Last weekend I hiked from Echo Lakes near Meyers, Calif. to Aloha Lake in Desolation Wilderness. While the hike is beautiful and does not have much of an elevation gain, it is long: over 14 miles round trip. For someone just visiting the area for a few days, an entire day spent on a trail – with its resulting sore feet and aching muscles – may not be feasible.
However, if you still want to get out and hit the Tahoe trails, there are a few short, but marvelous trails all around the lake. Most of these hikes are around 5 miles round trip with a little elevation gain and usually a great view or a lake to have lunch at. Each trail is rated easy to moderate, but do require that you have water, food and good hiking clothes and shoes. Additionally, with fall slowly making its way into the area, now is the best time to lace up the hiking boots.
Tahoe Rim Trail Interpretive Loop (1.2 miles round trip)
This trail winds among granite boulders and towering pines, crosses sparkling mountain streams and through a lush alpine meadow on the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. This interpretive trail is designed to be a safe, comfortable experience for people of all ages and people in wheelchairs. The free trailhead is 1/2 mile southwest of the Mt Rose summit on Hwy 431. Paved parking and vault toilets are available.
Eagle Falls to Eagle Lake (2 miles round trip)
This popular hike starts at the top of Emerald Bay at the Eagle Falls trailhead. The trail does start with some steep inclines, but levels out as you reach Eagle Lake. The views of Tahoe and Emerald Bay are stunning. Get to the trailhead early to get a parking spot. There is a parking fee.
Frog and Winnemucca Lakes (5 miles round trip)
Start this hike from the Carson Pass trailhead off of Hwy. 88 (day fee required) and meander through pine and aspen forest on your way to Frog Lake. This little lake is a great stop for the kids. Another mile or so up and you walk through a meadow which is a garden of flowers in late spring and summer. You can see Caples Lake from here. Winnemucca Lake at the top of the trail will most likely still have snow around its shore, even in late fall.
Glen Alpine Trail to Grass Lake (5 miles round trip)
This trail follows Glen Alpine Creek on the other side of Fallen Leaf Lake in South Lake Tahoe. You can park at Lilly Lake, where the Glen Alpine Trail begins. You will see beaver dams, alpine forest and buildings left over from a resort from the 1860s.
Lower Echo Lake to Upper Echo Lake (5 miles round trip)
This group of lakes on the south side of Lake Tahoe is a small summer community dotted with charming, little cabins. The trail here starts at the parking lot near a small lodge and store on Lower Echo Lake. You will walk on portions of the Pacific Crest Trail as you hike up to Upper Echo Lake. From here you can look (or continue on if you want) into the peaks and valleys of Desolation Wilderness.