In the summertime, many trails frequented by snowshoers and cross-country skiers turn into perfect paths for hiking. In fact, wonderful hikes abound all around the lake, up in the mountains, and out by the smaller alpine lakes surrounding Tahoe.
Along the South Shore, hikes range from easy walks along the shore at the Tallac Historic Site to hardcore treks up the Mount Tallac Trail (Hwy. 89 at Baldwin Beach, South Lake Tahoe, 10 miles round-trip, difficult). This long hike starts out easy, taking casual strollers past the Floating Island and Cathedral Lakes, then gets steeper and harsher as it ascends up the front face of the mountain. To access the trail, turn off the highway away from the beach toward the dirt road, which takes you to the trailhead parking lot.
For a more moderate but equally beautiful hike, choose the Echo Lakes Trail (Johnson Pass Rd. at Lower Echo Lake, 5–12 miles, moderate to strenuous, wilderness permit may be required). You can pick your distance on this route, depending on how many small pristine alpine lakes you want to see. You’ll start with a short walk to Upper Echo Lake, where you have an option to catch a water taxi rather than continuing on the trail along the lake. If you keep on going, you’ll see Tamarack Lake, Lucille and Margery Lakes, Lake in the Woods, and maybe even Aloha.
Up North Shore way, the great hiking continues. For a quick easy walk, head up to the State Lookout (Forest Service Rd. 1601 at the iron pipe gate, 1 mile, easy). At the lookout, you’ll find summer volunteers who can give you information about the region, including the short, self-guided nature trail that surrounds the lookout proper.
For a heftier hike, try the Marlette Lake Trail (Spooner Lake Trailhead, 10 miles, moderate to difficult). The trailhead sits inside the Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park at the junction of Highways 50 and 28. You’ll be charged a parking fee at the gate. The hike itself slopes uphill all the five miles up to the Marlette Dam. While you’re free to enjoy the beauty and serenity of this manmade lake, no fishing is allowed because the lake serves as a fish hatchery.
Serious hikers challenge themselves with the North and South Rim Trails (www.tahoerimtrail.org, 40 miles total, difficult). These two trails put together encircle all of vast Lake Tahoe (minus a couple of spots where connectors have been proposed but not yet built). Check the map on the website for the various trailheads; about half a dozen fan out around the lake. To do the whole Rim Trail takes two or three days for a fit, experienced hiker who expects to camp along the way.
Contact the visitors center for information about wilderness permits and backcountry camping along the Rim Trails. More casual day-hikers can pick one portion of the trail and tackle it, either doing a back-and-forth, or using some sort of shuttle service to get back home again at the end of the day.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition