Top Trails: Lake Tahoe: 50 Must-Do Hikes for Everyone

Top Trails: Lake Tahoe: 50 Must-Do Hikes for Everyone

by Mike White

Paperback(Third Edition)

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Whatever you’re looking for, there’s a trail for you at Lake Tahoe.

Top Trails: Lake Tahoe explores the best trails for hiking and biking in the Tahoe area. The guide features the best hikes including the north side's splendid backcountry, the lake's sedate western side, the picturesque and popular areas south of the lake, including Desolation Wilderness, and D. L. Bliss and Emerald Bay state parks and the relatively undeveloped eastern side. Several hikes follow sections of the Tahoe Rim Trail and Pacific Crest Trail.

Veteran author Mike White has selected the 50 best trips in the area, ranging in length from a mile-long stroll through a lush, lodgepole-lined meadow to a 20-mile trek on the Tahoe Rim Trail with excellent lake views. Among other significant updates, the third edition includes the new Rim to Reno Trail, newly constructed by volunteers in the Tahoe Rim Trail Association.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780899977775
Publisher: Wilderness Press
Publication date: 07/28/2015
Series: Top Trails
Edition description: Third Edition
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 630,120
Product dimensions: 4.90(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Mike White grew up in Portland, OR, from where he began adventuring in the Cascade Range. He has authored and contributed to numerous outdoor guides, as well as articles for magazines and newspapers. He lives in Reno, NV.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1: North Tahoe
Trail 1: Mount Lola and White Rock Lake
Trail Use: Hike, Run Bike, Horses, Dogs Allowed
Length: 14.4 miles, 8 hours
Vertical Feet: ±2,550
Difficulty: Level 4
Trail Type: Out-and-back
Surface Type: Dirt
Features: Canyon, Mountain, Summit, Stream, Shore, Wildflowers, Great Views, Photo Opportunity, Camping, Secluded
Facilities: None

A nearly forgotten trail north of Lake Tahoe takes hikers to a far-ranging view of the northern Sierra. Those with extra time and energy have the option of adding a 2-mile extension to picturesque White Rock Lake.

Best Time

The trail up the mountain is usually snow-free by mid-July, when wildflowers along Cold Stream are entering their peak.

Finding the Trail

Near the west end of Truckee, follow CA 89 north of I-80 for 14.5 miles to a left-hand turn onto Forest Route 07. Proceed on paved road for 1.5 miles, to a left-hand turn onto FR 07-10. Follow this gravel road to a bridge over the Little Truckee River and continue to an unsigned junction with Henness Pass Road, 0.6 mile from FR 07. Turn right and drive on Henness Pass Road for 3.1 miles to a spur road on the left, signed MT LOLA TRAIL. The trailhead parking area is a short distance up this road.


Though the Mount Lola Trail is closed to all motor vehicles, a four-wheel-drive road closely parallels the trail through Cold Stream Valley. In addition, White Rock Lake is accessible to four-wheel-drive vehicles via a road on the west side of the lake.

Trail Description

[1] Singletrack trail leads away from the trailhead on a moderate climb through mixed forest of western white pines, lodgepole pines, and white firs. At 0.6 mile, hop across a small seasonal stream lined with a tangle of alders and young aspens and continue the climb toward the mouth of Cold Stream Canyon. Where the singletrack trail merges with an old roadbed, you head upstream high above the level of the creek. Gaps in the mixed forest allow enough sunlight for an understory of tobacco brush, pine-mat manzanita, and currant. Farther up the canyon the trail eventually draws closer to Cold Stream before intersecting a well-traveled road, 2.2 miles from the trailhead.

Walk along the road to a substantial wood bridge that spans the stream, and soon encounter a fork in the road. Take the left-hand fork and head upstream a short way to the resumption of singletrack trail on the left, which is unsigned but marked by a series of metal diamonds. Within a stone’s throw of the road to the right and the creek to the left, you continue upstream on mildly graded trail beneath mixed forest until breaking out into the open at Cold Stream Meadows. Dotted with clumps of willow and carpeted with a variety of grasses and wildflowers, the meadow lends a pastoral feel to the surroundings. A spur road near the far end of the meadow leads to a campsite in a copse of trees that’s sure to lure overnighters.

Just beyond the spur to the campsite, the route follows the main road briefly until singletrack trail resumes where the road bends sharply toward a crossing of Cold Stream. You proceed upstream for a while on mildly graded trail, hopping over a pair of tiny rivulets along the way. As the canyon narrows, the grade of the ascent increases and the trail draws nearer to the diminishing stream, crossing to the east bank at 3.8 miles from the trailhead.

