If you visit South Lake Tahoe during any time of the year, you must get out on the local trails. In the spring and summer, you will see gorgeous wildflowers, waterfalls and in most cases spectacular views of Lake Tahoe. And in the fall, the dropping temperatures make for perfect hiking conditions. Not all of the best hikes offer views of Lake Tahoe. Hike in to the Desolation Wilderness area and view the magnificent granite boulders scraped clean from the last glacial period. Tahoe has such a network of trails, that you can live in the area for a lifetime and still only touched on a small percentage of hikes. Here are five of our favorite South Shore hiking trails.
Van Sickle Trail
This is a great quick hike if you don’t want to drive to far out of town but still want to see some fabulous views of Lake Tahoe. The hike is classified as Easy to Moderate and there are a few different destination options, so you can choose your mileage. Van Sickle Bi-State Trail is located behind the casinos, and is the only park that crosses into two states! From the entrance, drive up about a quarter mile to the parking lot where you will see the trailhead. Hike 20 to 30 minutes up the trail and you will be at a lovely waterfall. If you are looking for additional mileage, or want something more strenuous keep heading up the trail as it connects to the Tahoe Rim Trail. From the trailhead to the intersection with the Tahoe Rim Trail is 3.6 miles.
Highlights: You will pass through some boulder fields, view a waterfall and see gorgeous views of Lake Tahoe the higher you go up.
Fallen Leaf Lake
The Fallen Leaf Lake trail is a great hike for families with young kids or elderly grandparents, as it is mostly flat. You can choose to go the distance you want, with the max being around 2.5 miles. Head to Fall Leaf Lake Campground, at the trailhead is at the campground entrance. The trail parallels the road for a quarter-mile, and then diverges and heads towards Fallen Leaf Lake. From the lake, you can enjoy gorgeous views of Mt. Tallac and the lake itself. If you are just looking for a quick jaunt, this can be your final destination. Otherwise, head to the right and follow the shoreline towards the dam. Cross the damn and you can take the trail along the side of Taylor Creek, or go left along the shore of the lake. If you continue along the lake, please be considerate of the no trespassing signs when you reach the housing development.
Highlights: Views of Mt. Tallac reflected on Fallen Leaf lake, aspen groves, creek with fish (if you go the Taylor Creek route) and all easy for the whole family.
For the more adventurous and experienced hiker, hiking to the top of Mt. Tallac will reward the hiker with the best panoramic views of Lake Tahoe. The trail is 4.8 miles each way, and will take around 6 hours round trip. The trailhead is off of Highway 89 at the sign for the Camp Shelly/Tallac City Camps turn-off. Follow the signs for the Tallac Trailhead, where you can fill out the required wilderness day permit. The first section of the trail will take you to Floating Island Lake and in to the Desolation Wilderness. Soon after, you will get a peak of the summit, and then the trail continues toward Cathedral Lake. Before Cathedral Lake the trail will split. For those fit enough, you can opt to hike on the less traveled SE chutes. Otherwise, continue on the trail and you will hit some switchbacks. Here there are gorgeous views of Lake Tahoe, Fallen Leaf Lake and the Carson Range. The summit of Mt. Tallac is like no other spot in all of Tahoe. You won’t know which direction to look, as the views at every angle are worth a picture.
Highlights: Unbeatable views from the Summit of Lake Tahoe, views of Fall Leaf Lake, Carson Range, and a very rewarding hike.
Echo Lakes Trail
The Tahoe wilderness is speckled with alpine lakes, perfect for swimming in. When hiking on the Echo Lakes Trail you can hit at least two lakes in your out and back hike, depending on how far you want to go. This trail is great for those staying in or near Meyers, as the trailhead is off of Highway 50 just outside of Meyers. The trail is actually part of the Pacific Crest Trail, and for 2.5 miles goes along the shores of Lower Echo Lake Upper Echo Lake. From Upper Echo Lake, 1.5 more miles will bring you to Tamarack Lake and a little further to Ralston Lake. Again, you can choose how long you want to go for! During the summer, you can even shorten your hiking by hopping on the water taxi on Echo Lake!
Highlights: Water taxi, multiple lakes, Desolation Wilderness and wildflowers in the spring and summer.
Tahoe Rim Trail
The Tahoe Rim Trail is 165 mile long trail that goes all the way around Lake Tahoe. There are eight different trailheads, and the sections range from 12 to 33 miles in length. There are three sections of the TRT that are on the South Shore, and 3 on the East Shore. The sections include Big Meadow trailhead to Big Meadow, Big Meadow East, Kingbusyr South to Star Lake, Kingsbury Grade North, Tahoe Meadows South and Spooner Summit North to Snow Valley Peak. You can choose to do an entire section (remember to leave a car at the end) or an out-and-back on any of the sections. You may encounter a lot of thru-hikers, some mountain bikers and sometimes even horses. Be careful though, you might want to do the whole 165 mile trail after completing one section!
Highlights:Views of Lake Tahoe, meadows with wildflowers, alpine lakes and streams