Hiking, Backpacking & Trail Running at Lake Tahoe
An Award Winning Series...
Tahoe's Top Trails for Hiking, Backpacking &
1. Eagle Falls/Eagle Lake. This
moderately easy trail is well marked and begins at Eagle Picnic
Area, across Highway 89 from Emerald Bay. It's only about
a third of a mile to the steel footbridge overlooking the
falls and 2 miles round-trip (1 1/2-2 hr.) to Eagle Lake.
You can sign in at the self-registration station at the trail
Location: South Lake Tahoe, Lake Tahoe Basin
Access: car then hike (no dogs)
Distance: 2.2 miles (RT) (hike)
Elevation: 6600 ft. (-350 ft.)
Season: Apr-Jul - Difficulty: easy hike
Lat/Long (NAD83): 38.95185, -120.11029
Directions: Along Hwy #89, 8.5 miles northwest of Hwy #50
junction, at South Lake Tahoe
Parking is at the Emerald Bay / Vikingsholm State Park
(There is a fee)
2. Emerald Bay/Vikingsholm.
The trail starts at the parking area on the north side of
Emerald Bay, on Hwy. 89. It's a wide, well-maintained trail
but fairly steep, about 2.5 miles round-trip. At the bottom
of the trail is a picnic area, as well as world-famous Vikingsholm,
a replica of a Scandinavian castle. Many scenic views can
be enjoyed during this walk. There are various resting places
along the trail. It is to be stressed, though, this is a steep
trail at an elevation of over 6,300 feet. So, if you are in
good walking or hiking shape, then you will enjoy this lovely
Tours of Vikingsholm Castle are available seven
days a week from Memorial Day weekend until the end of September.
There is a fee for tours and a fee for parking in the Vikingsholm
parking lot on Hwy. 89.
Directions: Along Hwy. 89, 8.5 miles northwest
of Hwy. 50 junction, at South Lake Tahoe. Park at the Emerald
Bay / Vikingsholm State Park.
3. Nevada Shoreline. Begin
at the paved parking lot on the west side of Highway 28,
south of Sand Harbor. The
trail drops to the beach and follows the shoreline, passing
Chimney Beach, Secret Harbor, and Whale Beach. The trail
eventually connects to a service road that can be followed
back up to the parking area. It's an easy 4-mile hike, with
a vertical climb of only 300 feet.
4. Shirley Lake. Shirley Lake
is in Squaw Valley to the north of Lake Tahoe. Even though
Squaw is not inside the Lake Tahoe Basin, it's a hop skip
and a jump away, and the trail is popular. The hike is considered
difficult and takes 2½ - 3 hours. As always, your fitness
will determine whether you think this trail is easier or more
difficult for you, and the better shape you are in the more
fun you can have, of course.
This trail leads to Shirley Lake, then down to
Shirley Canyon. To get there, you can take the scenic tram
ride at Squaw Valley up to High Camp and hike down, or you
can hike first and then enjoy riding the tram on your way
back. The trail begins at the end of Squaw Creek Road, next
to the cable-car building. From this point, you will enjoy
a 4-mile hike, easy to moderate in difficulty, with a few
Here's a brief description from the start at
the end of Squaw Peak Road. (There are several other trails
which follow the creek up to Shirley Lake.) There are actually
trails on both sides of Squaw Creek for about 2½ miles
to Shirley Lake. You will stroll alongside gorgeous waterfalls
and canyon boulders. Going uphill, we recommend you stay to
the left of the creek. Then, going downhill, you can stay
to the right. The trail diverges and seems to disappear at
times, but just keep following the creek and you'll always
be on track. P.S. Remember to carry water.
5. Stagecoach Lift at Heavenly toward
Star Lake. This is a popular trail whether you are
in peak shape or just out for a nice walk with the family.
An out-and-back trip allows you to get in some beautiful scenery
of both the Lake Tahoe and Carson Valley Nevada side of the
ridge, and you can determine your distance.
The trail starts at the Stagecoach Lift at Heavenly
Valley. To get there you will drive past a multitude of resort
condos, and take note that you will be able to return for
refreshments at little convenience store or pub after your
The trail starts at the ski lift with a short
climb, and if your visit is during wildflower season you will
find a wide variety of lovely mountain flowers surrounding
you right away. The first few miles are well used by hikers,
and you will be in the company of cheery families with their
dogs as well as mountain runners and a few mountain bikers.
