Hike to the Alpine Lakes Around Lake Tahoe

If you live anywhere on the West Coast and you haven’t visited Lake Tahoe yet, you need to put this spot on your list of must-visit destinations. Whether your preferred outdoor activity is hiking, mountain biking, whitewater rafting, kayaking or paddleboarding, Lake Tahoe offers opportunities for all of those activities and then some. The alpine lakes around Lake Tahoe are equally spectacular.

Easy access to hiking trails is one of calling cards of Lake Tahoe, which straddles the border of California and Nevada. And the best part about hiking here is that the mountains surrounding Lake Tahoe are scattered with an abundance of smaller alpine lakes that you can stop at on almost any hike you choose. If you’re planning a visit to Lake Tahoe, make sure to add at least one of the best hikes to alpine lakes in Lake Tahoe to your trip itinerary!

A shallow lake with rocky bottom.

Photo: Health Kindness/Pixabay.

Hike to Five Lakes Basin

Trailhead Location: Five Lakes Trailhead
Distance: 5 miles
Route Type: Out and Back
Elevation: 1,118 feet

The Five Lakes trail requires a solid climb up into the Five Lakes Basin. But once you get there, you’ll enjoy the added challenge of actually finding all five lakes! The westernmost lake is the largest and also the best for a cooling swim once you’ve worked up a sweat on the hike up.

New hikers should be aware that the second half of the trail on the way up offers minimal shade. So make sure to bring plenty of water and a hat to keep the sun off your face. Additionally, there are no restrooms at the trailhead for this trail, so be sure to either go in advance or bring the appropriate supplies to use the restroom in the woods while practicing Leave No Trace principles.

Sunset reflected on a placid lake surface.

Photo: M. Roppio/Pixabay

 Hike to Eagle Lake

Trailhead Location: Eagle Falls Trailhead
Distance: 1.8 miles
Route Type: Out and Back
Elevation: 433 feet

The hike to Eagle Lake on Lake Tahoe’s western shore is one of the most beginner-friendly hikes to alpine lakes in Lake Tahoe. The hike in does require a minimal climb, but you’ll find yourself at this beautiful alpine lake after hiking for less than a mile. For this reason, this is easily one of the most popular easy hikes around Lake Tahoe.

So this means you should arrive early if you want to avoid the crowds. This is especially true on the weekends and during holidays. And because of its close proximity to Emerald Bay State Park, parking can be extremely limited in this area. Visitors should also be careful when parking along the highway, as parking is not allowed along all sections of Highway 89 at this part of the lake.

Sun sets behind mountains that ring a lake.

Photo: Tomsramekjr/Pixabay

Hike to Marlette Lake

Trailhead Location: Spooner Lake Trailhead
Distance: 10.2 miles
Route Type: Out and Back
Elevation: 1,755 feet

The hike to Marlette Lake from the Spooner Lake Trailhead offers opportunities to study some of the artifacts from the early history of mining and logging operations in the Lake Tahoe basin. This trail winds around a beautiful alpine meadow before winding through a vast grove of quaking aspen trees and climbing up to the lake. At the lake, the remnants of a chimney show all the remains of one of Tahoe’s earliest summer vacation residences.

Be aware that the trail that climbs up to Marlette Lake is a multi-use trail. So, you’re likely to encounter mountain bikers and possible even horses during your hike up. The trailhead for this hike is located within Spooner State Park, which means you’ll need to pay the state park’s entrance fee to park there. But this also means that you’ll be able to enjoy a restroom at the trailhead, as well as a variety of picnic areas if you want to sit and enjoy a bite to eat once you’ve returned.

Water drains through sharp rocks with log.

Photo: Health Kindness/Pixabay

Hike to Flora Lake

Trailhead Location: Donner Summit Pacific Crest Trail Trailhead
Distance: 3.1 miles
Route Type: Out and Back
Elevation: 85 feet

This hike gets you to one of Lake Tahoe’s most easily accessible (but still remote) alpine lakes. The trailhead at Donner Summit allows you to start the first part of your hike on California’s famed Pacific Crest Trail. But it quickly diverts around Lake Azalea before dropping into Flora Lake. Yes, you read that right! This hike actually gives you access to two alpine lakes.

From the eastern edge of Flora Lake, you’ll be steps away from a small cliff edge where you can enjoy beautiful views of Donner Lake and the western edge of the town of Truckee. The parking at the trailhead can be limited, so it’s best to start this hike early if you want to beat the crowds. But there is a restroom at the trailhead and this hike offers plenty of shade when you need a break to cool off!

Rocks on the shore of a clear lake

Photo: Public Domain Pictures/Pixabay

Hike to Angora Lake

Trailhead Location: Angora Lakes Trail
Distance: 1.2 miles
Route Type: Out and Back
Elevation: 226 feet

Accessing the trailhead for the hike to Angora Lake requires a bit more driving than some of these other hikes. But the hike is relatively short and easy once you do arrive there. The hike climbs minimally to get up to Angora Lake, which means you’ll be able to hike downhill on the way home. And one of the best parts about this hike is that there are established services at Angora Lake that you won’t find at many other alpine lakes.

Because of its history as a summer resort, there are several rental cabins and a general store on the lake’s eastern shore. For the kids, there’s also usually an ice cream shop there! And if you have aspiring cliff-jumpers in your group, the brief hike around the southeastern edge of the lake will bring you to a 20-25 foot cliff that’s safe to jump into the lake’s refreshing alpine waters.

The Best Good Sam RV Parks in Lake Tahoe

If your plan is to load up your RV and drive it to Lake Tahoe, these are the best Good Sam RV parks to stay at in the area:

Man casting a long fishing line.

Flyfishing in the Truckee River. Photo: Truckee River RV Park.

Truckee River RV Park

The Truckee River RV Park is the premier RV destination on the north side of Lake Tahoe. This park is actually located just east of the town of Truckee, but it offers a total of 27 full hook-up sites and can accommodate rigs up to 45 feet in length. They also have their own general store and deli market for hot and cold sandwiches, beer and wine, or any other supplies you need to complete your trip!

If you choose to stay at this park, the closest hikes to your location will be the hike to Flora Lake and the hike to Five Lakes Basin.

Lounging on the shore of Lake Tahoe

Tahoe Valley Campground

Tahoe Valley Campground

The Tahoe Valley Campground is the best place to stay if you want to check out some of the sights and sounds of South Lake Tahoe. This massive campground offers more than 250 full hook-up sites and it can accommodate rigs up to 50 feet in length. The campground also features an enclosed dog run, a heated pool during the summer months, and a variety of outdoor games to keep you entertained when you’re not out enjoying one of the best hikes to alpine lakes in Lake Tahoe.

 If you choose to stay at this park, the closest hikes to your location will be the hike to Angora Lake, the hike to Eagle Lake, and the hike to Marlette Lake.

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