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Things to Do

Your Ultimate Lake Tahoe Hiking Guide: Best Trails, Tips, Things to Do & More

Posted October 26, 2021

A caucasian woman wearing a white shirt, white baseball cap, shorts and boots sits on a rock at a high elevation overlooking a lake surrounded by pine trees on a mountain.A caucasian woman wearing a white shirt, white baseball cap, shorts and boots sits on a rock at a high elevation overlooking a lake surrounded by pine trees on a mountain.

Renee Hahnel

Renee is a travel photographer and blogger based in Seattle. Her mission is to inspire travelers and adventure seekers to live intentionally, place value on experiences instead of possessions, and most of all, encourage others to find joy exploring this beautiful world.

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Lake Tahoe is one of my favorite places in the whole country … and I’ve traveled extensively!

In fact, I’ve been to 40 states and even took a road trip to every national park. Yet, I still find myself coming back to Tahoe again and again.

One of the biggest draws is Lake Tahoe’s hiking trails. There’s just so much beauty and diversity all within a short distance!

This summer, I had an amazing getaway at Holiday Inn Club Vacations® Tahoe Ridge Resort.

A drone view of our Tahoe Ridge Resort exterior located in Lake Tahoe, Nevada surrounded by pine trees of various heights and the mountain ridge as the sun sets.
Tahoe Ridge Resort — our home base in the mountains

My husband and I spent a week exploring all the awesome things in the area, including hiking as many of these trails as possible.

I’m excited to share all my experiences with you in this Lake Tahoe hiking guide, which includes the 5 BEST hiking trails, tips for planning your trip, where to stay, great things to do and more.

5 Best Lake Tahoe Hiking Trails

Let’s start with my personal favorite places to hike for those unparalleled views this mountain getaway has to offer.

A few quick notes on these trails:

  1. They’re ranked in order of my least to most favorite. Not that I disliked any of them… but some were definitely more spectacular than others!
  2. You’ll find a good mix of easy and moderate day hikes, as well as shorter walks and longer treks. There really is something for everyone here!
  3. I included driving distance from two places to stay in Lake Tahoe, Tahoe Ridge Resort, and its nearby neighbor, David Walley’s Resort. Both are great home bases for your adventures.

5. Cave Rock Trail

A caucasian woman wearing a white shirt, white baseball cap, shorts and boots sits on a rock overlooking a lake surrounded by pine trees on a hill.
Cave Rock Trail, Lincoln Park, Nevada

Cave Rock Trail is an easy hike in the South Lake Tahoe area.

It’s a great option for watching the sunset, and you’ll typically find many locals up there lounging back and taking in the lake views.

You can choose to hike up some rocks at the end for elevated viewing, though you can enjoy the lake views from side angles, too. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure type of trail!

Length of Trail

0.8 miles round trip

Elevation Gain

137 feet

Level of Difficulty

Easy

Dog Friendly

Yes, leashed only

Location

Lincoln Park, Nevada

Driving Distance to Tahoe Ridge Resort

18 minutes

Driving Distance to David Walley’s Resort

30 minutes

4. Eagle Lake Trail

A caucasian woman wearing a mustard shirt, white baseball cap, black leggings and boots sits on a rock near a lake surrounded by pine trees on a rocky mountainscape.
Eagle Lake Trail, Emerald Bay, California

Next up on my list of the best Lake Tahoe hiking trails is Eagle Lake, one of the prettiest alpine lakes in the Desolation Wilderness.

This is definitely a popular trail — and for good reason! Both the trail itself and Eagle Lake are stunning, plus nearby Eagle Falls makes for a great add-on when you’re in the area.

Pro Tip: Make sure to get to the Eagle Lake Trailhead as early as possible to secure parking, especially on weekends!

If you have more time, some other spots to check out in this area are Fallen Leaf Lake, Cascade Lake and Cascade Falls Trail.

Length of Trail

1.9 miles round trip

Elevation Gain

459 feet

Level of Difficulty

Moderate

Dog Friendly

Yes, leashed only

Location

Emerald Bay, California

Driving Distance to Tahoe Ridge Resort

40 minutes

Driving Distance to David Walley’s Resort

47 minutes

3. Tahoe East Shore Trail

A caucasian woman wearing a mustard shirt, mustard backpack, white baseball cap, black biker shorts and boots leans on a rail near a paved walkway near a lake surrounded by pine trees on a rocky shoreline.
Tahoe East Shore Trail, North Lake Tahoe, Nevada

The Tahoe East Shore Trail is relatively new but well on its way to becoming one of the most loved trails in Tahoe!

