South Lake Tahoe is an outdoor paradise. It offers many mountains to climb, parks to explore and trails to blaze. Here are a few of my favorite places to go and things to do. If you would like more information on other South Lake Tahoe activities, click on one of the links below.
South Shore Skiing
Lake Tahoe boasts one of the largest concentrations of ski resorts in the world. Located high in the Sierra Mountains of California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe is truly a paradise for anyone who loves outdoor activities, and during the winter, snowsports beckon from every direction. With over 16 ski resorts, Tahoe is renowned for it’s incredible variety of both downhill skiing and cross-country skiing options; you could easily ski or board a different mountain every day for an entire two weeks.
South Lake Tahoe is a climber’s paradise. Some great climbing spots are listed below. For further information you can click on one of the links.
Lovers Leap Guides
Lover’s Leap Guides provide rock climbing guide services for all ages and abilities. Their guides are long time locals who know the routes and how to avoid the crowds to give you the most out of your climbing experience. Learn to climb, learn new techniques, or just enjoy a day out on the rock with an experienced guide.
Located just 20 miles from South Lake Tahoe is the home of Lover’s Leap Guides named after the cliff “Lover’s Leap”. Founded in 2003, Lover’s Leap Guides has become the busiest service at the Leap. Because they are the only local guiding business, they are able to keep their prices lower than their competitors. Their guides are AMGA trained, safe, and fun.
Eagle Creek Canyon
This canyon lies above Emerald Bay, providing some of the prettiest climbing vistas in the area. Eagle Creek Canyon offers an abundance of beginner, intermediate and advanced sport climbing options.
Several crags are within a ten-minute walk of the parking area, making this a popular choice for climbers, hikers and sightseers. Mayhem Cove and Ninety Foot Wall are recommended and are located west of the parking lot.
The Pie Shop is a very popular cragging area close by South Lake Tahoe. Unlike many other climbing areas in the basin, Pie Shop is sunny and frequently climbable year-round.
The Pie Shop approach is easy and the quality of the climbing is good. There are a variety of both face and crack climbs. Pie Shop even boasts some of the best bouldering in Tahoe and the bouldering areas can be seen on the approach to the base of the cliffs.
A dose of nature can be just what the doctor ordered after a week in the workplace, and hiking can give you the chance to leave the hustle and bustle behind and instead of watching a monitor watch a flower bloom, clouds form, or birds fly. Below are some of the most popular hiking trails that South Lake Tahoe has to offer. My favorite hiking trails are listed below. If you would like more information, click on the links below.
Becker Peak Trail
Although the distance is short, this trip requires navigating along a mostly cross-country route to the base of some summit rocks, and some basic climbing skills from there are required to reach the top of Becker Peak. Once atop the tiny aerie, successful summiteers are treated to dramatic views straight down to Echo Lakes and more distant vistas of the stunning topography at the south end of Lake Tahoe.
Big Meadow is a beautiful sub-alpine meadow covered in wildflowers with Big Meadow Creek meandering through it. The meadow is surrounded by trees and snow-capped mountain peaks. It is an ideal location for a picnic. The trail to Big Meadow follows a small portion of the Tahoe Rim Trail through a fir and pine forest.
Carson Pass West Trail
This trip travels through the heart of the proposed 31,100-acre Meiss Meadows Wilderness. Following sections of the TRT, the TYT, and the PCT, recreationists can travel from Hwy. 89 to Hwy. 88, visiting Big Meadow, Dardanelles Lake, Round Lake, and Meiss Meadows along the way.
Dardanelles and Round Lakes
This hike takes you through expansive meadows, across clear streams, and past numerous wildflowers to visit two magnificent, cliff-bordered lakes that offer good swimming and camping. You must obtain a permit for this hike. Call Eldorado National Forest Information Center for more information.
Grouse, Hemlock and Smith Lakes
Climb a forested trail to three magnificent lakes. Besides opportunities for swimming, picnicking, and camping, you’ll be treated to expansive views of steep-sided granite Sierra peaks that pierce the sky at nearly 10,000 feet. You must obtain a permit for this hike. Call Eldorado National Forest Information Center for more information. A forest of mountain hemlock leads to Smith Lake, one of the prettiest in the Sierra Nevada.
