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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 is one location, but locally we 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.
Quadrant & Activity and Locations within Quadrant:
Searching by quadrant & activity is the quickest way to find the type of adventuring you want to do within your specific area of Lake Tahoe.
North Tahoe– north shore of Lake Tahoe, from Tahoe City to Incline Village, and extending to Truckee and Mount Rose
- North Tahoe Hiking
- North Tahoe Cross-Country Skiing & Snowshoeing
- Tahoe City
- Brockway Summit / SR 267
- Martis Valley
- Incline Village
- Mount Rose Highway / SR 431
- Donner Pass
South Tahoe – south shore of Lake Tahoe, from DL Bliss State Park to Kingsbury Grade, and extends south to Round Top
- South Tahoe Hiking
- South Tahoe Cross-Country Skiing & Snowshoeing
- Emerald Bay
- Fallen Leaf Lake (and area just north of it on SR 89)
- Desolation Wilderness
- Pioneer Trail
- Stateline (including Kingsbury Grade south of SR 207)
- Christmas Valley
- Luther Pass
- Hope Valley
- Carson Pass
East Tahoe– generally between Kingsbury Grade / SR 207 and Incline Village
- East Tahoe Hiking
- East Tahoe Cross-Country Skiing & Snowshoeing
- SR 28 East (Spooner Summit to Incline Village)
- Spooner Summit
- HWY 50 (Stateline to Spooner Summit)
- Kingsbury Grade (north of SR 207)
West Tahoe – generally between DL Bliss State Park and Tahoe City
- West Tahoe Hiking
- West Tahoe Cross-Country Skiing & Snowshoeing
- Tahoe City
- Homewood (and locations nearby on SR 89)
- Barker Pass
- Meeks Bay
- DL Bliss State Park
- Wrights Lake
Category of Route:
Searching by category of route will yield all trails around Lake Tahoe that meet that criteria.
Short hikes that are generally less than 5 miles in distance and feature 500 feet or less of elevation gain.
“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 (2014 -2016). 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.
Lake Tahoe is nestled in the mountains, after all, so it’s difficult to find any 5-mile stretch of terrain that won’t require you to hike at least a little uphill. But when you’re limited in how far you can hike, how high you can travel, or are just short on time, choose a family fun hike!
Day hikes featured on Tahoe Trail Guide range between 5-12 miles long.
The average hiker doesn’t usually plan to hike more than a dozen miles in a day. 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.
Any route featured on Tahoe Trail guide that is longer than 12 miles is categorized as a multi-day hike.
For most average hikers and backpackers, 12 miles is considered more than enough for a single day’s worth of hiking. 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.
Also, any excursion (including cross-country skiing and snowshoeing) that features at least one overnight is tagged as a multi-day hike.
Organization of Trail Articles and Data:
- Introduction and summary describing highlights of the trail
- Trail Data (approximations):
- Location: quadrant – region – trailhead
- Category of Route
- Hike Time
- Total Mileage (total round-trip mileage of the trail)
- Trailhead Elevation (in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, I consider “flat” being 300-500 feet of elevation gain compared to trails that include 1,500-3,500 feet of gain
- Highest Point (may not always be the end feature of the trail)
- Total Elevation Gain
- Trail Condition
- Parking Directions
- Traveling along the Trail
- Frequently Asked Questions about the trail
Determining Hike Times
There are a couple of ways to determine how long it will take you to hike an established trail.
The first method is more based on mileage than elevation gain. This would be appropriate for a longer hike that didn’t feature a lot of elevation gain. For example, a 12-mile hike with 1,500 feet of elevation gain.
The second method is easier to use when your hike is relatively short, but includes a lot of elevation gain. For example, a hike that’s 5 miles long, but features 3,500 feet of elevation gain.
If the hike was longer and had a lot of elevation gain (i.e. 12 miles with 3,500 feet of elevation gain), I would use the first method. The reason I offer the second method is because there are many hikes at Lake Tahoe that are short but steep and the figure determined through the simple second method is good enough for estimating time.
- determine the total mileage for the hike then divide by a typical 2 miles/hour hiking pace (12 mile/2 mph = 6 hours)
- then, determine the total amount of elevation gain over the course of the 12 miles and add an extra 30 minutes for every 1,000 feet of gain (1,500 feet = 30 minutes + 15 minutes for an extra 45 minutes
- total hike time for a 12 mile hike with 1,500 feet of elevation gain would be approximately 6:45
- determine the amount of total elevation you will be climbing
- for each 1,000 feet of elevation gain, estimate that it will take one hour to hike when maintaining a typical 2 miles/hour hiking pace (3,500 feet/ 1,000 feet = 3.5)
- total hike time for a 5 mile hike with 3,500 feet of elevation gain would be approximately 3.5 hours
Please note that for the foreseeable future, Tahoe Trail Guide will be a one-person operation (me!). Therefore, it’s going to take me some time to research (i.e. hike and photograph) the many hiking and cross-country skiing locations around Lake Tahoe, particularly the north shore. So I ask that you be patient and read what I’ve already posted because many of the articles feature information and lessons learned that are universal. Thank you. – Jared Manninen