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Six Great Hikes in Tahoe South

Hiking South Lake Tahoe

In honor of National Trails Day, it seemed appropriate to talk about the best Lake Tahoe hikes in South Lake Tahoe. Hiking is one of my favorite ways to explore the topography and terrain surrounding the lake. That, and 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 Hike

Hiking South Lake Tahoe with Family

Play the day away at Heavenly Mountain Resort | Photo by Jesse Starr / Heavenly Mountain Resort

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 round trip.

Fallen Leaf Lake Hike

mt tallac lake tahoe hike

Mt Tallac Mirrored on Fallen Leaf Lake | Photo by Garrett Kushner via Flickr

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 hike 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 Hike

cascade falls lake tahoe hike

Supergirl, Cascade Falls 2014 | Photo by Ray Bouknight via Flickr

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.

Van Sickle Trail Hike

van sickle lake tahoe trail hike

View of Lake Tahoe from the 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 of the hike. Hike up 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.

Rubicon Trail Hike

rubicon trail lake tahoe hike

Lake Tahoe's azure blue waters, enjoyed during a trail run on the Rubicon Trail | Photo by Joan Wharton via Flickr

This scenic trail hike 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 round trip.

Mt. Tallac Hike

Mt Tallac Lake Tahoe hike

Panoramic view of Lake Tahoe from Mt Tallac | Photo by Joan Wharton via Flickr

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. This hike is approximately 10 miles roundtrip, 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

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Jenn Gleckman

Jenn, who moved to Lake Tahoe in 1999, is in tourism marketing for MarketingProfs. She admits to spending as much time as possible playing outside, ideally on her skis or mountain bike.


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