Hawley Grade National Recreation Trail
This short hike climbs an intact stretch of a historic trans-Sierra highway, one of the most interesting sections of the old Pony Express route. Making a sharp U-turn, our track proceeds askance up the steep east-facing flank of the Upper Truckee canyon. Bitter cherry, buckthorn, manzanita, wild currant, scrub oak, and red fir crowd the path, but occasional sections still retain the original cobbles and stone retaining walls. Bright red snow plants sprout from the shade in early season. Once, the trail cuts sharply upslope to circumvent a landslide, and at 1 mile meets the outlet stream from Benwood Meadow and its adjacent pond, atop Echo Summit. This crossing can be very treacherous in early season, though there are boulders sufficient for a hiker with a decent sense of balance (and maybe a good stick) to hop across. By midsummer the stream often disappears completely
Tumbling down the head of the deep, ice-sculpted granite cleft of Pyramid Creek canyon, the thin ribbon of Horsetail Falls is dramatically scenic at any time of year, but especially spectacular during the height of snowmelt. Located a mere 1.5 miles from a major highway linking the Sacramento Valley with Lake Tahoe, conditions are ripe for this area to become very popular with both recreationists and sightseers alike. Parking improvements and construction of a short loop trail have made the area even more attractive. Horsetail Falls is most magnificent during the height of snowmelt, usually mid-June to mid-July. However, several deaths have occurred here over the years, and extreme caution should be exercised, especially when the rocks along Pyramid Creek are slick from spray. Families should keep a constant watch over young children.
Island Lake Trail
Classic Desolation Wilderness scenery, including craggy peaks and glacier-scoured cirques harboring crystal-blue lakes, abounds on this trip into two tributary canyons of Silver Creek. While the maintained trails up both canyons are relatively short and accessible for scads of hikers and backpackers, the mile-long cross-country route over the ridge between is difficult enough to dissuade all but the hardy few from attempting this loop.
The sheer face of Lovers Leap looms above the American River valley like a bantamweight Gibraltar, a familiar landmark to Tahoe-bound travelers on U. S. Highway 50. Rock climbers know the face more intimately as the Tahoe region’s most challenging climb. The trail to the top, however, is easy enough for children.
Lower Horsetail Falls
Horsetail Falls is a long, narrow column of water resembling a horsetail. The falls is fed from an abundance of lakes in Desolation Valley. The trail to Horsetail Falls follows the continuous rapid cascades of Pyramid Creek up the glacial canyon. The area has many private picnic areas with swimming holes and forested coves along the creek. A wilderness permit is requires at the trailhead self-registration station.
Maud, Lois and Zitella Lakes
Journey deep into one of Desolation Wilderness’s more remote sections and visit numerous high lakes and vista points. Splendid views await from 8,650-foot-high Rockbound Pass. You must obtain a permit for this hike. Call Eldorado National Forest Information Center for more information.
Pacific Crest Trail
This trip follows a seldom-used section of the Pacific Crest and Tahoe Rim trails. What little traffic this section does receive, other than from through-hikers bound for Canada, is from day-trippers headed to Benwood Meadow, which is only three-quarters of a mile from the trailhead. Beyond there, the serene forest beckons the solitude seeker who doesn’t wilt at the thought of a moderately steep climb. Bryan Meadow at the conclusion of the trip is a half-mile-long clearing along a tributary of Sayles Canyon Creek that will delight botanists from early to midsummer.
Pony Express Trail: Sierra-at-Tahoe Road to Echo Summit
This trip follows a section of the Pony Express National Historic Trail from Sierra-at- Tahoe Road to Echo Summit, a trail new enough not to appear on any maps. The relatively undiscovered route offers quiet serenity on a mostly forested journey that visits aptly named Huckleberry Flat and offers a short side trip to Lake Audrain.
Ralston Peak Trail
Although the climb is steady and stiff, where else in the Tahoe Basin can you achieve such a grand view with only a 3-mile hike? Most hikers favor the route to Ralston Peak from Echo Lakes, which is a mile longer via the water taxi (3.5 miles longer without) but requires 800 fewer feet of elevation gain. This being the case, you may not have to share the serenity of the route described below with too many other hikers. Snow is off the peak by mid-to-late July, when wildflowers are at their peak. By the middle or end of October Ralston Peak has usually seen the first snowfall of the season.
Sayles Canyon-Bryan Meadow Loop Trail
Early to midsummer hikers will experience a burst of color from a bounty of wildflowers along this route that follows the Sayles Canyon and Bryan Meadow trails and a short section of the Pacific Crest Trail to form the 8-mile loop portion of a 10-mile trip. Although the route is mostly forested, Round and Bryan meadows provide two picturesque clearings along the way with passable campsites nearby for overnighters.
