18 Best Lake Tahoe Hikes for Stunning Views & Mountain Scenery

Reviewed by Elina Ansary
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The best Lake Tahoe hikes to help you make the most of your trip to the Sierra Nevada.

I visited Lake Tahoe for the first time this summer, and it did not disappoint! If you’re unfamiliar, Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in the United States. 

The entire Lake Tahoe Basin is incredible, and I can’t wait to return to do even more hiking. The water is Caribbean blue (albeit freezing), the air is pine-scented, and the views are epic.  

There are more hiking trails around Tahoe than anyone can do in a lifetime, so how do you make the most of your time and choose the best one? 

I’ve rounded up the best Lake Tahoe trails based on my experience (and my manic research for my next Tahoe trip teehee), so that you can make the most of your next Tahoe vacay. 

I’ve arranged these Lake Tahoe hiking trails from easiest to most difficult, plus I’ve given you exact GPS coordinates for each trailhead.

Note: this post contains affiliate links, which help run this site at no extra cost to you so I can keep providing free travel advice and tips.

best lake tahoe hikes

Map of Hiking Spots in Lake Tahoe

#1 Eagle Falls Vista Point Trail

Best hike for a quick trip to Tahoe

eagle falls vista point trail

Distance: 0.6 miles | Elevation Gain: 144 ft | Difficulty: Easy
Location: South Lake Tahoe
Trailhead & Parking: 38.95214, -120.11347 (Eagle Falls Trailhead). Park at the Eagle Falls Trailhead (but go EARLY)
Cost: $5
Dog-friendly: Yes, on leash
Features: Eagle Falls plus fantastic views of Emerald Bay
Trail guide

The Eagle Falls Trail is one of the best easy hikes near Lake Tahoe’s south shore. Plus, it comes with a big payoff in terms of the vista point, which makes it a very popular hiking location. 

This short hike in the Desolation Wilderness requires day hikers to obtain a free permit at the trailhead and pay a $5 parking fee. 

Note that the hike is at the same spot as the Eagle Lake Trail. Both the Eagle Falls Trail and the Eagle Lake Trail are near Eagle Point. 

If you’re interested in hiking a bit further, go past Eagle Falls and head to Eagle Lake. At Eagle Lake, you’ll find a cute little lake bordered by giant granite cliffs.

Unsure which side of Lake Tahoe you’d like to visit? Read our detailed guide to North vs South Lake Tahoe.

#2 Cave Rock Trail

Best hike for sunsets

cave rock trail

Distance: 1.6 miles | Elevation Gain: 137 ft | Difficulty: Easy
Location: East Lake Tahoe
Trailhead & Parking: 39.04216, -119.94663. The trailhead isn’t marked. Use the pullout past the tunnel close to Cave Rock State Park.
Cost: Free
Dog-friendly: Yes, on leash
Features: Views of Lake Tahoe, the shoreline, and the Sierra Nevada
Trail guide

Cave Rock is a local favorite hiking trail for sunset views of Lake Tahoe, and it’s easy to see why.

This short, 0.8-mile (one-way) hike takes you to a scenic overlook perched above Lake Tahoe. 

The trail has an easy rating, but if you fear heights, enjoy the sunset from the ground. This hike has rocky terrain and you may need to use both your hands and legs to reach the top.

It’s also not far from the Van Sickle Trail if you’re looking for a slightly more challenging hike.

#3 Spooner Lake Trail

Best hike for families

spooner lake trail

Distance: 2.5 miles | Elevation Gain: 124 ft | Difficulty: Easy
Location: East Lake Tahoe
Trailhead & Parking: 39.10669, -119.91365 
Cost:$15 (non-NV vehicles), $10 (NV vehicles)
Dog-friendly: Yes, on leash
Features: Quiet views of Spooner Lake, picnic tables, toilets, and backcountry access
Trail guide

The Spooner Lake hiking area near Lake Tahoe is a mega-popular destination for the east side of Lake Tahoe.

The Spooner Lake Trail is an easy hike for families or new hikers since it’s flat and has bathrooms and tables for a picnic lunch.

Spooner Lake is also the gateway for Nevada backcountry trails like the North Canyon Trail and Marlette Lake.