It’s a 3-mile-long, 10-foot-wide paved path that’s accessible for foot traffic, bikes, strollers and wheelchairs.

You can walk the entire length of the trail and back to your car (6 miles round trip) or take the East Shore Express shuttle one way.

Hikers along the Tahoe East Shore Trail are treated to spectacular lake views, 16 vista points, rest stops and numerous beach access points.

Pro Tip: Bring a towel and go for a swim! I recommend Hidden Beach or Emerald Cove.

Length of Trail

3 miles one way

Elevation Gain

144 feet

Level of Difficulty

Easy-moderate

Dog Friendly

Yes, leashed only

Location

North Lake Tahoe, Nevada

Driving Distance to Tahoe Ridge Resort

41 minutes

Driving Distance to David Walley’s Resort

39 minutes

2. Monkey Rock

A caucasian woman wearing a beige sweater, black biker shorts and boots sits on a rock formation at a high elevation overlooking a lake surrounded by pine trees on a rocky shoreline.
Monkey Rock Trail, North Lake Tahoe, Nevada

In my opinion, Monkey Rock is a bucket list addition when planning your Lake Tahoe hiking adventures!

This relatively short hike will still get the blood pumping and you’ll finish with gorgeous views of Lake Tahoe.

The trail gets its name from an aptly named rock at the top, so be sure to keep an eye out for that!

Note: This trail leaves from the parking lot by Tunnel Creek Cafe, right off highway 89.

Length of Trail

2.6 miles round trip

Elevation Gain

498 feet

Level of Difficulty

Moderate

Dog Friendly

Yes, leashed only

Location

North Lake Tahoe, Nevada

Driving Distance to Tahoe Ridge Resort

41 minutes

Driving Distance to David Walley’s Resort

48 minutes

1. Rubicon Trail

A caucasian woman wearing a white shirt, white baseball cap, shorts and boots sits on a rock at a high elevation overlooking a lake surrounded by pine trees on a mountain.
Rubicon Trail, D.L. Bliss State Park, California

On the top of our list is the ever-so-beautiful Rubicon Trail!

Now, don’t let the round-trip distance of 16.4 miles scare you … Rubicon Trail is typically hiked in smaller sections.

I recommend starting at the North Rubicon Trailhead in D.L. Bliss State Park and hiking south toward Emerald Bay State Park.

The first 2 miles of the trail are the most spectacular and offer majestic views of Lake Tahoe’s blue water, but hike as little or as far as you please.

You can opt to hike the entire way (8.2 miles), but remember you have to turn around and hike all the way back!

The only alternative to this would be if someone in your group left their car at the South Rubicon Trailhead, allowing you to walk one way and then carpool back to the North Rubicon Trailhead.

Length of Trail

16.4 miles round trip (I recommended you hike only a portion of this)

Elevation Gain

2,306 feet

Level of Difficulty

Moderate

Dog Friendly

No dogs allowed

Location

D.L. Bliss State Park, California

Driving Distance to Tahoe Ridge Resort

54 minutes

Driving Distance to David Walley’s Resort

49 minutes

Bonus: Tahoe Rim Trail

If you love long trails, then be sure to plan a trip to hike the famous Tahoe Rim Trail. This 170-mile-long distance hike forms a loop around Lake Tahoe and the views are said to be incredible!


Explore More Tahoe Trip Tips:


Lake Tahoe Hiking Trail Etiquette

It’s important to be respectful of nature and other people when you’re hiking in Lake Tahoe. This includes following the Seven Principles of Leave No Trace and basic trail etiquette.

Here are some hiking tips and guidelines to keep in mind…

A caucasian woman wearing a teal winter coat, white beanie, black leggings and brown boots sits on a rock at a high elevation above a lake surrounded by trees and mountains.

Clean up after yourself.

Pack out all your trash and leave each place even better than you found it.

Don’t stray from the paths.