Sylvia and Lyons Lakes
This hike takes you along the waters of Lyons Creek to some of the most beautiful territory in Desolation Wilderness: the Crystal Range and Pyramid Peak, and also Lyons Lake. You must obtain a permit for this hike. Call Eldorado National Forest Information Center for more information. A short, cross-country hike leads to solitude at Noelle and Mozelle Lakes.
Tahoe-Yosemite Trail Section 2: To Carson Pass West
This second leg of the TYT begins with an unpromising walk through a summer-dusty Sno-Park just south and west of Echo Summit (on Hwy. 50). But soon you leave this behind for the remarkable scenery of Meiss Country, where seasonal wildflowers from here to Carson Pass can be amazing. This section coincides with the PCT.
Tamarack and Ralston Lakes via Echo Lakes
Take a long, leisurely hillside stroll just above the twin Echo Lakes, then admire windswept, twisted conifers and High Sierra mountain views on the way to island-dotted Tamarack and Ralston Lakes. You must obtain a permit for this hike. Call Eldorado National Forest Information Center for more information.
Twin and Island Lakes
Twin and Island Lakes offer numerous campsites, excellent swimming, and magnificent views of Desolation Wilderness’s granitic Crystal Range. You must obtain a permit for this hike. Call Eldorado National Forest Information Center for more information.
Twin Bridges to the Desolation Valley Basin
This hike is an understandably popular one, for it provides the quickest route to the Desolation Valley lakes. Whereas only four lakes are mentioned in the above mileages, more exist in this vicinity; eight of them are named, the largest being Lake Aloha, with a greater acreage than all others combined. Those willing to go briefly cross-country with map in hand can find isolation even on a busy summer weekend. Should you go all the way to Lake Aloha by a cross-country route, you’ll add at least 4 miles of hiking, round trip. However, it is quite easy, and searching for hidden lakes, lakelets, and campsites is very rewarding.
Tyler and Gertrude Lakes
Enjoy seclusion while admiring rugged and scenic alpine backcountry on this trek to two small lakes that rate among the most pristine in the High Sierra. Choose from several lake campsites that allow good views of steep rocky ridges. You must obtain a permit for this hike. Call Eldorado National Forest Information Center for more information.
What better reason to go camping than to enjoy the outdoors and the scenic wonders of nature? Some of my favorite camp sites are listed here. IF you’d like more information, click on one of the links below:
Blue Lakes Campgrounds
Head up Blue Lakes Road near Carson Pass, but you’d better have all your ice and supplies, because it is a long way back to town. The Blue Lakes have everything. Trout. Granite islands you can swim to. Wild-flowered meadows. Rugged granite ridges. Laughing clear-blue water cold enough to ice a six-pack down. No motorboats. This is heaven.
D.L. Bliss State Park Campground
Lake Tahoe, the queen of California lakes, faces a mountain of woes—population and pollution threaten the lake’s natural beauty—but if you come to D. L. Bliss State Park and hike down the Rubicon Trail toward Emerald Bay State Park, you’ll see Tahoe almost like Mark Twain saw it when he could not imagine a happier life anywhere. “The air up there is very pure and fine, bracing and delicious. It is the same air the angels breathe. . . . The view was always fascinating, bewitching, entrancing.” Tahoe still has the same effect, and D. L. Bliss State Park shows her off at her best. Now, besides being reforested and magically beautiful, D. L. Bliss State Park is a parent’s delight. The place is crawling with kids playing under the pines and climbing the rounded boulders in the campground. In June 1996 we brought our big-city niece to Bliss, and within moments she was running around the campground playing hide-and-seek with all the kids.
