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Local Favorites – South Lake Tahoe Trails

Written by sierrarecmagazine

Where to Hike in South Lake Tahoe

Day Hiking Around South Lake Tahoe Basin – Our Locals Favorites

Being a Local to the South tahoe Basin and a volunteer with desolation Wilderness over the past three years has provided me an opportunity to hike most (Star Lake somehow has eluded me) of the trails and top locations in the basin. I happen to be one of those happy hikers that really thinks all trails are great and most of my trail descriptions , honestly drip with enthusiasm. So a Locals favorites list is obviously subjective.

That being said I am often asked about my favorite hikes around South Tahoe so here’s a quick Top 6 List for Day hikes in South Lake Tahoe

Top 6 Locals Favorite Day Hikes in South Lake Tahoe

  1. Maggie’s Peak
  2. Christmas Valley to Dardanelles Lake
  3. Rubicon Trail to Emerald Bay
  4. Bratovich to Castle Peak Loop trail
  5. Lilly Lake to Susie Lake
  6. Big meadow to Round Lake

Maggies Peak Trail is Located just across the highway from the Emerald Bay Lookout. This is the bayview entrance to Desolation Wilderness and to Cascade Falls. Maggies Peak is probably the most strenuous hike on this list but is short enough with just the right amount of wow moments to keep most people moving forward. with just over 1700 feet of elevation gain from the parking lot in 3 miles , the reward for most visitors is one of the most scenic overviews of south Lake Tahoe and Cascade lake available outside of climbing Tallac.

Hikes are also rewarded with a stop at Granite Lake which is also a great place for an afternoon swim. Locals tip for scenics. Take a break at granite lake and venture to the south side of the lake. A small climb up the ridge on the south side provides another excellent view of Cascade Lake and Southshore.

for more adventurous visitors continue on from Maggies peak back to Either Dicks Lake or Velma Lake region.

Dardanelles lake in South Lake Tahoe

Christmas Valley to Dardanelles lake is perfect summer day hike in the south Lake Tahoe basin. This hike also includes 1700 feet of elevation gain but over 5 miles into the lake so is a slow gradual climb through a forest covered trail. this is a popular trek for mountain bikers coming down from echo summit so caution on a few of the corners. A perfect afternoon swim after a strong 5 mile hike in dardanelles lake is especially nice in the summer season.

The trailhead to Christmas Valley trail might also be the hardest to find for visitors as it requires a bit of local knowledge. Heading up HWY 89 from South Lake tahoe (Hwy 50) you can venture back through the neighborhoods near the base of luther pass or just as you approach the meadows and turn East there is a road that peels off downhill to the parking area.

Lookout at Rubicon trail in South Lake Tahoe

The Rubicon trail to Emerald Bay is easily on of the most overlooked trails in Tahoe. Maybe because it has a lousy parking options. Trailhead is located at DL Bliss State Park so you will fight for parking with Beach goers and Campers for the weekend. However if you want to see the best in Blue colors in Lake Tahoe this is the perfect trail. Much of the trail is up above the water with little or no access until the very end, but the views are incredible. Highlights of trail include beach access to emerald Bay. The Lake Tahoe DL Bliss Lookout, The only hiking trail that gives visitors miles of Lake Tahoe scenery while hiking.

View from Castle Peak

Brautovich to Castle Peak is by far the easiest of the family hike son this list. And seasonally (When the Peregrine falcons are not breeding) a short climb up castle rock give way to epic South Lake Tahoe views. enjoy a great parking area and part of the Tahoe Rim trail as you and the family stroll a very scenic area of South Lake Tahoe’s east Shore in Nevada.

Brautovich trail head ( or now called Tahoe Rim Trail: Kingsbury North Trailhead) is located off kingsbury grade route 207 in Tahoe South shore (Nevada Side) and has been recently renovated with paved parking and heated restrooms as this trail locations an all season access and is also a great place to snowshoe or sled with the kids in winter.

sussie Lake desolation wilderness
Susie Lake desolation wilderness

Lily Lake Trailhead to Susie Lake and Gilmore Lake – Entering Desolation Wilderness behind Fallen Leaf lake is a great way to experience several beautiful lakes that are moderately easy day hikes or great backpacking destinations. Susie lake is a great lake located above Grass Lake. Hikers park at Lilly Lake trailhead which is a paved parking area and bathroom at Lily Lake.

Traveling on a rubble/rock road up to Glen alpine historic area and then past the trail to Grass Lake before climbing up and over the ridge to the lake.

Backpackers often go North to Gilmore or Half moon lake for a great weekend in desolation.

Round Lake

Big meadow to Round Lake is a great day hike and or backpacking option for those who cant get a permit into desolation. Round Lake hike is off Luther Pass on HWY 89 south of Lake Tahoe and enters into Meiss Country via the Tahoe Rim Trail .

An easy / Moderate hike back up to Big meadow and then onto Round Lake. Hikers enjoy a beautiful scenic stroll in Eldorado national Forest.

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