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 Trails at Heavenly Mountain Resort - Kristin Rust / LTVA
Hiking Trails at Heavenly Mountain Resort – Kristin Rust / LTVA

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

Views of Mt Tallac from Fallen Leaf Lake - Rachid Dahnoun / LTVA
Views of Mt Tallac from Fallen Leaf Lake – Rachid Dahnoun / LTVA

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

Winter aerial views of Cascade Lake - Brad Scott / LTVA
Winter aerial views of Cascade Lake – Brad Scott / LTVA

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

Hiking Van Sickle Bi-State Park Lake Tahoe - Rachid Dahnoun / LTVA
Hiking Van Sickle Bi-State Park Lake Tahoe – Rachid Dahnoun / LTVA

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

Hikers watching the sunset over Lake Tahoe - Rachid Dahnoun / LTVA
Hikers watching the sunset over Lake Tahoe – Rachid Dahnoun / LTVA

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

Hikers on the summit of Mt Tallac - Rachid Dahnoun / LTVA
Hikers on the summit of Mt Tallac – Rachid Dahnoun / LTVA


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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Six Great Hikes in Tahoe South

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