The beauty of Lake Tahoe, straddling the border of California and Nevada, is in it’s mountains, waterfalls, and of course the lake itself.

One of the best ways to experience those natural wonders is to lace up your shoes and go for a hike. We’ve rounded up some of the best hikes in Lake Tahoe for you to choose from.

Best hikes in Lake Tahoe

You’ll find hikes for every skill level, whether you’re a mountain goat scrambling up rocky outcrops with ease, or a more sedate hiker who likes a quiet stroll with a nice view.

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Lake Tahoe has it all because it has more than 90 hiking trails that spread out from the Tahoe Basin.

Glenbrook, Nevada

Situated around the midway point of the east side of Lake Tahoe, Glenbrook has some great hiking in and around Lake Tahoe-East Shore Forest.

Cave Rock Trail

Take a little breather and enjoy the scenery here before clambering up Cave Rock.
  • Length: 0.8 mile (1.2km) out-and-back
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead: 669 Cave Rock Drive, Glenbrook, Nevada

If you’ve driven through the short tunnel over Highway 50 near Glenbrook, Nevada, you’ve seen Cave Rock – it’s the one towering above the tunnel.

This wide trail is a short, easy hike out to the look out above the highway. There aren’t any guard rails so keep an eye on any children.

View of Lake Tahoe from the Cave Rock Trail
I visited at sunrise to make sure I found a parking space.

If you want the pay-off of the spectacular view 180 degree view over Lake Tahoe, you’ll have to do some climbing, which is where this hike gets a little trickier.

Follow the footprints (or other hikers) up the rocks to stand at the peak of Cave Rock. The views are gorgeous and I visited at sunrise, although this spot is better oriented for sunset views.

View of Lake Tahoe from Cave Rock
Yes, I was too scared to go to the very edge. But I like to think that makes me smart.

This is a very popular hike, because of the views it affords. The problem is that there are just three parking spaces at the trailhead, so get there early or visit during the shoulder season so you’re not disappointed.

Marlette Lake Trail

  • Length: 10.2 miles (16.4km) out-and-back
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead: Spooner Lake & Backcountry Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park. $10 for day parking or $2 for bikes.

The hike from Spooner Lake, in Glenbrook, to Marlette Lake involves a climb of 1755ft (535 metres), but the upside is that it’s a downhill run on the way back.

If you’re put-off by the thought of that climb, try the Spooner Lake Trail instead (see below).

The only way to visit Marlette lake is by hiking, biking, or riding a horse in, so you’re more likely to see wildlife here. It also gives you beautiful views of the lake and surrounding backcountry.

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If you’re visiting in the summer months, stop at the lake for a picnic and a swim, but be sure to take all of your garbage back out with you.

Spring hikers are rewarded with views of the area’s wildflowers. During the fall you’ll see the leaves on the Aspens change colours, which is a drawcard for people looking to snap beautiful autumn photos.

Spooner Lake Trail

Despite the lack of birdlife in this photo, I assure you we saw plenty of water fowl on this hike.
  • Length: 2.5 miles (4km) round trip
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead: Spooner Lake & Backcountry Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park. $10 for day parking or $2 for bikes.

This is the easier option for those who aren’t keen on the inclines of the Marlette Lake Trail, but still want to see the Aspens change colour in autumn, and get views of a pretty lake.

We did manage to snap a photo of a chipmunk in the parking lot though.

The Spooner Lake Trail takes you on a loop around, you guessed it, Spooner Lake. It is a relatively flat hike, which we walked in a clockwise direction, so the steeper parts were towards the end returning to the parking lot.

We were lucky enough to see lots of birds on the water, mostly the American Coot, although I swear I also saw some ducks paddling along.

There are a few benches along the trail that allow you to stop and drink in the views. This trail is a great one for younger children, and you can bring your dogs but they must be kept on a leash.

Emerald Bay, California

If you asked me what the prettiest part of Lake Tahoe is, my answer would be Emerald Bay, on the south western side of the lake.

So it gets it’s own section of hikes to enjoy.

Eagle Falls & Eagle Lake Trail

Be careful at Eagle Falls, it’s easy to be mesmerized by getting the perfect photo and forget that you’re on a mountainside. Picture: Sam Goodgame.
  • Length: 2.4 miles (3.8km) out-and-back
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead: 138 Emerald Bay Road, South Lake Tahoe. Parking at Eagle Falls Trailhead/Desolation Wilderness Parking Area costs $5.