#4 Tahoe East Shore Trail

Best hike for access to the east shore beaches

tahoe east shore trail

Distance: 2.6 miles | Elevation Gain: 144 ft | Difficulty: Easy
Location: North Lake Tahoe
Trailhead & Parking: 39.20959, -119.92973 (trailhead and parking)
Cost: Free
Dog-friendly: Yes, on leash
Features: Easy trail with views of Lake Tahoe 
Trail guide

As of 2019, a new three-mile paved trail along Tahoe’s east shore connects Incline Village to Sand Harbor State Park (one of the four Nevada parks near Lake Tahoe). 

The Tahoe East Shore Trail is a family-friendly hike that provides access to the previously hard-to-reach beaches in the area. 

I’d also rate this as the best Lake Tahoe hike with dogs because of the buffer the paved trail provides between your furry friend and Mother Nature’s furry friends.

#5 Incline Flume Trail

Best hike for beginner mountain bikers

incline flume trail

Distance: 4.3 miles | Elevation Gain: 206 ft | Difficulty: Easy
Location: North Lake Tahoe
Trailhead & Parking: 39.26928, -119.92936 (Incline Flume Trailhead and parking)
Cost: Free
Dog-friendly: Yes, on leash
Features: Flat, recently restored trails
Trail guide

The flat and recently restored Incline Flume Trail is a great place for new mountain bikers or hikers who are looking for a unique trail that gives you something different than the usual lake views.

The trailhead is just above the north shore town of Incline Village and just south of Tahoe Meadows. 

The evenly graded trails make a perfect training ground for those who aren’t ready for the black diamond hills. This trail is very popular, so be sure to go early.

There’s a small amount of parking right off the highway before the trailhead.

#6 Emerald Point Trail

Best hike for up-close views of Fannette Island

emerald point trail

Distance: 4.4 miles | Elevation Gain: 521 ft | Difficulty: Easy
Location: South Lake Tahoe
Trailhead & Parking: 38.95461, -120.11045 (Emerald Bay State Park parking lot and trailhead)
Cost: $10
Dog-friendly: No
Features: Views of Emerald Bay, Fannette Island, and historic Vikingsholm
Trail guide

Emerald Point is another popular South Lake Tahoe hike around Emerald Bay. This easy hike starts off Highway 89 at Emerald Bay State Park and descends quickly to the water’s edge. 

The trail hugs the coastline and will take you to Emerald Point, the most prominent point jutting into Lake Tahoe from Emerald Bay. 

While you’re close to the water, you’ll see Fannette Island, which is the most picturesque little island you ever did see. 

And don’t forget to check out historic Vikingsholm, an old castle situated on the water’s edge.

#7 West Lake Tahoe Bike Path

Best hike for families and bicyclists

west lake tahoe bike path

Distance: 10.3 miles | Elevation Gain: 404 ft | Difficulty: Easy
Location: West Lake Tahoe
Trailhead & Parking: Tahoe City Transit Center or Sugar Pine Point State Park.
Cost: Free
Dog-friendly: Yes, on leash
Features: Paved, two-lane bike path next to the beaches
Trail guide

The West Lake Tahoe Bike Trail was maybe my favorite memory of my Tahoe vacation. 

This paved, 10-mile path goes from Tahoe City to Sugar Pine Point State Park. It meanders by the sandy beach of the western shore and charming little neighborhoods. 

The path was easy to navigate and had many places to stop for a rest, a snack, or a bicycle tune-up.

#8 Cascade Falls Trail

Best hike for a rewarding view with little effort

cascade falls trail

Distance: 1.4 miles | Elevation Gain: 255 ft | Difficulty: Moderate
Location: South Lake Tahoe
Trailhead & Parking: 38.94399,-120.09964 (Bayview Trailhead). Park at the far end of Bayview Campground.
Cost: Free
Dog-friendly: Yes, on leash
Features: Views of the lake and the 200-foot falls 
Trail guide 

The Cascade Falls Trail is extremely popular because it’s one of the easier hikes in Lake Tahoe with waterfalls. 

This short trail takes you to the 200-foot falls. Once you pass the waterfall, you can see two alpine lakes in quick succession: Cascade Lake and Lake Tahoe!

I could say, “get to the trailhead early,” for practically every Tahoe hike, but this one, in particular, is a popular trailhead for several trails and has a small parking lot.

Note that the falls dry up in late summer and the lake is private but the trail is public.

#9 Monkey Rock Trail

Best hike for unusual rock formations

monkey rock trail

Distance: 2.6 miles | Elevation Gain: 498 ft | Difficulty: Moderate
Location: North Lake Tahoe
Trailhead & Parking: 39.23495, -119.93005, (East Shore Trail Trailhead and parking)
Cost: $2/person
Dog-friendly: Yes, on leash
Features: See a rock that looks like a monkey!
Trail guide

The Monkey Rock Trail is one of those North Lake Tahoe hikes you need to do at least once. 

The Monkey Rock Trail is southwest of Incline Village, NV, and skirts along the northwest corner of Lake Tahoe.

This granite boulder was carved by a local, so while the formation isn’t “natural,” you still get great lake views.

If you’re interested, you can extend the hike and check out Hidden Beach as well.

#10 Five Lakes Trail

Best hike for a quiet lakeside meander

Distance: 5.0 miles | Elevation Gain:1,118 ft | Difficulty: Moderate
Location: West Lake Tahoe
Trailhead & Parking: 39.18061, -120.22949 (Five Lakes Trailhead). Park across the street from the trailhead
Cost: Free
Dog-friendly: No
Features: Five gorgeous alpine lakes
Trail guide

The Five Lakes Trail is one of the best hikes in Tahoe National Forest. 

This moderate hike isn’t terribly long, but the rise in elevation makes it slightly challenging. Nonetheless, the pain is worth the gain on the Five Lakes Trail.

This hike offers the best of the Sierra Nevada Mountains with exposed granite cliffs and glacially carved valleys. 

After the first alpine lake, the official trail appears to end, but there are several social trails around the remaining four lakes to explore.

It’s also not far from the Shirley Lake Trail if you’re looking for extra lake action.

#11 Echo Lakes Trail

Best hike for Nordic skiing

echo lakes trail

Distance: 5.3 miles | Elevation Gain: 511 ft | Difficulty: Moderate
Location: South lake Tahoe
Trailhead & Parking: 38.83499, -120.04419 (Echo Lake Trailhead)
Cost: $5 to park plus $5/person/night for overnight permits for the Desolation Wilderness
Dog-friendly: Yes, on leash
Features: Excellent Nordic skiing, Lower Echo Lake, Pacific Crest Trail, Tahoe Rim Trail
Trail guide

The Lake Tahoe Basin is famous for more than just hiking trails–downhill and Nordic skiing are also huge here. 

And the Echo Lakes Trail and surrounding mountains have become one of the best winter hikes in Lake Tahoe.

The trail starts at Lower Echo Lake and hugs the shoreline towards Upper Echo Lake. 

The Echo Lake Trail also overlaps with the Pacific Crest Trail, which takes you in the other direction towards Echo Summit and the Tahoe Rim Trail.

#12 Rubicon Trail: D.L Bliss State Park

Best hike for an all-day walk around the lake

rubicon trail

Distance: 10 miles | Elevation Gain: 300 ft | Difficulty: Moderate
Location: West Lake Tahoe
Trailhead & Parking: 38.99871, -120.09753 (Rubicon Trailhead North). Park in the lot for Calawee Cove Beach in D.L. Bliss State Park
Cost: $10
Dog-friendly: No
Features: Rubicon Point Lighthouse, views of Rubicon Bay and Emerald Bay, and Fannette Island
Trail guide

The Rubicon Trail is perhaps one of the best all-day hikes on the west coast of Lake Tahoe. 

This trail is quite long but relatively flat, and you can pick it up in several locations (thus making it longer or shorter depending on your goals). 

The trail starts in D.L. Bliss State Park and ends at Emerald Bay. Along the way, you’ll walk the perimeter of Lake Tahoe, taking in new turquoise-blue water views at every turn.

If I could only recommend one hike to do in Lake Tahoe, it would be this one. You just can’t beat those lake views.

#13 Granite Lake to Maggie’s Peaks

Best hike for amazing views of three lakes at once!

granite lake to maggies peaks

Distance: 4.1 miles | Elevation Gain: 1,778 ft | Difficulty: Difficult
Location: South Lake Tahoe
Trailhead & Parking: 38.94399,-120.09964 (Bayview Trailhead and parking in Bayview Campground)
Cost: Free (day-use permit required)
Dog-friendly: Yes, on leash
Features: Granite Lake and Emerald Bay views
Trail guide

One of the neatest views you’ll get while driving around South Lake Tahoe is the view of Cascade Lake and Emerald Bay on either side of a knife-edge ridge. 

