15 Amazing Lake Tahoe Hikes to Explore

lake tahoe hikes canoe
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Lake Tahoe is one of my favorite places to visit in the United States no matter what time of year it is. In the winter the lake turns into a ski resort town with plenty of skiing, snowboarding, and other snow sports to do. When the snow melts, you get to explore the mountains by doing one of the many Lake Tahoe hikes.

While I’ve been lucky enough to visit Lake Tahoe in the winter and summer, I highly prefer going in the summer. This is when you get the best weather for hiking in Lake Tahoe, and there are so many different hikes to choose from.

I put together a list of some of the best hikes in Lake Tahoe based on my experience. You can click on the map below to see what hikes are where in the area if you want to pick them based on location.

When you’re hiking in Lake Tahoe, you’ll want to make sure you have the right gear. At a minimum, I recommend the following:

Outfit Suggestions:

Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Long-Sleeve Shirt Prana Pillar Legging KEEN Targhee III Waterproof Hiking Shoe Patagonia P-6 Label Trad Cap
Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Long-Sleeve Shirt Prana Pillar Legging KEEN Targhee III Waterproof Hiking Shoe Patagonia P-6 Label Trad Cap

15 Best Lake Tahoe Hikes

There are many different hikes in Lake Tahoe, but here are some of the more popular ones.

1.  Mount Tallac Trail

Distance: 10 miles
Elevation gain: 3,500 feet
Difficulty level: Hard

One of the more difficult Lake Tahoe hiking trails, this a hike in South Lake Tahoe. The trail runs for about 10 miles and is moderately trafficked with an elevation gain of about 3,500 feet.

On this trail, you’ll have some amazing views of the surrounding region, including vistas, and scenic ridges. There are even two small alpine lakes that are ideal for taking a dip in the hot summer air, which is a popular Lake Tahoe summer activity.

The Mount Tallac Trail is best to visit from May to October, as the conditions can get tough with the snow in the colder months. Even though it’s a difficult trail, this South Lake Tahoe hike is rewarding and you’ll be glad you finished it in the end.

2. Fallen Leaf Lake Trail

lake tahoe hikes fallen leaf lake

Distance: 8 miles
Elevation gain: 600 feet
Difficulty level: Moderate

A refreshing hiking spot, this trail is found near Fallen Leaf Lake, which is the second largest lake in the Tahoe basin. Since this is a relatively large area and is also family friendly, there are many different trails to take.

This destination is one of the hikes in Lake Tahoe that is a destination where the entire family take an easy walk or hike through a beautiful forested area.

It’s also for those seeking a slightly more significant challenge, as the hike extends upwards to an elevation gain of about 600 feet for a length of about 8 miles. It’s not a difficult trail, but rather a moderate one, and this scenic destination offers views of the lake below in all of its splendor, as well as some of the best hiking in Lake Tahoe.

It’s an amazing location and is accessible all year round, though the warmer months are more recommended for a visit. This makes it one of the best hikes in Tahoe, especially if you’re stopping here on a West Coast road trip.

3. Granite Lake and Maggie’s Peaks

Distance: 3.5 miles
Elevation gain: 1,000 feet
Difficulty level: Hard

Granite Lake is a hike in South Lake Tahoe and is in an alpine forest and is surrounded by flat terrain. There are a few trails and some off-the-beaten-path-routes that offer superb panoramic views of a wide and beautiful region. The trail itself begins from Bayview trailhead and is a trail of a modest length of about 3.5 miles.

The lake is the main attraction here due to the panoramic views that it offers, but another 1,000 feet above Granite Lake is the south peak of Maggie’s Peaks. This overlooks the stunning blue waters of Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe, the Desolation Wilderness, and Granite Lake below it.

There are no direct trails to either peak, but the route itself is quite straightforward. However, be warned that the cliffs on the eastern side can be quite dangerous, so descending them is highly discouraged. This is one of the best Lake Tahoe hikes if you’re looking for a challenge.

4. Glen Alpine Falls

lake tahoe hikes glen alpine falls

Distance: 5 miles
Elevation gain: 700 feet
Difficulty level: Moderate to hard

A breathtaking natural jewel around Lake Tahoe, this is one of those memorable trails that has something beautiful to see at every turn. One of its highlights is the cascading falls of about 65 feet that fall down like seemingly down stairs or steps. These falls are among the first things you’ll encounter coming up on the trail.

The trail itself is moderately difficult and runs for about 5 miles, and is best explored from March to September. The heavily forested region is beautiful and a great place to go on a dog-friendly vacation.

However, the falls themselves reduce to barely a trickle in the hot summer months since they’re dependent on melting snow from the region. This doesn’t mean that this trail isn’t one of the most memorable Lake Tahoe Hikes, because it absolutely is.