Eldorado National Forest Area Campgrounds
The Eldorado National Forest is the main feature of this area, with its 4 rivers, 170 lakes, and 400 miles of trails for hikers, equestrians, and mountain bikers. The Carson National Scenic Byway winds for 58 miles across the forest, offering fine views of mountains and glacier-carved valleys. Camping, fishing, hiking, and mountain biking locations are available along or not far off the route. Campgrounds included in this eTrail are: Big Meadows, Middle Meadows, Dru Barner Equestrian Camp, Stumpy Meadows Reservoir, Ice House Reservoir, Union Valley Reservoir, South Fork, Gerle Creek Reservoir, Airport Flat, Loon Lake, Capps Crossing, Sand Flat, China Flat, Silver Fork, Lovers Leap, Woods Lake, Caples Lake, Kirkwood Lake, Silver Lake East, Silver Lake West, PiPi, Lumberyard, Mokelumne River, Moore Creek, White Azalea, Middle Fork Consumnes River, Bear River Reservoir, Blue Lake, Hope Valley, Kit Carson, Snowshoe Springs, Crystal Springs, Turtle Rock, Markleeville, and Grover Hot Springs.
Grover Hot Springs State Park Campground
First off—Quaking Aspen Campground and Toiyabe Campground are just different loops in one campground in Grover Hot Springs State Park. Second thing to note is the kids. Well, if you have kids, Grover Hot Springs (named after Alvin M. Grover, one of the original Anglo owners) is where you want to be. There are lots of other kids to play with your kids so you can kick back and read a magazine or something for a change. There’s a nice warm swimming pool watched over by healthy, young lifeguards. A non-threatening stream full of fish and other interesting denizens. Miles of trails up rounded hills. Miles of non-trafficked roads to bike on. Grassy meadows. Nearby western town with a museum, supplies, and riding horses to rent. A nature trail. Hot showers! Flush toilets and a big, uncrowded camp to run around like wild animals. The corollary to all these kids in the summer is RESERVE, RESERVE, RESERVE! Make sure of a campsite before you drag your kids all the way up here to arrive and find the place jammed. (Truckee California Camping Sites)
The centerpiece of this area is magnificent Lake Tahoe. Ringed by snowcapped mountains and lying at an elevation of 6,225 feet, it is the largest and deepest alpine lake in North America. Smaller, less crowded lakes are located in the surrounding Tahoe National Forest, which also features half a million acres of woodland, rivers, and streams, and hundreds of miles of hiking, equestrian, OHV, and mountain biking trails. Also located within the forest is Big Trees Grove, the northernmost stand of giant sequoia in the Sierra Nevada. Campgrounds included in this eTrail are: Fuller Lake, Sanford Lake: Grouse Ridge, Carr Lake, Lindsey Lake, Bowman Lake, McMurray Lake, Weaver Lake, Jackson Creek, Canyon Creek, Faucherie Lake, North Fork, Tunnel Mills, Lake Valley Reservoir, Lake Spaulding, Indian Springs, Woodchuck, Sterling Lake, Big Bend, Hampshire Rocks, Kidd Lake, Donner Memorial, Sagehen Creek, Prosser Reservoir, Boca Reservoir, Boyington Mill, Granite Flat, Goose Meadow, Silver Creek, Martis Creek Lake, Lake Tahoe, Secret House, Robinson Flat, French Meadows Reservoir, and Talbot.
Wrights Lake Campground
Reserve your site months ahead. Bring the kids, because Wrights Lake Campground is perfect for all ages of kids. It’s small and cozy. The lake is clean and warm, ideal for swimming off the rocks and shore or from canoes and small inflatables on the water. This is a made-to-order movie set for a coming-of-age film. The campground is small and intimate. For once the tent-only sites get the best real estate—down by the lake—while the RVers are off on the other side of the dam. The sites are private, with boulders and coppices of pines blocking one from another. The plateau area that Wrights Lake occupies is sylvan and warm with crisscrossing streams—more meadow than the harsher Oceans of Granite farther south toward Yosemite. This place is popular. Folks from Sacramento and San Francisco plan a year ahead to spend their vacations here. Everybody has a smile on their face. All you can hear is the sound of birds singing and the kids splashing into the water and laughing.
Wyandotte Campground – Oroville California Camping Sites First off, note that Little Grass Valley Reservoir is not in the outskirts of the gold country town of Grass Valley. It’s not even in the same county. Little Grass Valley Reservoir, a 1,615 acre man-made lake nestled in the mountains of Plumas County, collects water from the Feather River watershed. Wyandotte is one of six campgrounds around the reservoir. Sites at Red Feather, Running Deer, and Horse Camp are reservable, while Wyandotte, Peninsula Tent, and Black Rock are not. Peninsula Tent is a good option if Wyandotte is full; Peninsula Tent has forested walk-in sites a short distance from the lake, but sits right off the lake access road and can be a bit noisy. Wyandotte is more scenic and peaceful.