10 Places to Hike around Lake Tahoe

Whether you prefer to traverse with a walking stick, power hike with ski poles or enjoy the company of your dog on a leash, there are ample hikes around The Ridge Tahoe.

Tahoe South is crossed with an extensive network of backcountry trails that is sure to lead you to a place of discovery when you let your feet do the driving. So lace up your hiking boots and prepare to breathe in that clean mountain air, it’s hiking time at Lake Tahoe. (These are in alphabetical order because we can’t possibly pick a favorite!)

Echo Lakes is a beautiful, mellow hike in South Lake Tahoe. Photo: Erin Leigh Frederick.
Echo Lakes is a beautiful, mellow hike in South Lake Tahoe.
Photo: Erin Leigh Frederick.

1. Angora Lakes

An easy half-mile hike leads to two small lakes. Picturesque Upper Angora Lake is framed by cliffs and due to its shallowness it makes for a great swimming spot. Stop at the Angora Lookout on the drive up for a 360 degree view of the basin. To get there take Highway 89 north approximately three miles from South Lake Tahoe to Fallen Leaf Lake Road (just past Camp Richardson) and turn left. Turn left at the first paved road. Continue half a mile to Forest Service Road 12N14 and turn right.

2. Castle Rock Trail

Wonderful views of Lake Tahoe require a short hike through the trees and a little bit of rock climbing. The reward is magnificent if you’re versed in technical climbing skills which are necessary to scale the fourth-class rock and to reach the 7,904 foot summit. For those not so technical, there a lower pinnacle nearby offers similar views with a little scrambling required. To get there, take Highway 207/Kingsbury Grade to North Benjamin Drive and continues into Andria Drive. Follow it until the US Forest Service gate.

3. Echo Lakes

Many different hikes can be taken from this trailhead. For a short walk, hike to the far end of Upper Echo Lake. Many longer hike options await you farther down the trail. For a nominal fee, a boat taxi operated in the summer by Echo Lakes Resort cuts three miles off your trip. Day hikers can pick up permits at the self-serve area at the trailhead.

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4. Fallen Leaf Lake

Hiking to Fallen Leaf Lake is best found just past the Fallen Leaf Campground. There are a number of well-maintained trails which all lead to the lake’s north shore with awesome views of Mt. Tallac. Being almost flat and from 3/4 to 2 miles round trip, it is a perfect hike for small children or older adults. The trail is wide and easily navigated with virtually no chance of getting lost. After reaching Fallen Leaf Lake, it is possible to extend the hike by taking a trail that leads first to the dam and then along a scenic stretch of Taylor Creek.

5. Fourth of July Lake

Backpackers who don’t mind regaining lost elevation will appreciate the Fourth of July Lake semi-loop trip through the northeast section of Mokelumne Wilderness, which includes several ponds and lakes, wildflower-covered slopes, sweeping vistas and a deep canyon. There are four bright lakes along the way set into granite bowls, each with fabulous vistas, and nature’s finest flower gardens combine in this not-to-be-missed excursion. Pick up this trail at Carson Pass. Campsite permits must be obtained from the Carson Pass Information Station before starting the hike.

6. Grass Lake

With numerous waterfalls and creeks all over the place, the Grass Lake hiking trail is full of liquid scenery that makes for great photos. This trek along this mellow hike is suitable for all ages, as it doesn’t require much energy, only the desire to experience nature at its finest. Grass Lake sits among granite slopes at 7,000 feet in the Desolation Wilderness. The hike to Grass Lake passes Lily Lake, crosses Glen Alpine Creek and includes several waterfalls and a swimming hole. To access the trailhead to Grass Lake, take Highway 89 north from South Lake Tahoe to Fallen Leaf Lake Road. Watch for bicyclists and other cars on this narrow, one-lane road. Continue until you see the Glen Alpine trailhead sign and turn left.

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7. Mt. Tallac

If you’re ready for a strenuous challenge, there’s Mt. Tallac, which provides a spectacular view of Fallen Leaf Lake, Lake Tahoe, and Desolation Wilderness. A wilderness permit is required. Weather conditions can change rapidly in the Sierra; bring a jacket, carry lots of water and allow plenty of time for your trip. Day hikers, pick up your permit at the self-serve area at the trail head. Overnight hikers will need an overnight permit for Desolation Wilderness. This permit must be purchased before you get to the Mt. Tallac trail head.

8. Round Top Lake Trail

A beautiful hike in subalpine forest with stretches of trail above the tree line. Watch for incredible wildflowers in late spring. Round Top offers views south towards Ebbets and Sonora Pass, east toward Hope Valley and the Carson River, west overlooking Caples Lake and the Kirkwood Ski area and north to Lake Tahoe. From Highway 88, take the Woods Lake Campground road.

9. The Tahoe Rim Trail

A 165-miles of hiking trails which form a loop around Lake Tahoe. The trail ranges in elevation from 6,240 feet at the outlet of Lake Tahoe to 10,338 feet at Relay Peak in Nevada. About 50 miles of trail above the lake’s west shore are also part of the much longer Pacific Crest Trail. Bring your camera, download some maps, and prepare to spend the day viewing some of Tahoe’s hidden gems.

10. Van Sickle Bi-State Park

Located minutes from The Ridge Tahoe, the park, which straddles the Nevada and California state line, allows for hiking with some great sightseeing views. The lower level is easy as it winds through some boulder outcroppings but then it builds and becomes steeper, ideal for a strenuous leg of your workout. You will see views of Mt. Tallac, the South Lake Tahoe casinos, Edgewood Tahoe golf course on up to the Tahoe’s north shore off in the distance.

Which hike will you take on your next stay at The Ridge Tahoe?

Originally published April 2015.

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