Spring Outings at Tahoe South
By: Cam Schilling
Do you hear that? The snow is melting and winter is moving on. You never know when spring is really going to hit in Lake Tahoe, but after another record-breaking winter on the books, I think everyone is tired of the early morning ice scraping and ready for sunny spring days. Mother nature has fought off winter enough that it seems safe to say spring is here. While Tahoe’s various surrounding streams and lakes are filling to the brim, a new Tahoe is awakening.
It can be an odd time of year. Will it be too chilly? Are my favorite hobbies ready for me? Well, how muddy are you willing to get? Finally, we can start to take advantage of a much larger portion of the activities that make Tahoe an unrivaled outdoor destination.
If you’re not ready to part ways with the slopes, the spring skiing is sure to be incredible and Heavenly Resort extended their season through Memorial Day Weekend. If you’re satisfied with your goggle-tan and eager for what’s next, South Lake Tahoe is the place to be, bet on it.
It’s a great time to get back to nature. If you start on the south shore and head south on Highway 50, you’ll follow the perfect route for any day no matter the season, but especially spring since it starts to become more accessible earlier on than many spots the further you venture out. Keep reading for some potential outings that you’ll come across – you can reach any of these destinations in under an hour (and most much quicker) if starting in Tahoe South.
Head toward Fallen Leaf Lake and the Lower Glen Alpine Falls will be roaring at this point. From this trailhead, you can get warmed up for the season with numerous short hikes through the trees and some great scenery to match. If you prefer, you can set out for much longer treks around Fallen Leaf Lake and of course the esteemed Mt. Tallac (also accessible from this trailhead). It’s incredible to see the other snow-capped peaks from the summit of Tallac, but you will definitely need some proper boots for the snow.
Instead of taking Emerald Bay road toward Fallen Leaf Lake, if you continue straight on Lake Tahoe Blvd. and begin to actually exit the Lake Tahoe area your world opens up to many more options. It’s starting to become dry enough that you can bust out the bike again, and spring is an incredible season for mountain biking. Experienced riders know that the riding is often preferable when the ground is a little damp because your tires can really grab and grip. Tahoe Mountain (shortly after you pass Sawmill Rd., off Tahoe Mountain Rd.) is one of the most classic spots on the south side known for access to multiple trails for all skill levels.
If you continue on Highway 50 you’ll eventually hit Echo Lake where you can hike the PCT and/or Tahoe Rim Trail out to Flagpole & Echo Peaks. If you skip the peaks, you could take the Tahoe Rim Trail from here all the way to Desolation Wilderness and the astounding Lake Aloha. This is, in my opinion, one of the coolest lakes you can visit in the area, and easily a favorite spot for pitching a hammock and relaxing with a sandwich. These can be fairly challenging trails for the humble hiker and you will want to be properly fueled up with plenty of water and proper shoes.
If you were to continue past Echo Lake, past Sierra at Tahoe, you’ll come to the Pyramid Creek Trailhead in Twin Bridges, CA which will bring you to one of the most scenic waterfalls around, Horsetail Falls. Although a bit strenuous as you approach the last leg, the views at the top are incredible and you’ll be graced with the view of Avalanche Lake looking over Desolation Wilderness and Lake Tahoe.
Let’s backtrack a little bit. Instead of following Highway 50 in the above route I’ve detailed, you could turn off on Highway 89 towards Luther Pass for even more adventures within a similar driving distance.
For something a little more low-key, Hope Valley is, of course, incredible spring or fall if you want to view the colorful wildflower bloom. The striking views continue as you approach Meiss Meadows, a piece of the watershed of the upper Truckee River, thus rich with wildflowers when the snow is clear.
Continue on the Carson Pass for more breathtaking hikes without the crowds. If the snow is clear enough (or you’re properly equipped) the trek to Showers Lake, in particular, is spectacular. Just beyond that is a really fun hike to Elephant’s Back which offers great views and wildflowers throughout. Make it a day and keep hiking passed Elephant’s Back all the way to Round Top Lake.
Remember that the woods are just beginning to clear out. In some spots, you’ll need to be prepared for snow if you really want to take advantage of it all, as you should. It’s easy to be content in Lake Tahoe because you don’t have to go far for a top-notch adventure, but even if you just barely venture south out of Lake Tahoe a whole new world opens up, and it’s all worth exploring.