Stay on designated trails and don’t take shortcuts or trample vegetation.

Leave animals be.

Don’t disturb or feed wildlife.

Keep your pets safe.

Follow all guidelines around dog access/leashing, and always pick up after your pets.

Remember that your dog’s paws will burn if you can’t hold your hand on the pavement for five seconds.

Know your right of way on the trails.

In general, downhill hikers give way to uphill hikers and smaller/single groups give way to larger groups. Always stick to the right-hand side of the trail, just like driving.

Best Time to Visit Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is a year-round destination. The summer months are warm and perfect for water adventures and hiking.

A caucasian woman wears a red one-piece swimsuit as she sits at the edge of a pool dipping her toes in surrounded by sunlight, cloudy blue sky and pine trees.
Enjoying some downtime at the heated pool at Tahoe Ridge Resort

If you’re looking for the ideal winter spot, it’s also incredible for skiing and other snow-based activities.

And the shoulder seasons are a nice combination of everything with generally fewer crowds.

In my opinion, the best time to visit Lake Tahoe is for a fall getaway in September and October. You can still hit up all the hiking trails, but the temperatures have cooled down a little and there are fewer crowds.

Keep in mind that from around November through April/May, some trails will be closed due to snow coverage. Alternatively, you could consider snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.

More Things to Do in Lake Tahoe (Aside From Hiking)

Hiking isn’t the only thing this beautiful area is famous for! It’s also a hub for all kinds of adventures between all those treks.

In the summer months, enjoy kayaking, golfing, swimming, cliff jumping, stand-up paddleboarding, biking, sailing and more.

In the winter months, go skiing, snowboarding, sledding, tubing and snowshoeing.

Be sure to also check out the Heavenly Mountain Gondola for amazing views over Lake Tahoe and surrounding areas. It’s located in Heavenly Village and is a short drive from Tahoe Ridge Resort.

In fact, in the winter months you can ski-in/ski-out and ride the Skier Express up Heavenly Mountain right from Tahoe Ridge Resort on your own private transport.

A caucasian woman wears a red one-piece swimsuit and straw sunhat as she stands on a yellow stand up paddle-board in a lake surrounded by sunlight, cloudy blue sky and pine trees.

Where to Stay for Your Lake Tahoe Vacation

Tahoe Ridge Resort is a great place to stay while exploring the Lake Tahoe area.

The resort has beautiful views and spacious villas. It’s close to trails, perfect for skiing and right near other amazing things to do.

Another big advantage is having the flexibility to cook in your villa’s full kitchen or dine at the Ridge Club Bistro when you’re feeling wiped out from all that hiking.

A caucasian woman wearing a white tank top sits at a wooden table with a knife and fork as two white, square plates of food sit on the table indoors.
Tahoe Ridge Resort’s on-site restaurant, Ridge Club Bistro

Plus, the resort shuttle is a great resource for easy trips down to South Lake Tahoe.

Activities at Tahoe Ridge Resort

Looking for more things to do between all your hiking? Tahoe Ridge Resort has:

  • Mini golf
  • Rock climbing
  • An indoor and outdoor pool
  • Racquetball
  • Billiards
  • Tennis courts
  • Table tennis
  • Ping pong
  • Activities for kids
  • And even a spa!

There’s something for everyone, whether you’re visiting solo, as a couple or with your family.

A caucasian woman wearing a white tank top and red, patterned skirt with sunglasses holds a putter on a green outdoors under a blue sky surrounded by various pine trees.
Playing a round on the resort’s 18-hole mini golf course

I hope this Lake Tahoe hiking guide helps you plan some incredible outdoor adventures!

There really is so much to see and do in this area, and it’s the kind of destination you can return to again and again.

Enjoy your visit!


Our guest bloggers are compensated for their writing contributions and honest opinions.

All information is subject to change. This article is a curated guide and is neither sponsored nor considered an official endorsement. Please be sure to check information directly with any/all tours, guides or companies for the most up-to-date and direct details.

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Renee Hahnel

Renee is a travel photographer and blogger based in Seattle. Her mission is to inspire travelers and adventure seekers to live intentionally, place value on experiences instead of possessions, and most of all, encourage others to find joy exploring this beautiful world.

Instagram

Website