5 Beautiful Hiking Trail Systems Near Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in the United States. This clear, blue lake is split between the states of California and Nevada. In the winter, the area is a mecca for snow sports, but in the summer when days are long and skies are almost always blue and cloudless, there is an infinite number of adventures that await.

Hiking may be one of the most popular outdoor activities in the area, in stiff competition perhaps with road cycling, mountain biking, trail running, and stand-up paddleboarding.

The opportunities are endless, but here are five classic hiking trail networks in the area to narrow down your hiking choices when in Lake Tahoe. The option to do section hikes and day hikes are always available; these trails are not only reserved for long-distance hikers and backpackers.

1. Tahoe Rim Trail

Tahoe Rim Trail Lake Tahoe Hikes Spooner Summit at Tahoe Rim Trail | Photo Credit: Trish Sebastian

Tahoe Rim Trail is a 165-mile trail that loops around the Lake Tahoe Basin. There are trails for all levels and of various distances, but the views of Lake Tahoe, especially when you get higher up in elevation, are always splendid in this area. You can do the entire 165-mile loop around the lake in one backpacking trip, or you can do sections of it at a time. If you're wary of venturing out on your own, Tahoe Rim Trail Association hosts free guided hikes and it's a superb way of getting to know the area and meeting fellow hikers in the process.

2. Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)

The Pacific Crest Trail is that renowned, 2,650 mile long hiking trail that spans from Mexico north to Canada. The PCT goes through the Sierra Nevada mountain ranges, portions of which actually end up in the Lake Tahoe area. In some cases, it even intersects the Tahoe Rim Trail. If you look at the map, the section of the PCT that starts at Echo Lakes right out of Sonora to Donner Pass on Interstate 80 is in the general vicinity of Lake Tahoe.

3. Desolation Wilderness

Desolation Wilderness Lake Tahoe Hiking Lake Genevieve in Desolation Wilderness | Photo Credit: Trish Sebastian

On the southwest side of Lake Tahoe is an enchanting 64,000 acres of federally designated wilderness. There are 90 lakes, give or take, in Desolation Wilderness, and some of it is accessible to day hikers. The most common trails start at out at Meeks Bay, Echo Falls, Eagle Falls, and Fallen Leaf.

4. Tahoe-Yosemite Trail

This 180 mile trail starts at Meeks Bay on the west shore of Lake Tahoe, traverses through Desolation Wilderness and drops at Toulumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park. Since the trip is 180 miles, hiking this entire trail in one go isn't possible, but a multi-day backpacking trip will do the trick. If you plan on backpacking, do your research -- you will need to apply for permits in advance.

5. Mount Rose Wilderness

Mount Rose Lake Tahoe Hiking Mount Rose Summit in Mt. Rose Wilderness Area | Photo Credit: Trish Sebastian

Mount Rose is the highest peak in the Carson range. There are many trails for all levels at Mt. Rose Wilderness. Easy hikes start out at Mt. Rose Meadows and parts of it coincide with the Tahoe Rim Trail. A more challenging hike is to summit Mount Rose at 10,776 feet on a 12-mile out and back.

Have you hiked along any of these trail systems near Lake Tahoe? Which would you recommend?

Team Sierra
posted by
Trish Sebastian
As a member of #TeamSierra, Trish Sebastian receives promotional consideration from Sierra Trading Post. Trish is a curator of adventures, places, and experiences for her blog "Do Cartwheels with Me." Full disclosure: Trish doesn't know how to do cartwheels. Her blog was borne out of the desire to live the life of her dreams despite its awkward realities and scary potential for failure, but going at it and having the time of her life anyway. She was born and raised in Manila, Philippines. When Trish moved to the US, she had never hiked or seen snow. Living in the Sierras was disconcerting in the beginning, but ten years into it, Trish has fully adapted into the mountain life (including winters!) and can't imagine living a life other than this.
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