The Granite Lake to Maggie’s Peaks trail is one of the coolest hikes in South Lake Tahoe because you get to walk the ridge rather than speed past it in your car.

Note: Bayview Campground is closed in winter, so you’ll have to park along Highway 89 and walk to the trailhead if you’re visiting then.

#14 Marlette Lake Trail From Spooner Lake

Best hike for fishing

marlette lake trail from spooner lake

Distance: 10.2 miles | Elevation Gain: 1,755 ft | Difficulty: Difficult
Location: East Lake Tahoe
Trailhead & Parking: 39.10669, -119.91365 (Spooner Lake Trailhead)
Cost: $15 (non-NV vehicles), $10 (NV vehicles)
Dog-friendly: Yes, on leash
Features: Marlette Lake, Spooner Lake, and lots of fishing!
Trail guide

The 10-mile Marlette Lake Trail is one of the most popular hiking trails in the Spooner Wilderness in Nevada. 

The trail starts on the north end of Spooner Lake and takes you over the Marlette Saddle (the highest point on the trail with great views of the surrounding mountains) and then down to Marlette Lake. 

You can fish in both Marlette and Spooner Lakes. However, you’ll need a Nevada fishing license, and Marlette Lake is catch-and-release only.

Note: Dispersed camping is not allowed around Marlette Lake. However, you can check out our recommendations for the best places to camp in Lake Tahoe.

#15 Mount Tallac Trail

Best hike for experienced hikers

mount tallac trail

Distance: 10.5 miles | Elevation Gain: 3,274 ft | Difficulty: Difficult
Location: South Lake Tahoe
Trailhead & Parking: 38.92181, -120.06829 (Mt. Tallac Trailhead), park at the end of Mt. Tallac Rd A off Highway 89
Cost: Free, with a day-use permit, or $5/person for overnight trips
Dog-friendly: Yes, on leash
Features: Unmatched views of the Lake Tahoe area and Fallen Leaf Lake from the 9,735 ft summit
Trail guide

Mount Tallac perches over Fallen Leaf Lake in South Lake Tahoe. 

Besides offering fantastic views from the 9,735-foot summit, this is also the hiking trail for Cathedral Lake and Floating Island Lake, which are popular destinations by themselves. 

You’ll pass both of these lakes on your way to the summit. 

The popular Glen Alpine Trailhead is also near the Mount Tallac Trail.

#16 4th of July Lake via Winnemucca Lake Loop

Best hike for new backpackers

4th of july lake via winnemucca lake loop

Distance: 11.4 miles | Elevation Gain: 3,464 ft | Difficulty: Difficult
Location: South Lake Tahoe
Trailhead & Parking: Woods Lake Campground and Trailhead, Carson Pass Hwy, Kirkwood, CA 95646
Cost: $10 plus an overnight permit
Dog-friendly: Yes, on leash
Features: Three amazing alpine lakes
Trail guide

The 4th of July Lake, Winnemucca Lake, and Round Top Lake loop in Mokelumne Wilderness South are excellent options for new backpackers. 

Yes, you gain a lot of elevation with this hiking trail, but with just 11.4 miles, it makes for an easy overnight trip. Plus, the alpine lakes are great stopping places on the hike.

You don’t need day-use permits for the Mokelumne Wildness, but you do need an overnight permit if you plan to backpack.

The popular and shorter Frog Lake Trail is also just east of here on Highway 88.

Note: This is one of the few Lake Tahoe hiking trails south of the Tahoe area.

#17 Mount Rose Summit

Best hike for a challenging day excursion


Distance: 10.7 miles | Elevation Gain: 2,395 ft | Difficulty: Difficult
Location: North Lake Tahoe
Trailhead & Parking: 39.31434, -119.89771 (Mt. Rose Summit Parking and trailhead)
Cost: Free
Dog-friendly: Yes, on leash
Features: Mount Rose waterfall and Galena Creek Falls
Trail guide

One of the most rewarding day hikes in north Lake Tahoe is Mount Rose. 

This trail is in Nevada and is considered one of the most popular hikes in the whole state.

Mount Rose is the third tallest peak in the Lake Tahoe Basin and offers incredible views of the surrounding area. 

The trail passes by the Mount Rose Waterfall and Galena Creek Falls on its way to the summit.