Another very popular spot because of the falls and the beauty of Eagle Lake, so arrive early if you need a parking spot.

This trail can be steep and rocky at times, earning it the “moderate” difficulty level.

If you’re a morning person, visit at sunrise for an experience like this one. Picture: Tim Stief.

But the views are definitely worth it. Be sure to stop and look behind you for views of Emerald Bay.

You’ll climb some steep stone steps to begin with, which will take you to Eagle Falls. Cross the bridge to see the falls from above and continue the hike.

From there it’s a meander up to Eagle Lake – take the right trail when you reach the fork.

The tranquility at Eagle Lake isn’t too bad either. Picture: Trick Minero.

You can swim in Eagle Lake but be warned it is very deep and very cold, so make sure you have a towel to dry off afterwards!

Make sure you get a free (self-serve) permit for this hike from the Desolation Wilderness parking lot if you’re heading up to Eagle Lake.

Rubicon Trail

Following the Lake Tahoe shoreline, the Rubicon Trail won’t disappoint. Picture: Lori Ayre.
  • Length: 16.4 miles (26km) out-and-back
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead: Enter D.L. Bliss State Park and follow signs to Lester Beach and Calawee Cove. $10 for day parking.

If you’re after a trail that follows the Lake Tahoe shoreline, the Rubicon Trail is a perfect fit. It starts (or ends) at D.L. Bliss State Park and runs through Emerald Bay.

It’s not all lake views though. Enjoy strolling through wooded areas. Picture: Mick Haupt.

It’s a longer one but since it’s an out-and-back trial you can do as much as you feel comfortable with and turn back at your own halfway mark.

Depending on how much of it you hike, you’ll see Maggie’s Peak, Fannette Island, Mount Tallac, and Monument Peak. And of course the panoramic views of Lake Tahoe.

Be prepared to share the trail with others – it is a popular one. It does have some steep drops, and you’ll have to pay attention to tree roots and rocks along the trail.

Vikingsholm Trail

The lookout above the Vikingsholm Trail gives a great view of Emerald Bay from above.
  • Length: 2 miles (3km) out-and-back
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead: Vikingsholm Parking lot, California Highway 89, Tahoma. $5 per day for parking.

This trail gets it’s name from the Scandinavian-inspired castle built in 1928 on the shores of Emerald Bay.

Start things off by visiting the observation area above Emerald Bay to really take in the scenery and get an idea of the descent you’re about to embark on.

The steep cliffs give you an idea of just how far you have to hike down and back up again.

This trail winds down about 400 feet (121 metres) to the shore of the lake. Unfortunately, the easy part is at the beginning, you’ll be climbing on your way back, so save your energy!

There are lovely views of the surrounding forest, and pops of colour in the autumn as leaves change and fall.

You can choose to stop at Vikingsholm for a tour (April to September), or carry walk along the lake shoreline and enjoy a picnic.

North East Lake Tahoe

I’ve classified the Nevada side area from Sand Harbor, around Lake Tahoe, up to the California border as “North East”.

Tahoe Meadows Interpretive Trail

  • Length: 1.3 miles (2km) loop
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead: Mt Rose Highway, Washoe City, NV. From the highway, turn right onto Co Road 340.

Hiking this subalpine meadow will take you into forest and give you views down Mount Rose into Lake Tahoe Basin.

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This hike is great for families since it’s a short and mostly flat loop. And part of it is the Tahoe Rim Trail, so you can cheekily tell friends and family that you’ve hiked that.

The terrain is varied and you’ll cross bridges over streams, as well as take in the wildflowers and wildlife in some sections. If you don’t actually get to spot animals on this hike, you’ll definitely notice their footprints and other signs of their existence.

Mount Rose Trail

One of the tallest peaks in the area, Mt Rose is worth the climb.
  • Length: 11.8 miles (19km) loop
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Trailhead: Mount Rose Summit Parking lot, off Mt Rose Highway (431), about 8 miles north of Incline Village.

One of the tallest peaks in Lake Tahoe, the combination of the altitude and steep inclines make hiking Mount Rose hard but rewarding.

Despite the trail rating, it’s supposed to be one of the most popular hiking trails in Nevada, and the panoramic views from the top are the reason why. On clear days you can see out past Reno and over to Mount Shasta in California.

