahoe. Several miles in, hikers will come across two peaceful little alpine lakes, Floating Island Lake and Cathedral Lake. The trail is fairly easy before Floating Island and becomes steeper and more difficult just past Cathedral. Wildflowers are scattered over the tops of the peaks, and nearer to the summit, patches of snow can still be found even late into the summer.


While there is only an elevation gain of just over 3,200 feet, what can make this trail difficult is the terrain. Slick and crumbly shale litters most of the trail and hard pack and rocks are tough on hiking boots and shoes. The hike down can be just as difficult as the climb up. If you do decide to hike Mt. Tallac, starting early in the morning is the best plan, and be sure to bring at least 64 ounces of water with you, especially during the summer.

For this hike, it’s also necessary to bring:

  • Good hiking shoes and socks
  • Sun hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Walking stick or poles
  • Food and snacks
  • Camera
  • Friends

When you get to the summit, you will most likely be greeted by the resident chipmunks and marmots. These rodents have become pretty adept at stealing lunches, so don’t give them a chance to succeed. They can bite and they carry diseases like rabies and Lyme disease.

The best place to recover after your hike is to stop at the Brewery in South Lake Tahoe and eat on their outdoor patio. Pizza and beer is the best cure for sore feet.

To reach the Tallac trailhead Take Highway 89 to the Camp Shelly/Tallac City Camps turn-off. If you are coming from the north, this is first right turn after Spring Creek Road (just after the “25 MPH” right hand curve). If you are coming from the south, it’s a left turn about 3/4 mile past the Lake Tahoe Visitor Center. At the trailhead, you can self-issue a required wilderness permit for day hikes (overnight permits are subject to quota and must be issued at the Visitor Center or at Forest Service Ranger Stations).

Photos courtesy of [Chris Grier, Miguel Vieira]

Tags: Desolation, fall, Fallen Leaf, height, hikes, hiking, lakes, summer, tahoe, tallac, views

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