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Six great hikes in Tahoe South

Posted in Hiking+Running | June 6, 2014 | By Tahoe South

- Jenn Gleckman

In honor of National Trails Day this Saturday, June 7th, it seemed appropriate to talk about the best hikes in South Lake Tahoe.  Hiking is one of my favorite ways to explore the topography and terrain surrounding the lake.  That it keeps me in shape for winter is an added bonus.  With so many terrific hikes here, it’s hard to get bored.  Below are a few to get you started:

Skyline Trail – Lift accessed hiking is almost as fun as lift accessed skiing, allowing you to access high elevation trails without all that pesky effort.  Explore Heavenly’s varied options at the top of the Gondola. One favorite is to take the Tamarack Express chairlift for expansive views of Lake Tahoe. Once at the top hike along Skyline Trail for more scenic views of the Carson Valley and Lake Tahoe. Approximately 2 miles roundtrip.

Reflection of Mt Tallac in Fallen Leaf Lake, Lake Tahoe
Mt Tallac Mirrored on Fallen Leaf Lake | Photo Credit: Garrett Kushner via Flickr

Fallen Leaf Lake – Need a family-friendly hike? Fallen Leaf has you covered. Numerous gentle trails contour around the lake, Taylor Creek, and the nearby campground, with views of Mt. Tallac and the Desolation Wilderness.  It’s a great place to find wildflowers in the spring, and the aspens along Taylor Creek are beautiful in the fall.  Approximately 1-3 miles round trip.

Cascade Falls – This short hike near Emerald Bay is best enjoyed in the spring, when Cascade Falls is at its peak.  The trail contours along a mountain overlooking Cascade Lake, with views of Lake Tahoe and Desolation Wilderness.  Ambitious hikers can head back to the Bayview trailhead and hike up to Maggie’s Saddle into the Desolation Wilderness .  Approximately 2 miles round trip.

View of Lake Tahoe from the Van Sickle trail in South Lake Tahoe
View of Lake Tahoe from the Van Sickle Trail via Flickr

Van Sickle Trail – Located just behind the Heavenly Village, the Van Sickle Bi-State Park is Tahoe South’s newest park.  The park’s premier trail, the Van Sickle Trail, connects Stateline to the Tahoe Rim Trail, delivering terrific views within the first mile.  Hike to the waterfall (0.75 mile one way), or continue up to the junction of the Tahoe Rim Trail (3.6 miles one way).  This is best done as an out and back so you can savor the views on the descent.

Views from the Rubicon Trail on the West Shore of Lake Tahoe
Photo Credit: Joan Wharton via Flickr

Rubicon Trail – This scenic trail along the shores of Emerald Bay and Lake Tahoe’s west shore boasts terrific panoramas of the lake along a moderate, undulating trail that takes you past cliffs, coves, wildflowers, waterfalls and even an old lighthouse.  Park at either D.L. Bliss State Park or Emerald Bay, or both if you wish to hike it point to point.  Approximately 6.6 miles one way, 13.2 miles roundtrip.

View from the summit of Mt Tallac, overlooking Lake Tahoe
Mt Tallac | Photo Credit: Joan Wharton via Flickr

Mt. Tallac – One of the most challenging hikes at Lake Tahoe, this trail takes you to the summit of the tallest mountain in the Tahoe basin (9,735’).   While it takes effort (admittedly a LOT of effort), the views from the top are well worth it.  Approximately roundtrip distance is 10 miles, with an elevation change of 3,255  feet. Note: a hiking permit is required for this trail, and can be obtained at the trailhead.

Whether you’re a former girl scout (like I am) or not, it’s important to be prepared when hiking.  No matter how long I plan to be out on the trail, I always carry a backpack that contains the following:

  • Water
  • Snacks
  • Map
  • A light waterproof jacket
  • Sunblock & lip balm
  • Bug spray
  • Small first aid kit (including emergency blanket)
  • Small pocket knife
  • A hat
  • A warmer layer (depending on the time of year)
  • Camera 
  • Small headlamp

Jenn, who moved to Lake Tahoe in 1999, is a tourism marketer for local agency Strategic Marketing Group.  She admits to spending as much time as possible playing outside, ideally on her skis or mountain bike.



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