Lake Tahoe hiking and backpacking trail information and maps including Carson Pass, Desolation Wilderness, and areas surrounding Lake Tahoe.

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Welcome to the Tahoe Adventure Sports Hiking and Backpacking index. Hiking or Backpacking in Lake Tahoe is a rare pleasure. From easy strolls to long, hard climbs, you can find a trail to suit your mood in Lake Tahoe. Below, we have catalogued many of the fine hiking and backpacking opportunities around Lake Tahoe. Each blue name is a link to a page with information on that area, including, where to park, a detailed trail description, and for many of the hikes, a trail map and elevation profile. Using the information provided, you should be able to plan a hike or backpacking trip appropriate to your experience and condition. Remember that back country travel involves a certain degree of risk. For hints on back country travel, see the Back Country Travel Tips page.

In the sidebar above, we have provided quick links to useful back country information. If you are unfamiliar with Sierra back country travel, we urge you to read through the information on water treatment, waste disposal, food storage, fires, and trail etiquette. Doing so may save you from our water nasties, law enforcement, or a tongue lashing. We share our fragile alpine environment with thousands of visitors every year. Because of this heavy use, conservation is not an's required!

Thanks for visiting our web site and we hope you have a great trip!

South Shore:

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Brief hike descriptions. Click for more detail.

Margaret Lake (Beginner): This is a nice five mile out and back hike near Carson Pass is well suited for families. Margaret Lake is a beautiful spot for swimming or just relaxing. Distance: 5 miles r/t. Elevation change: 678 feet.

Pope/Visitor Center (Beginner): This is less of a hike than a stroll on paved or wide dirt paths. Lots to see at Pope Estates and the Visitor Center including the Stream Profile Chamber...very cool. Nice beach too. Distance: 0.5 - 2 miles r/t. Elevation change: Virtually flat.

Fallen Leaf Lake (Beginner): This is another flat hike with fine views of Fallen Leaf Lake with Mount Tallac in the background. This hike can be extended depending on your condition and available time. Distance: 0.75 - 3 miles r/t. Elevation change: Flat.

Echo Lake Trail Head (Adjustable): This is an easily adjustable hike and very popular gateway to Desolation Wilderness for both hikers and Backpackers. Tamarac Lake, Ralston Lake, Lake of the Woods, and Lake Aloha are all accessible from this trailhead. Distance: 5 - 12 miles r/t. Elevation change: 500 - 1200 feet.

Carson Pass-South (Adjustable): This is the trailhead for the famous Lake Winnemucca wildflower hike in late July when acres of wildflowers all bloom at once! Also the gateway to Round Top Mountain and Lake, 4th of July Lake, and the Summit City Canyon. Distance: 5 - 12 miles r/t. Elevation change: 400 to 2000 feet.

Big Meadow Area (Intermediate): Three hike/backpacking possibilities from one trailhead! The Big Meadow trailhead serves as the point of departure for Scott Lake, Round Lake, and Dardanelles Lake. All are fine hikes, yet each lake has its own very different feel. Distance: 1 mile to Big Meadow, 7 miles to Dardanelles r/t. Elevation change: From 300 to 1100 feet.

Floating Is./Cathedral (Beginner-Intermediate): This is a nice family hike to Floating Island and perhaps even Cathedral for the older kids. It is also one of the trailheads for hiking to the top of Mount Tallac. Stunning views along the ridge overlooking Fallen Leaf Lake. Distance: 3 - 5 miles r/t. Elevation change: 700 - 1200 feet.

Glen Alpine Trail (Advanced): The first couple of miles of this trail are along a rocky road past summer cabins, nevertheless, Glen Alpine is one of the main gateways to Desolation Wilderness and leads to such stellar lakes as, Gilmore, Suzy, Half Moon, and Heather, not to mention Aloha. The Glen Alpine trailhead is also the starting point of two routes up Mount Tallac, the Middle Tallac Trail and the Glen Alpine Trail. Distance: From 9 - 13 miles. Elevation change: From 1400 - 1900 feet.

Horsetail Falls / Pyramid Creek (Adjustable): This short but steep hike up the Pyramid Creek drainage has spectacular views of Horsetail Falls which thunder in the spring and provide beautiful swimming pools in the summer. Distance: 2.5 miles round trip. Elevation change: +/- 800 feet (to the bottom of the falls).

Echo to Carson (Intermediate): This is a very pleasant hike with some climbing at the beginning that gives you nice views back toward Lake Tahoe as well as into the Upper Truckee drainage. Showers Lake is a pristine destination in itself. Most people shuttle a car to Carson Pass, but you can also go out and back from either Carson Pass or Echo Summit. Distance: 11.5 miles one-way. Elevation change: From Echo to Carson: +2875/-1709.