This is a wonderful place to take family, since you get a
chance to view the Heavenly Ridge (Ridge Tahoe Resort) within
the first few miles, and there's even a little wood bench
for sitting to take in the view.
After the first mile the trail becomes more suitable
for hiking rather than mountain biking, unless you are into
technical riding. For the experienced and fit biker, have
at it for a fun and rocky ride trending up hill for about
6 miles. Inexperienced riders will walk more than ride, so
don't say we didn't warn you. But, hiking is not a problem
here. The trail has been nicely built with stairsteps made
in the rocks, and you will find yourself wondering how many
people have worked to create your nice experience.
Although the first 12 miles steadily climbs,
it is not at all steep and the scenery is beautiful, including
many views of ridges and mountains across the Carson Valley.
You will cross Mott Canyon and another ski trail as well as
some mountain streams.
Proceeding all the way to Star Lake and beyond
is farther than we wanted to go with this little review. But,
whether you make this a 1 hour trip or a full day hike, you
will enjoy this trail.
Our Top Picks for More Information for Lake
Tahoe Hikers, Walkers, Backpackers and Trail Runners
This site is fabulous, with tons of trail and map information, and if you're looking for the greatest folks to join you on the trails, you can join the Tahoe Mountain Milers on one of their hiking or trail running excursions. You will find a full schedule of activities, including mountain runs! The Tahoe Mountain Milers invite all Lake Tahoe visitors to join the fun.
Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit Hiking
This is another of Best Resource for hiking trails at Lake Tahoe. The folks at the US Forest Service really love Lake Tahoe and it shows!
Tahoe's Best Online Hiking, Backpacking &
Trail Running Maps
Some Hikes that are a little
- One of the most accessible wildernesses in the country,
Desolation is a popular destination for day hikers and visitors
alike. Luckily, over 63,000 acres of forest and 130 lakes
offer enough space for everyone to get pleasantly lost in
nature. You’ll need a permit for hiking and camping
– obtain it by visiting a forest service office. Check
out www.fs.fed.us/ for more information.
Two popular access points for
Desolation Wilderness are at the Eagle Falls Trailhead in
South Lake Tahoe or the Granite Lake Trailhead near Inspiration
Point at Emerald Bay. Take either trail through Velma Lakes
and towards Dick’s Lake where you’ll intersect
with the Pacific Crest Trail. Undesignated campsites are
available – some right on the lakes’ shores.
Glen Alpine Trailhead is another
way to enter Desolation Wilderness and offers a number of
trail options. Some spiral up towards Susie, Heather and
Aloha Lakes, providing stunning views, granite walls and
features. The Glen Alpine Trailhead is located off of Hwy
89, just north of South Lake Tahoe on Fallen Leaf Road.
Granite Chief Wilderness
- On the west shore of Lake Tahoe butting up to Alpine Meadows
and Squaw Valley ski areas, Granite Chief Wilderness features
granite cliffs that swoop down to glacial valleys and is
the headwater for the American River. Aside from the busy
day hike to the 5 Lakes area, Granite Chief Wilderness is
less populated than many other wilderness areas and only
requires permits for camp stoves (campfires are prohibited).
Explore trails into the Hellhole Reservoir or Picayune Valley
to find a solitary escape. Camping is prohibited within
600’ of any of the 5 Lakes and dogs are not permitted
in certain deer fawning areas.
- If you’ve a hankering for heights, trek through
Mokelumne Wilderness for access to Jobs and Freels Peaks
– two of the highest in the Tahoe Basin. The Wilderness,
located south of South Lake Tahoe between Hwys 88 and 4,
is also home to many small lakes, granite features and the
rugged Mokelumne River Canyon. Wilderness permits are required
for overnight users from the Eldorado National Forest.
Meiss Country Roadless
Area - Located between Luther Pass (Hwy 89) and
Carson Pass (Hwy 88), this area features lovely hikes as
well as intersections with the Pacific Crest and Tahoe Rim
Trails. Campfires are permitted with permit. Find more information
from the forest service here.