5. Echo Lakes Trail

Distance: 5 miles
Elevation gain: 600 feet
Difficulty level: Easy to hard

A fantastic Lake Tahoe hiking trail for hikers of all skills and experiences, this is a series of continuous ones that run for different lengths. This is one of those Lake Tahoe hiking trails that is great for those simply seeking a nice relaxing day.

You can take a 2.5-mile trail that will lead them to the far end of Upper Echo. Once there, you can rest or choose to dip in the lake to cool down.

Depending on how far you feel like hiking, there are trails that run up to different locations for about 4 or 5 miles in different directions. This is a popular sight both in the summer and the winter.

In the summer, it’s possible to cut down a few miles by using the water taxi if you’re feeling a bit tired from hiking.

6. Lighthouse Trail

Distance: 2.5 miles
Elevation gain: 500 feet
Difficulty level: Easy

One of the easiest Lake Tahoe hikes around Tahoe Basin, this trail is still beautiful nonetheless. The Lighthouse Trail is named after the century-old lighthouse that still stands about halfway through the trail, which rivals the gorgeous lighthouses found on a Big Sur drive.

The trail itself is about a 2.5 miles loop that’s only accessible in the hot summer months, or at most early fall. Snowfall later in the year tends to block access.

The most memorable aspect of this trail is sheer scenic beauty, especially just after sunrise or before sundown. This time is when Lake Tahoe is glimmering with beauty, or the Sierra Nevada Mountains are solemnly looming over the region.

You can also take a very short hike down to Calawee Cove for a refreshing swim in the lake, which is a fantastic bonus for an already amazing Lake Tahoe hiking trail. If you’re stopping here on a San Francisco road trip, it’s a great place to add to your itinerary.

7. Horsetail Falls

Distance: 3 miles
Elevation gain: 700 feet
Difficulty level: Moderate

The name Horsetail comes from the waterfalls found on this trail that cascade and falls down on the bedrock to form the water that resembles a horse’s tail.

It’s not a very long trail by itself, as it goes for just over 3 miles. However, it runs along boulders and rocks and it’s quite slippery at some points. Therefore some of it, such as the first-half mile, is considered moderately difficult.

The best time to visit this Lake Tahoe  is late spring or early summer since that’s when the waterfalls are in full swing. Several other trails continue upwards, which can get a bit difficult. However, for people seeking a rewarding adventure that’s not too difficult, this trail is ideal.

8. Van Sickle Bi-State Park

van sickle hiking in lake tahoe

Distance: 2-5 miles
Elevation gain: 600-2,000 feet
Difficulty level: Easy to moderate

This is a location that’s often considered a mecca for people seeking adventure in the outdoors. It’s not only a perfect destination for hikers, but also for mountain bikers. The trails run for different lengths and are suitable for people with varying skills and experiences.

A fun fact is you cross the state line when you do this Lake Tahoe hike, so you can start in California and end up in Nevada.

The most popular path is the Connector Trail which runs for about 5 miles. Part of it features a stunning waterfall just 1.7 miles down the trail. Since there’s a distinct lack of trees on this elevation, there are great views of Lake Tahoe all the time.

Based on how long you want to hike, you can continue upwards for several miles onto more difficult parts of the trail. This is one of the best hikes in Tahoe due to multiple skill levels being able to access it.

9. Five Lakes Trail

Distance: 4.5 miles
Elevation gain: 1,100 feet
Difficulty level: Moderate

This trail is a very accessible, yet stunningly amazing, Lake Tahoe hiking trail. It’s a relatively short trail, reaching a maximum of 4.5 miles, but many people go just 2.5 miles.

The end destination is the five lakes nestled in the foothills of the Granite Chief Wilderness that are considered an amazing location to just relax or maybe take a swim.

It’s a popular destination, so it’s unlikely that there will be no other people there. Luckily, the area is broad enough to support plenty of people, and it offers just enough exploration so that everyone will feel like they’re on their own adventure.

10. Shirley Canyon Trail

Distance: 4.5 miles
Elevation gain: 1,400 feet
Difficulty level: Moderate to hard

A trail that’s beautiful right off the bat, there are two waterfalls in the first mile of hiking. The Shirley Canyon Trail offers some of the best Lake Tahoe hikes and runs for about 4.5 miles.

It’s considered a challenging trail, as it has a significant elevation gain of over 1,400 feet and has lots of large boulders, rocks, and streams to pass by.

While most people turn back at the second waterfall, the trail is constantly gorgeous to the top. You can even take a tram that’s free if you make it there. This isn’t a bad option, as getting down by foot is even harder and can be tough on the knees.

11. Middle Velma Lake Trail

Distance: 8 miles
Elevation gain: 2,100 feet
Difficulty level: Moderate

The three Velma Lakes are each a stunning natural wonder that deserves all the attention that they get. However, Middle Velma Lake is usually considered the most popular of the three.

Starting off at Bayview Trailhead, the trail lasts for about 4.5 miles with a decent elevation gain, sporting gorgeous views along the way.