Note: You can stay in the nearby Mount Rose Campground for easy trailhead access.

#18 Tahoe Rim Trail

Best hike for a multinight backpacking trip

tahoe rim trail

Distance: 170.5 miles | Elevation Gain: 27,903  ft | Difficulty: Difficult
Location: Circles all of Lake Tahoe
Trailhead & Parking: 39.16913, -120.14869 (Parking lot in Tahoe City, CA)
Cost: $5/person for the nights spent in the Desolation Wilderness (West Lake Tahoe)
Dog-friendly: Yes, on leash
Features: Quiet backcountry, astounding views
Trail guide

Slap on your sturdy hiking shoes! The Tahoe Rim Trail is a fantastic 170.5-mile loop that goes around the entire lake basin and all four Lake Tahoe regions. It also includes the highest peak in the region, Freel Peak.  

The Tahoe Rim Trail is the king of Lake Tahoe hiking.

It even has its own organization, the Tahoe Rim Trail Association, which offers guidance on water supplies, permits, shuttles, and camping along the trail. 

There are eight segments to this challenging hike, which makes it easier to plan a car shuttle or resupply. However, the “official” start and end of the trail are in Tahoe City.

Tips for Hiking in Lake Tahoe

tips for hiking lake tahoe

Be Bear Aware

Lake Tahoe’s “bear problem” is infamous in California. Bears that become too used to people will almost always end up euthanized. 

In 2022, “Hank the Tank,” a 500-pound bear, was the subject of much controversy after he lost his fear of humans. 

Do your part to keep Tahoe bears wild:

  • Never leave coolers inside cars or on porches
  • Don’t leave any scented items in your vehicle (i.e., sunscreen, bug spray, etc.)
  • Clean barbeque grills after use
  • Don’t leave pet food outside
  • Don’t feed *any* wildlife. Bird feeders or corn left for deer will bring in bears.
  • Don’t approach a bear or follow it into the woods to get a better picture/look.

Leave the Pupper at Home

With so many bears roaming the Lake Tahoe hiking trails, I can’t in good conscience recommend you take your dog on any Lake Tahoe trails (except for paved front-country trails like the West Shore Bike Trail). 

Not only will your dog not protect you from a bear, but dogs are also the number one predictor of a negative bear interaction. 

Even without bears around, dog waste (even #1) leaves “predator” signals behind to local wildlife, which stresses them out and causes them to alter their natural behavior.

Go Early and Avoid Weekends

The Lake Tahoe area has been a busy tourist destination for decades, and that trend won’t end anytime soon. Trailheads and parking lots fill up quickly. 

Avoid visiting on weekends if possible, and go as early in the morning as you can stand.

Looking for a place to stay in Lake Tahoe? We have thoughts on that.

Know the Desolation Wilderness Rules

Desolation Wilderness is on the western shore of Lake Tahoe and is extremely popular for hiking and backpacking. Desolation Wilderness is a sub-section of the El Dorado National Forest.

Due to its popularity, there are different rules in the Desolation Wilderness than in other National Forest areas. 

  • Campfires are not allowed.
  • Free day-use permits are required for all-day hikes (permits are usually available at the trailhead)
  • Overnight permits are $5 per person per night. 

Read more about the Desolation Wilderness here.

Check Fire Conditions

Sadly, the Lake Tahoe region is not immune to California’s destructive wildfires.

Check out the Forest Service’s Fire Information page and InciWeb for the current fire status.


author bio - Meredith Dennis

Meredith Dennis

Meredith is a biologist and writer based in California’s Sierra Nevada. She has lived in six states as a biologist, so her intel on hiking and camping is *chef’s kiss* next level. One of her earliest camping memories was being too scared to find a bathroom at night on a family camping trip. Thankfully, she’s come a long way since then and she can help you get there too!

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Best Hikes in Joshua Tree National Park 

Best Bay Area Hikes Near San Francisco (From a Local)

Best Santa Cruz Hikes

Best San Jose Hikes

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Hi, I'm Mimi! I'm an outdoorsy Californian who has spent over 28 years immersed in the incredible natural beauty that California has to offer. My goal is to inspire others to get out and find their next adventure in California. Whether it’s escaping to an alpine lake in the Sierras, finding peace among the giant redwoods, or road tripping down the PCH, there’s always more to explore in this beautiful state.


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