10 Tahoe Hikes for the Long Weekend
Itching to escape the City? Take advantage of the three-day weekend by heading to Tahoe and tackling one of these strenuous hikes – each one is over 10 miles. While most of the following can be accomplished in a day, some might require an overnight trip.
1. Mount Rose: 10 miles round trip
One of the most popular hikes in the Tahoe Basin takes you over 10,000 feet up, where you can get a view of Lake Tahoe, Reno, Sparks, the Stampede and Boca reservoirs—and on a clear day—Mount Lassen and Mount Shasta. The first half of the trail is easy and leads to a waterfall. After the falls, the trail steeply rises and the switchbacks begin. Note: the top of the mountain can be both windy and chilly.
Trailhead Directions: Take I-80 East 2.5 miles to CA-267/CA-89, exit 188B, towards Lake Tahoe. Drive 11.6 miles toward the lake and turn left on CA-28. Drive 4.6 miles on CA 28 until a left turn onto NV-431. Drive 8.2 miles uphill to Mount Rose Summit. The parking lot can fill up by mid-morning on the weekends.
2. Fourth of July Lake: 11 miles round trip
This lake is surprisingly empty on its namesake day. Perhaps due to the rugged but beautiful terrain surrounding it. Fourth of July Lake can be accessed from both the Carson Pass south of Lake Tahoe or from Upper Blue Lake in the Mokelumne Wilderness. Most people hike from the Carson Pass, where you can access the wonderful Winnemucca and Round Top Lake at the same time. During this time of year, Winnemucca and Round Top are usually surrounded by wildflowers.
Trailhead Directions: From South Lake Tahoe take CA-89 south to CA-88. Turn right on 88 and drive for a few miles to the Carson Pass parking lot and ranger station. Note: there's a day-use fee with this lot.
3. Aloha Lake: 14 miles round trip
One of the best day hikes in Desolation Wilderness, this fairly flat trek (though somewhat rocky) to Aloha Lake starts at Echo Lakes. In just under 14 miles, you will have access to five other lakes, perfect for taking a dip to cool off. This trip can easily be extended to include an overnight stay with a wilderness permit from the El Dorado County ranger station.
Trailhead Directions: From South Lake Tahoe, take US-50 south toward Placerville. Get off at the Echo Lakes Road and park at Lower Echo Lake. This parking lot fills up fast on the weekends, so planon being there early in the morning.
4. Freel Peak from Armstrong Pass: 10.2 miles round trip
This hike to the tallest peak in the Tahoe Basin goes along part of the famous Tahoe Rim Trail. At 10,881 feet, you will be able to see the entire Tahoe area from the top of Freel. While this trail is maintained for most of the hike, you will have to scramble a mile or so to the top on a well-worn path.
Trailhead Directions: From the junction with US-50 in Meyers near South Lake Tahoe, drive south on CA-89, 4.0 miles east of Big Meadow trailhead parking area to Willow Springs Road on the east side of the road. This is the forest service road FR-051, which heads northeast toward Horse Meadow.
5. Paradise Lake: 15 miles round trip
The hike to this alpine gem is great for all levels and can be done in a day or during an overnight trip. The hike follows a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail and will take you straight up to Castle Pass where you will get views of the Sierra Nevada. The lake has several secluded beaches where you can pitch a tent, have a nosh, or get some sun.
Trailhead Directions: Take Interstate 80 and exit at Castle Peak/Boreal Ridge exit. Proceed to the south side of the freeway and follow signs to the PCT trailhead.
6. Barker Pass to Tahoe City: 16.7 miles from the pass to Tahoe City
This comparatively easier part of the Tahoe Rim Trail / Pacific Crest Trail will take you over the ridgeline, above the West Shore, and into the Granite Chief Wilderness. The waterfalls in Ward Canyon can supply you with rehydration in early summer. Tip: If you don't want to hike back the difficult way, have a car parked and waiting for you in Tahoe City.
Trailhead Directions: Take Highway 89 (West Lake Blvd.) about 4.25 miles south of Tahoe City and turn right onto the Blackwood Canyon Road, starting opposite Kaspian Beach. Drive 7 miles to the crest above Blackwood Canyon to where the paved road turns to dirt, then another 0.2 mile to the Pacific Crest Trail parking lot on your right; it is a dirt lot.
7. D.L. Bliss State Park to Emerald Bay (Rubicon Trail): 13.2 miles round trip
This very popular trail is also one of the choicest ways to see the West Shore of Lake Tahoe. The hike starts at Lester Beach in D.L. Bliss State Park and takes you along the edge of the lake to picturesque Emerald Bay where you can cool off in the emerald water. Note: Some parts of the trail are high and hot, so bring plenty of water.
Trailhead Directions: D.L. Bliss is located 17 miles south of Tahoe City on Highway 89, a couple of miles north of Emerald Bay. The parking area for Lester Beach is at the bottom of the hill past the Visitor's Center. A day fee is required.
8. Velma Lakes: 10.5 miles round trip
Starting from the Eagle Falls trailhead, you get the best of both worlds: a great view of Emerald Bay and access to the gorgeous alpine Eagle Lake. Continue past Eagle Lake to reach the pristine Velma Lakes after the junction of Dicks Lake and the Bayview Trail. Your first stop will be Upper Velma, but you could also continue on and camp at several sites at Middle Velma Lake.
Trailhead Directions: From South Lake Tahoe, take CA-89 to the Eagle Falls trailhead above Emerald Bay. Parking for this area is very busy.
9. South Camp Peak: 10.4 miles round trip
The views of the East Shore of Lake Tahoe are quintessential Tahoe. The trail starts at Spooner Summit and heads 1,875 feet up the Tahoe Rim Trail to the bytes overlooking the lake. Glorious.
Trailhead Directions: Follow NV-50 West near Spooner Summit to about three quarters of a mile east of the Junction with State Route 28. Park at the Spooner Summit picnic area.
10. Mount Tallac: 9.7 miles round trip
Mount Tallac is just a hair shy of 10 miles round trip, but both the difficulty and terrain make it seem much longer. With some of the best views in the Tahoe area, Mount Tallac is a must for any peak-bagger.
Trailhead Directions: From South Lake Tahoe take CA-89 toward Emerald Bay, turn left on the Camp Shelly/Tallac City Camps turn-off. Parking lot located at the end of the road.
As with any hikes in the Tahoe area, be sure to bring plenty of water, food, and emergency supplies. Be sure to fill out any appropriate wilderness permits, too.