It’s a moderate trail, requiring some skill to navigate, but it’s a decently accessible trail with absolutely stunning views and nature all around. This trail definitely deserves its spot among the best Lake Tahoe hikes.

12. Angora Ridge

lake tahoe hikes trail

Distance: 2.5-3.5 miles
Elevation gain: 500 feet
Difficulty level: Easy

Just below Mt. Tallac in the cleft of Angora Ridge is an amazing trail of about 2.5 miles. This is one of the best hiking trails in Lake Tahoe for people who want to experience nature without traversing difficult terrain.

The path itself is wide enough for a group of several people, and this trail leads up to Fire Lookout and Angora Lake.

Fire Lookout is a fantastic lunch area, as the smell of nature is downright soothing. It’s a 3.5-mile roundabout trip at an elevation of about 500 feet, making this one of the easiest, yet most rewarding hiking in Lake Tahoe.

13. Rubicon Trail in D.L. Bliss State Park

Distance: 12 miles
Elevation gain: 1,400 feet
Difficulty level: Easy to moderate

Not to be confused with the grand and long Rubicon Trail that runs for 22 miles, this is a trail that connects the two premier Tahoe state parks – D.L. Bliss State Park and Emerald Bay.

This trail runs for about 6 miles alongside the shore of the lake, and is mostly a flat route that goes through forested areas.

This is mostly an easy trail to go through, and at most it gets a moderate one, and depends mostly on where you start. Common starting points are Rubicon Trailhead, Vikingsholm, and Eagle Point Campground.

You can also decide whether or not to do the full length of the trail or just parts of it. It’s gorgeous at every step of the way, and it’s one of the best hikes in Lake Tahoe.

14. Floating Island and Cathedral Lakes

Distance: 5 miles
Elevation gain: 1,200 feet
Difficulty level: Easy

A trail filled with stunning vistas and unforgettable lakes, this path shares the same route with Mt. Tallac Trail. However, it is significantly easier and more accessible. While most of the trail is easy, there are bouts of moderate activity at places filled with rolling rocks, so be cautious.

There are trees on the west side that protect from the afternoon side, and open wide vistas to the east. This makes it quite easy to spot some amazing views, making it easily one of the best Lake Tahoe hikes.

15. Emerald Point Trail

lake tahoe hikes peak

Distance: 5 miles
Elevation gain: 500 feet
Difficulty level: Moderate

One of the best hiking trails in Lake Tahoe for gorgeous views, Emerald Point Trail runs on the northern side of Emerald Bay. This is primarily a flat terrain trail that at most runs for 5-6 miles.

While it’s great that it’s an easy and accessible trail, it’s also very popular due to this. The views of the lake and the bay are downright spectacular, especially in the warmer months from April to October.

There are countless trails around the entirety of the Tahoe Basin. The nature found here is some of the most diverse, gorgeous, and accessible that any hiker can ask for.

Hiking along the trails is always a pleasure, especially considering the views, the sights, and sounds of nature that surrounds this region. This is one of the best hikes in Lake Tahoe in my opinion.

Where to Stay When Hiking Lake Tahoe

Looking for a hotel to stay during your hikes in Lake Tahoe? Here are a few to check out.

  • Hotel Azure – This is a great South Lake Tahoe hotel to stay in during your visit. The hotel is right by El Dorado Beach so you can relax on the lake when you get back from a hike. They also have an outdoor swimming pool, sauna, fitness room, and a family fun center to hang out at after your Lake Tahoe hike (rates start at $125 per night on Hotels.com and Booking.com).
  • Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel – After going on a few hikes in Lake Tahoe, you’ll want to stay here if you want even more adventure on your trip. They’re at the bottom of Heavenly Mountain and just a few minutes from golfing, biking, ice skating, shopping, and more. This South Lake Tahoe hotel is a great place for families to stay (rates start at $99 per night on Hotels.com and Booking.com).
  • Beach Retreat & Lodge at Tahoe – This hotel is right on the lake so you don’t have to go far for a beautiful view. They have a volleyball court, an outdoor pool that’s heated, and a pier where you can rent kayaks and jet skis. You’ll also be close to restaurants when you’re ready for dinner (rates start at $125 per night on Hotels.com and Booking.com).

If you prefer to stay in a vacation rental in Lake Tahoe, these are some great options.

  • Lakefront Living Cabin – An inviting waterfront cabin, nestled on the sandy shores of Moon Dunes Beach. Enjoy relaxing on a deck with breathtaking views. (rates start at $200 per night)
  • Squaw Valley Condo – One bedroom, located on the top floor with vaulted ceilings and views of Shirley Canyon, Tram, and Emigrant Peaks. (rates start at $179 per night)

By now you should have more inspiration of what Lake Tahoe hikes you want to do next time you’re in the area! This is a beautiful place to explore, so enjoy your time hiking in Lake Tahoe.

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