Nestled in the stunning Sierra Nevada’s, Lake Tahoe is a sapphire among snowcapped peaks. This gem of the Sierras straddles the state line between California and Nevada. The best views of the lake are found on foot. Whether you are looking to dip your feet into the refreshing water, or you are searching for the best bird’s eye view, there is a trail for everyone. Take a look at the best hikes in Lake Tahoe as told by a local.
What Do I Need to Enjoy the Best Lake Tahoe Hikes?
Before you head off on any hike, be sure to check the local weather conditions where you are hiking (I love weather.gov for the most accurate Tahoe weather information). Secondly, be sure you have the ten essentials packed and ready to go. This includes things like extra water (Lake Tahoe is very dry), snacks, and layers in case the weather changes. Be sure to carry a map and compass as well as a GPS. Lastly, tell someone your plans, and be sure to check in when you get back.
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- Treat your feet: hiking footwear de-mystified
Emerald Point Trail: Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe
Emerald Bay is a South Lake Tahoe icon and it offers some of Lake Tahoe’s best hikes. Sparkling emerald waters surround this famous bay. Flecks of Pyrite, or Fool’s Gold, in the sand contrast the deep green waters. Most people stop at the start of this trail at the scenic pullout along Emerald Bay Road. Climb down the steep hill and come across an old building at the water’s edge. Hike along the north side of the beach where you will get up close and personal with the stunning emerald waters, get a great view of Fannette Island and maybe even see a steam-powered paddle boat. The trail wanders along the shoreline until joining the Rubicon Trail, another favorite Lake Tahoe hike. Once you reach the end of the bay you’ve reached the end of this route. Pack your swimsuit, there are plenty of opportunities to swim along the way.
Directions to the trailhead: From the north or south shores follow Highway 89 until you reach Emerald Bay (about 20 minutes outside of South Lake). You will see a pullout on the lake side of the road for Emerald Bay Lookout. Pull in and the trailhead is right there.
Distance: 4.4 miles (7.1km) total. Out and back trail.
Elevation gain: 557 feet (176m)
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Summit Mt Rose: Mt Rose Wilderness, Nevada
Mount Rose is the highest point on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe at 10,778’ (3,285m). This 10.6-mile (17.1km) trail boasts a waterfall, alpine lakes and plenty of mountain scenery. After 2.5 miles (4km) you’ll spot the waterfall. Keep right at the junction just past the waterfall. From here the trail starts to climb. There will be another junction along the way, again you will want to head right. It’s another climb across the ridge. Afterward, you will encounter several switchbacks along this Lake Tahoe hike. The trail is well-defined to the top and offers stunning views of Lake Tahoe as well Reno. Despite the difficulty of this hike, the views are well worth the effort.
Directions to the trailhead: This trail is located at the top of Mt Rose highway, NV 431, the main artery in and out of the Tahoe Basin from Reno. Coming from Reno climb the pass until you reach the top, there will be a large parking lot with a couple of pit toilets on the right side. Coming from the lake, you will cross through a valley and the trailhead will be on the left side.
Distance: 10.6 miles (17.1km) total. Out and back trail.
Elevation gain: 2,444 feet (745m)
Tahoe Rim Trail: Various Entry Points Around the Lake
Looking for a thru-hike? Or perhaps you would like to do a little wild camping. The Tahoe Rim Trail is the granddaddy of trails in the Tahoe Basin. This 165-mile (266km) trail circumnavigates the lake, forming a loop around the Lake Tahoe Basin. The Tahoe Rim Trail is for the ultimate adventurer. Breathtaking lake views, mountain summits, and pristine wilderness are everywhere. It is arguably one of the most scenic trails in the United States.
The trail can be done in full or broken into eight segments. Each segment offers an in and out by vehicle and range from around 16.6 miles (26.7km) to 32.9 miles (52.9km) in length. This trail crosses many high points, some well above the trees. Be sure to check on conditions before you go. Check out the Tahoe Rim Trail Association for all of your planning needs.
Directions to the trailhead: This depends on the segment and where you are starting from. The Tahoe Rim Trail Association can provide you with details on parking and trailheads depending on your plan.
Distance: 165 miles (266km) Loop
Difficulty: Expert. This trail requires multiple days and an understanding of how to wild camp at high altitudes. It is best during the summer and fall months.
Elevation gain: Totals around 24,400’ (7,437m)
Exploring Tahoe? Here are some resources to help you make the most of your trip
Hidden Beach Trail: Off of Highway 28 on the Nevada Side
This is a local favorite Lake Tahoe hike and it’s easy to see why. There is no official trail, just a few paths made by the locals. You can boat in or walk to this swimming hole. It’s an easy scramble down the side of Highway 28. At the bottom, you’ll reach a stunning beach with crystal clear waters and the rounded rocks that Lake Tahoe is famous for. Pack your cooler, wear your swimsuit and hike down to the water and enjoy a relaxing day at the beach.
Directions to the trailhead: There is no official trailhead. Coming from Incline Village drive south on Highway 28. After you pass Lakeshore Blvd drive 0.9 miles (1.4km). You will see cars along the side of the highway. Park and follow the cow paths down to the water. Coming from the south side the beach is located approximately 0.9 miles (1.4km) from the Memorial Point Scenic Overlook.
Distance: Approximately 0.5 miles (0.8km) round trip. Out and back
Elevation gain: 50’ (15m)
Are you familiar with Leave No Trace? Learn how to Leave No Trace Basics enjoy the wilderness responsibly.
Best Beginner Hike in Lake Tahoe: Eagle Lake Trail
This is one of my all-time favorites any time of year. Located in the iconic Desolation Wilderness this doggy-friendly hike starts out with an uphill climb, but it’s worth the effort, spanning views of Lake Tahoe from the top of the hill make the Eagle Lake trail one of the best hikes in Lake Tahoe. Continue onwards for views of Eagle Lake, a small lake nestled among stunning granite peaks. You can continue walking uphill for even better views or eventually connect to the Bayview Trail for a longer hike to get deeper into the Desolation Wilderness.
Directions to the trailhead: Simply head to the Emerald Bay Overlook. The trail is right across the street from Emerald Bay. Keep in mind if you plan on staying overnight, you’ll need a permit
Distance: 1.8 miles (2.5km). Out-and-Back Trail
Elevation gain: 3433 feet (92m)
There are countless trails in the Lake Tahoe area, and these are just a few of the best Lake Tahoe hikes. For more inspiring hiking in Lake Tahoe, be sure to check out AllTrails. Happy hiking!