Tahoe Trails are organized a few different ways on this site. They are assigned a geographical quadrant (north, south, east, west). They’re identified by their more specific starting locations within each quadrant. They’re categorized as being either a family fun hike (i.e. short trail that’s less than 5 miles), day hike (5-12 miles), or multi-day hike (12+ miles). Lastly, the trails are grouped according to their activity and quadrant (i.e. hike south tahoe or xc ski south tahoe). To find the right trail for you, use the links on this page, the drop-down menu on the header, or the corresponding (search words) located on the sidebar and footer.
Most Tahoe Trails are located in and around the Lake Tahoe Basin, although some extend well beyond. For example, the Pacific Crest Trail travels far north and south of the Tahoe Basin, and the Tahoe Yosemite Trail begins at Meeks Bay and continues south to Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park. There are multiple national forests and wilderness areas that border Lake Tahoe or are close to it. Also note that on a global scale, Lake Tahoe constitutes one location. However, we locals refer to places around Lake Tahoe as being on one of the four shores (north, south, east, or west). Believe it or not it can take up to 3-4 hours to drive the 72-mile circumference around Lake Tahoe can depending on traffic, weather, construction, and special events.
Activity & Quadrant:
Searching by activity and quadrant is the quickest way to refine your search for finding the type of traveling you want to do along the trails in the region for which you want to travel.
- Cross-Country Ski North Tahoe (coming soon)
- Cross-Country Ski South Tahoe
- Cross-Country Ski East Tahoe (coming soon)
- Cross-Country Ski West Tahoe (coming soon)
- Snowshoe North Tahoe (coming soon)
- Snowshoe South Tahoe
- Snowshoe East Tahoe (coming soon)
- Snowshoe West Tahoe (coming soon)
Searching by specific location (bullet list) will primarily yield information about Tahoe Trails that originate at that location, but can also include relevant (tagged) articles from Lessons Learned and Trail Journal. Searching by quadrant only will yield all information pertaining to that region (which may include articles from Lessons Learned and Trail Journal).
North Tahoe – north shore of Tahoe (Tahoe City to Incline Village) and generally extends north to Truckee and Mount Rose
- Tahoe City (coming soon)
- Brockway Summit (SR 267) (coming soon)
- Martis Valley (coming soon)
- Incline Village (coming soon)
- Mount Rose Highway (SR 431) (coming soon)
- Truckee (coming soon)
- Donner Pass (coming soon)
South Tahoe – south shore of Tahoe (DL Bliss State Park to Kingsbury Grade) and generally extends south to Round Top
- Emerald Bay
- SR 89 (north of the “Y” which is the intersection of SR 89/HWY 50)
- Fallen Leaf Lake (coming soon)
- Desolation Wilderness
- Pioneer Trail
- Stateline (including Kingsbury Grade south of SR 207) (coming soon)
- Christmas Valley
- Luther Pass
- Hope Valley (coming soon)
- Carson Pass
East Tahoe – generally extends between Kingsbury Grade (SR 207) and Incline Village
West Tahoe – generally extends between DL Bliss State Park and Tahoe City
- Tahoe City (coming soon)
- Homewood (coming soon)
- Barker Pass (coming soon)
- Meeks Bay (coming soon)
- DL Bliss State Park (coming soon)
- Wrights Lake (coming soon)
Category of Route:
Searching by category of route only will yield all trails around Lake Tahoe that meet that criteria.
Family Fun Hike: “Where’s a good place to go hiking?” was the most common question I was asked while working at a backpacking store in South Lake Tahoe for three years. This isn’t surprising, but it was a challenge to answer when the person asking was standing beside their eight year old son and 80 year old mother. For this reason, I’ve compiled on Tahoe Trail Guide a series of short, easy Lake Tahoe hikes to accommodate people of all ages. These short and easy hikes are approximately 5 miles or less in distance and generally feature 500 feet or less of elevation gain. Lake Tahoe is nestled in the mountains, after all, so it can be difficult to find any stretch of 5 miles where you won’t be doing some climbing. But when you’re limited in how far you can hike, how high you can climb, or are just plain short on time, choose a family fun hike!
Day Hike: I’ve found that the average hiker doesn’t usually plan to hike more than a dozen miles in a day, so day hikes featured on Tahoe Trail Guide range between 5-12 miles long. Depending on circumstances such as elevation gain, weather, and snow pack some of the longer family fun hikes could be considered day hikes as well. Since the Lake Tahoe region is located within the Sierra Nevada Mountains, it’s generally accepted that elevation gain is a more important factor than the distance in miles when determining how long a hike will take you to complete. A rule of thumb you can use when calculating how long a mountainous hike along an established trail will take you is to first determine the amount of elevation you will be climbing. Then, for each 1,000 feet of elevation gain estimate that it will take one hour when maintaining a typical 2 miles/hour hiking pace. For example, if you plan to hike Mount Tallac and have looked at a map, you will know that the parking lot sits at about 6,430′, while the summit is at 9,735′. Therefore, you will have to contend with 3,305 feet of elevation gain (9,735-6,430) which means that you can expect to spend a little over three hours climbing to the top of Mount Tallac at a standard hiking pace.
Multi-Day Hike: For most average hikers and backpackers, I’ve found that 12 miles is considered more than enough for a single day’s worth of hiking. Therefore, any route featured on Tahoe Trail guide that is longer than 12 miles is categorized as a multi-day hike. Also, any excursion (to include cross-country skiing and snowshoeing) that features at least one overnight is tagged as a multi-day hike. Of course many people can and will cover more than 12 miles in a day, but for our purposes 12+ miles constitutes a multi-day hike.
Each Tahoe Trail features a brief description that includes:
- A teaser paragraph describing highlights of the trail
- Trail Data* (location, classification of hike, total mileage, total elevation gain, the trail’s highest point, and a terse description of the type of trail)
- Parking instructions
- Notes about traveling along the trail
* These are approximations. Total Mileage is the total round-trip mileage of the trail. With regard to Total Elevation Gain here in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, you may need to reconsider your idea of “flat.” I consider routes featuring 300-500 feet of elevation gain versus one that includes 2,000-3,500 feet of elevation gain flat. The trail’s Highest Point may not relate to the end feature of the hike. For example, the highest point of the hike to Cascade Falls is actually nearest the trailhead.
Please note that it’s going to take me awhile to produce articles for each of the locations around Lake Tahoe, so if there is not a link associated with a particular area it’s just because I haven’t had the time to travel and write about the area yet. For the time being, I’m a one-person show 🙂