West Shore:

Bliss Rubicon Trail (Beginner): A very fine trail for families with terrific Lake Tahoe and Emerald Bay views. There are no big hills to climb and you can either shuttle a car between Bliss State Park and Emerald Bay or hike out for a bit and then back. Distance: 4.5 miles one-way. Elevation change: +/- 200 feet.

Eagle Falls/Lake (Beginner): The hike to Eagle falls is easy enough for just about anyone. At Eagle Falls you can stand on the bridge over the falls and admire the view of Emerald Bay and Lake Tahoe. The extra 1/2 mile to Eagle Lake is well rewarded with a beautiful, classic alpine lake that offers a cool swim on a hot summer day. This trail can get pretty crowded on summer weekends. Distance: From 1/4 to 3/4 mile. Elevation change: 200 to 420 feet.

Cascade Falls (Beginner): This mostly flat trail takes you out to Cascade Falls overlooking Cascade Lake with Lake Tahoe in the background. At less than a mile, this is another good choice for families with older adults or young children. This hike is located across from the Emerald Bay lookout at then end of the Bayview Campground. Distance: 2 miles round trip. Elevation change: +/- 150 feet.

Granite Lk/Maggies Pk (Intermediate): This trail starts at the Bayview Campground like the Cascade Falls hike, but heads steeply uphill along a trail with many switch-backs. Your effort is rewarded with beautiful Granite Lake, a small glacial lake at the foot of Maggies Peaks. Along the way, you get fine views of Emerald Bay and Lake Tahoe. If you have the energy and time, you can continue up to one of Maggies Peaks. The south peak is the easiest hike and gives grand views of Tallac, Cascade Canyon, Lake Tahoe, Cascade Lake, and Emerald Bay. Distance: To Granite Lake: 2 miles round trip. To Maggies Peak (south): 4 miles round trip. Elevation change: Granite: 880 feet. Maggies Peak: 1900 feet.

Snow/Azure Lake (Advanced): An off-trail hike requiring some back country travel skills, but rewarding the intrepid with pristine Snow and/or Azure Lake, both of which define stunning glacial lakes. The hike is varied and interesting and can be combined with the Granite/Maggies Peak route to make a loop. Distance: 5 - 8 miles. Elevation change: 1150 to 1750 feet.

The Velmas (Int. to Advanced): The three Velma Lakes, Upper, Middle, and Lower are all worth a visit. You can reach them via either the Eagle Lake or Bayview Trailheads. The lakes are a fine backpacking destination with peaceful mountain scenery and good campsites in the appropriately named Desolation Wilderness. At 5 to 7 miles one-way, they make for a long day hike. Distance: 10 - 14 miles round trip. Elevation change: +/- 2650 feet.

Dicks Lake/Fontanellis (Advanced): [Page not yet completed] This is even further into Desolation Wilderness than the Velma Lakes and are wonderful backpacking destinations. Sitting at the base of towering Dick's Peak in the heart of Desolation Wilderness, this is a sublime location.

Meeks Bay Trailhead (Adjustable): This fine hike takes the visitor through some wonderful pine and fir forest up to several beautiful lakes. Distance: 9 miles round trip. Elevation change: +/-1200' to the first lake.

North Shore


Paige Meadow (Beginner): [Page not yet completed] A nice day hiking area close to Tahoe City that leads to a large meadow.

East Shore

Spooner Summit Area (Adjustable): The forest and scenery in this area are just OK but the wonderful thing is that you can go for a 1/2 hour stroll or a full, long, uphill grind day hike or backpack trip all from the same trailhead in a peaceful setting. Located near the intersection of Highway 50 and State Route 28 at Spooner Summit, the area has Spooner Lake, Marlette Lake, the Flume Trail and the Tahoe Rim Trail. Distance: From 1/2 mile to whatever you want. Elevation change: From flat to 3500 feet.

Tahoe Rim: N. Kingsbury (Beginner to Intermediate): This part of the Tahoe Rim Trail takes in some stunning views of Lake Tahoe, meanders through fine Red Fir forest, and, if you go far enough, takes you into the windswept scrubby sub-alpine environment. The trail climbs, but never steeply. You can walk less than a mile and get nice views of Lake Tahoe, or you can continue all the way to Spooner Summit! Distance: 1 to 10 miles round trip or 13 miles to Spooner Summit. Elevation change: From 50 feet to 1600 feet.


Tahoe Rim: S. Kingsbury (Intermediate): [Page not yet completed]


Mount Rose Area: [Page not yet completed]

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