Lake Tahoe has been called “America’s all-year playground” and without a doubt, the spring is the best season for playing. As a native of Lake Tahoe, spring was always my favorite. The snowmelt brings spectacular waterfalls and beautiful flowing creeks. The backcountry lakes are full and the wildflowers are poking their heads out after a long winter’s nap. Everything is crisp, green and beautiful and the weather is just right for a hike. Of the four shores of Lake Tahoe, here are the best hikes on each shore:
Mount Rose overlook to Diamond Peak (East Shore)
Although technically on the northeast shore, this hike scores high because of its unbelievable views and varying terrain. The hike starts halfway up the Mount Rose Highway just past the scenic overlook. There are a couple of parking areas just up from the overlook. Head east along the historic north flume and then descend towards Diamond Peak ski area. 5.6 miles (half day), dog friendly, and fairly easy.
Mount Tallac (South Shore)
At 9,735 feet, Mount Tallac is the fourth tallest around Tahoe. If you have the energy to ascend the 3,500 vertical feet, this 9.5 mile hike is well worth the effort with it’s unparalleled views and beautiful high-altitude meadows (I used to hike and ski this every spring). This all day hike will have you dreaming of a hot tub and a cold beer all the way down. Rating: Difficult
Five Lakes Trail (North Shore)
You have to access this trail via Alpine Meadows ski area but you get a chance to see both Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley ski resorts on this awesome hike. Considered moderate, the 900 foot elevation gain is fairly easy and well worth it. Once you get to the Five Lakes area, you are free to wander around exploring all the lakes (which are all different) without worrying about getting lost. All the lakes sit in a big bowl. This is a beautiful hike that I never get tired of. 4 miles (half day) and super cool!
D.L. Bliss and Emerald Bay (West Shore)
Here’s another one that is a must and you get to see both parks if you are in for a long, fairly moderate, hike. If you have two cars, you can leave one at either place so you don’t have to walk the whole 13.2 miles. Either way, you will want to see the historic Vikingsholm Mansion in Emerald Bay and stop for a swim. The trail runs right along the lake and has some incredible views (you won’t see any houses) complete with high cliff and beautiful streams. The trees and wildflowers are spectacular. If you can only do one hike when you’re at Lake Tahoe, this is the one! Moderate difficulty and a definite all day hike.
The weather, especially in the spring, can be very unpredictable. Severe thunderstorms, even snow are always possible. Bring plenty of water, a first aid kit, a fire-starter, and appropriate clothing. In lightning storms, get to a low point away from trees or any high objects and wait it out. The best advice whenever in the backcountry is expect the best, prepare for the worst. Always be aware of your surroundings and most of all, have fun!
Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons