Hiking can be a leisurely activity spent with friends or it can be a challenging adventure that can take you to the very top of the world. For those in either category, Tahoe provides many trails that travel to hidden waterfalls, crystal clear alpine lakes and the highest peaks in the Basin. Individuals looking for a real test of their endurance and strength need look no further than the following hikes rated hard in the Tahoe Basin.
The summit of Mt. Tallac offers stunning views of Tahoe. Credit: Rachid Dahnoun / Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority
9.6 miles | 3,323 elevation gain
Mt. Tallac is the towering peak that marks the South Shore of Lake Tahoe. Its iconic cross, which typically bears the final remnants of an epic winter, can be seen throughout the southern community. In addition to its staggering height and beauty, Tallac offers an extremely difficult, but very rewarding hike that takes you through troves of wildflowers to its summit where you can peer into Desolation Wilderness and view the many alpine lakes dotting the region.
Tips: Leave early to beat the heat and the crowds. We recommend leaving by first light.
6.2 miles | 3,228 elevation gain
Freel Peak sits at 10,892 ft. (just over 1,000 feet higher than Mt. Tallac) and claims the title for tallest peak in Tahoe. With this status, it’s easy to imagine that a hike to its summit would be, well, staggering! By many accounts, Freel is much more difficult than Tallac with sand accounting for much of its final ascent. Like Tallac, Freel provides very gratifying views of not only Lake Tahoe and its surroundings, but also of Carson Valley. If you want to claim that you’ve hiked the highest peak in Tahoe, then Freel is for you!
Tips: Take it slow when approaching the summit as it’s mostly sand and your footing may stumble.
6.4 miles | 3,018 elevation gain
For wildflowers and impressive mountain overlooks, hikers will find a stimulating, albeit thigh burning, hike in Ralston Peak. Much of the hike is uphill and steep, so be prepared for a long climb to the top. However, this hike is much less populated than Freel and Tallac, which means you’ll have the gorgeous summit mostly to yourself
Tips: Check the weather before you head out as weather can change quickly towards the top.
Take in multiple lakes and views of Emerald Bay from Maggies Peaks. Credit: Robbie Graves
3.7 miles | 1,774 elevation gain
The more moderate option of the aforementioned hikes, Maggies Peak is a fairly steep, mostly uphill hike that provides generous views of Emerald Bay and Desolation Wilderness. Choose between the north peak to see more of the bay and the south peak for more of Desolation. Butterflies abound at the top, making it the perfect picnic spot.
Tips: If you’re new to more difficult trails, try Maggies before attempting any of the first three hikes.
See you out on the trails!