Within Meiss Country, hike to
Meiss Lake where warm, shallow waters make for an ideal
swimming spot. The trailhead can be found just past the
intersection of Hwys 88 and 89, one mile past the Carson
Also catch the Tahoe Rim
Trail’s Big Meadows Trailhead and explore three alpine
lakes: Round, Dardanelles and Scotts. Scenic volcanic cliffs
and granite shelves complement these lakes’ beauty.
Trails also wander through Meiss and Big Meadows, where
wildflowers bloom in profusion. The trailhead is located
off of Hwy 89, about 5 miles south of US 50 between Luther
and Carson passes.
Tahoe Rim Trail
- You can explore all 8 segments of its 165 mile path. Forming
a loop around Lake Tahoe that encompasses peak heights,
calm meadows, and dizzying vistas, the TRT is truly one
of the best ways to experience the beauty of the Lake. Camping
is permitted within 300 feet of the trail in every area
except Tunnel Creek to Spooner Summit in the Nevada State
Park section of the trail (two designated campgrounds are
available in that section). Campfires are prohibited, although
portable camp stoves are allowed with permit. Visit www.tahoerimrtail.org
for more information and access points. Explore the Tahoe
Meadows to Spooner Summit section of the TRT and detour
up to explore Marlette Peak or down to Marlette Lake. This
section of the trail is in the Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park.
Camping is available at the Marlette Peak Campground or
the North Canyon Campground. Adventuring on spurs off of
the main trails can lead to spectacular views of Lake Tahoe.
Access this portion of the TRT at either the Tahoe Meadows
Trailhead off of SR 431, or the Spooner Summit Trailhead
on the south side of Hwy 50.
Reviews of Tahoe Rim
Trail and Mt. Tallac Hike
5 of 5 stars
The Rim Trail
is the most beautiful piece of land in
Tahoe. There are many trailheads to start
from. We did Tahoe Meadows, Mt. Rose Summit
and Mt. Tallac. Mt. Tallac being the most
strenuous of them all. Very steep at times
but the view from the top is worth every
step of the way. Plan on about 6 hours.
to get lost - 4 of 5 stars
We rode different
trails and very little is marked. So at
times hard to know which way to turn.
One sign post had been knocked down. Fortunately
Village Ski & Bicycles in Incline Village
has a website with maps. Also Spooner
Lake Flume Trails told us what to look
for. Streuous ride. Guaranteed to go up
hill a few miles...
Tahoe Rim Trail
of 5 stars
the Tahoe Rim Trail, mostly day hikes
but with some overnighters and one 5-day
trip through the Desolation Wilderness.
The whole trail can be done as day hikes
with some planning, and car shuttles.
Beautiful, sometimes crowded, especially
on the sections that allow mountain bikes.
Water sources can be problem, especially
on the East side, and following poor winters.
The Tahoe Rim Trail Association maintains
a website that is loaded with information.
Any trip to Tahoe should include at least
one day hike on the Rim Trail.
at FREE USFS Parking
|The Rim Trail is a lot
of fun whether you hike, run, mountain bike
or cross country ski. And it's FREE! The
Mt. Rose Meadows parking lot is FREE. But,
you have to know that you can also park
for FREE at the US Forest Service parking
lot on Spooner Summit. There are other NOT
FREE parking lots by the State of Nevada
and you can save money by finding the USFS
lot. Go to Spooner Summit on Hwy 395 and
look for the lot on the SOUTH side of the
highway. There are shade trees and restrooms
at this lot too. The parking spaces are
wide and laid out very well. You can start
your trip on the Rim Trail from here heading
south or north. To go north, you just need
to walk across the highway.
Reviews of This Page
5 of 5 stars - T.M. from Pittsburgh said...
is my favorite site for quick information
about backpacking at Lake Tahoe! Thanks
for all the information organized so that
I can branch out and get the details later,
but don't have to. I found some great
new trails to backpack with my kids last
week off the beaten path!
Resource for Runners
of 5 stars - E.R. from Reno said...
Thanks for including
all the running information for us trail
running enthusiasts at TahoeHighSierra.com! I just strapped on my fanny pack
and headed out today on the loop you suggested
at Spooner Summit. Great one hour run
with fabulous Tahoe views! Thanks!
Tahoe Rim Trail
of 5 stars -T.R.J. from Canada said...
Nice site! Keep it up!