About halfway up to Mount Rose you’ll come across Galena Falls, which can get very crowded on weekends during the warmer months.

Don’t forget to wear layers, even on warmer days, because you’ll truly be exposed to the elements on parts of this trail, especially at the summit.

Sand Harbor Nature Trail

This picturesque stroll around Sand Harbor is perfect for families. Picture: Jordan Davis.
  • Length: 0.5 miles (0.8km) loop
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead: Sand Harbor Visitor’s Center, Carson City, NV. Parking $10 ($12 if you’re not a Nevada resident).

Possibly the easiest of all the “easy” hikes on this list, is the Sand Harbor Nature Trail.

It’s short and sweet so it’s great for young children and you can walk this trail while you’re waiting for the sunset.

Picture: Jordan Davis.

Why would you be waiting for the sunset? Because Sand Harbor State Park is one of the best spots to watch the sunset on the east side of Lake Tahoe.

This trail will give you access to a few secluded beaches, and dogs are allowed as long as they are on a leash. It’s an accessible trail since it’s on a boardwalk, and there is also an accessible trail to the beach. You can borrow a beach wheelchair at the Visitor’s Center.

North West Lake Tahoe

From the California/Nevada border in the North, over to Tahoe Pines in the west, around Lake Tahoe.

Five Lakes Trail

  • Length: 5 miles (8km) out-and-back
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead: Alpine Meadows Road, near the intersection of Deer Park Road, Olympic Valley, CA.

If you just haven’t had enough lake views yet, but you want something other than Lake Tahoe, this is the trail for you. Just be warned that it’s a popular one.

The Five Lakes Trail takes you into the Granite Chief Wilderness. On the way you’ll get views of five lakes, that unfortunately don’t have names.

Take a break and go for a swim in one of them, or bring your fishing rod and see if anything’s biting.

If you want to say you’ve hiked the PCT, wait until you reach the plateau in the Five Lakes Trail, and take the side trail to the PCT.

Truckee River Trail

Take a stroll along the Truckee River in California.
  • Length: 7.5 miles (12km) out-and-back
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead: Corner Fairway Drive and W River Road, Truckee, CA.

Start in Tahoe City, where the Truckee River flows into Lake Tahoe, and follow the River up to Squaw Valley.

This trail is also a bike path, so keep your wits about you and listen for signaling cyclists. Because of this it’s a paved walk more than a hike, which is part of what makes it easy.

Eagle Rock Trail

The Eagle Rock Trail is a short hike with a view to match. Picture: Mick Haupt.
  • Length: 0.7 miles (1.1km) out-and-back
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead: 3370 W Lake Blvd, Homewood, CA.

Eagle Rock Trail will give you a short hike with a view and a bit of drama. No mess, no fuss. What more could you want?

Eagle Rock is a volcanic formation that has eroded over the years to create the drawcard it is today. Plus it gives panoramic views of Lake Tahoe.

Watch your step as you get to the top of the rock. Those volcanic formations means it’s not the smoothest surface to walk on.

The parking lot only has space for about 12 cars, but it’s also free.

Tahoe Rim Trail

If you undertake the 10-15 day trek on the Tahoe Rim Trail, you’ll be hiking across varied terrain.
  • Length: 165 miles (265km) round trip
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Trailhead: There are eight official trailheads (found here)

Have you ever wondered how long it would take to hike around Lake Tahoe? If you embark on a “thru-hike” of the Tahoe Rim Trail, you’ll want to commit between 10 and 15 days to the experience.

This is not for casual hikers, although the trail is split into smaller sections that are easier to manage, and the Tahoe Rim Trail Association has a great breakdown of trail sections with maps.

You can also bring your dog along for the ride, they’re allowed on the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) as long as they’re kept on a leash around other trail users.

The northern and eastern sections of the TRT will give you lots of beautiful vistas of Lake Tahoe. You’ll also pass waterfalls and smaller lakes in Desolation Wilderness.

The only day-use section where you will require a permit is Desolation Wilderness. But day permits are free and available at all trailheads for you to issue to yourself.

If you plan to stay in Desolation Wilderness overnight opt for the TRT Thru-Hike Permit, which is issued through a quota and can be reserved up to six months in advance online here.

You’ll also need a free California Campfire Permit if you plan to use a camp stove (charcoal and wood fires are prohibited).

**Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through one of these links you don’t pay a cent more, but I receive a small commission, that is put towards the running of this blog.

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