You climb more steeply up the canyon after the creek crossing, reaching a faint use trail after 0.25 mile that soon leads to a view of a short waterfall, where the braided stream courses through moss-covered channels and tumbles picturesquely down a slanted rock face. Beyond the fall, the trail angles away from Cold Creek and ascends into the realm of mountain hemlocks. After a prominent switchback, the trees part enough to allow a glimpse of the upper slopes of Mount Lola and, as you follow the winding trail up the northeast ridge of the peak, other landmarks spring into view, including Independence

Lake to the east and Castle Peak to the south. Reaching the summit, the incredible 360-degree view is ample reward for the toil of the ascent. [2] Scores of peaks are visible from Mount Lola, including Lassen Peak, Sierra Buttes, Mount Rose, and Freel Peak. You’ll also see verdant plains such as Sierra Valley and Martis Valley, and many bodies of water, such as Stampede, Boca, and Prosser Reservoirs. An old wooden sign reading MT LOLA, ELEV. 9143 ft. marks the top, along with some low brick pillars, a few rock enclosures, and a metal army box holding the summit register. A short walk to the southern lip of the summit area reveals the shimmering surface of White Rock Lake, a mere 1.25 miles southwest of Mount Lola.

To reach White Rock Lake, weave your way down the trail on the southwest ridge of the volcanic mountain amid low-growing shrubs, scattered wildflowers, and a few stunted pines farther down the ridge. After a couple of switchbacks, you make a descending traverse across the head of a canyon, through scattered western white pines, mountain hemlocks, and firs. Briefly descend the cleft of a seasonal drainage until the trail merges with a steep, rocky old road that leads you down to a junction east of the lake. The left-hand branch leads across the seasonal inlet to pleasant campsites along the stream bank. Veer to the right and follow the road past a large meadow to the east shore of White Rock Lake, [3] where shady conifers line the shoreline and dramatic rock cliffs provide a rugged backdrop. Several decent campsites are spread around the lakeshore.


1. 0.0 Start at trailhead

2. 5.2 Summit of Mount Lola

3. 7.2 White Rock Lake

Table of Contents

Lake Tahoe Trail Features Table
Lake Tahoe Overview Map
Lake Tahoe Map Legend
Using Top Trails

Organization of Top Trails
Choosing a Trail
Introduction to Lake Tahoe
On the Trail

Chapter 1: North Tahoe

1. Mount Lola and White Rock Lake
2. Sagehen Creek
3. Summit Lake, Frog Lake Overlook, and Warren Lake
4. Castle Peak
5. Castle Valley, Round Valley, and Andesite Peak
6. Loch Leven Lakes
7. Mount Judah Loop
8. Pacific Crest Trail: Donner Pass to Squaw Valley
9. Granite Chief
10. Five Lakes Basin
11. Tahoe Rim Trail: Tahoe City to Truckee River Canyon Viewpoint
12. Mount Rose
13. Rim to Reno Trail
14. Tahoe Meadows Nature Trails
15. Tahoe Rim Trail: Tahoe Meadows to Brockway Summit
16. Tahoe Rim Trail: Tahoe Meadows to Twin Lakes

Chapter 2: West Tahoe
17. Tahoe Rim Trail: Ward Creek to Twin Peaks
18. Pacific Crest Trail: Barker Pass to Twin Peaks
19. Ellis Lake and Ellis Peak
20. Bear Pen
21. General Creek Trail to Lost and Duck Lakes
22. Ed Z’berg Sugar Pine Point State Park Nature Trails

Chapter 3: South Tahoe
23. Tahoe-Yosemite Trail: Meeks Bay to Tallant Lakes
24. D. L. Bliss State Park: Rubicon Point and Lighthouse Loop
25. Rubicon Trail
26. Vikingsholm and Eagle Falls
27. Eagle Lake
28. Bayview Trail to Velma Lakes
29. Cascade Falls
30. Taylor Creek Visitor Center Nature Trails
31. Mount Tallac
32. Glen Alpine to Susie and Heather Lakes and Lake Aloha
33. Triangle Lake, Echo Peak, and Angora Lakes Loop
34. Echo Lakes to Lake Aloha
35. Echo Lakes to Lake of the Woods and Ropi Lake
36. Ralston Peak
37. Horsetail Falls
38. Big Meadow to Carson Pass
39. Upper Blue Lake to Fourth of July Lake
40. Winnemucca and Round Top Lakes Loop
41. Emigrant Lake
42. Thunder Mountain

Chapter 4: East Tahoe
43. Tahoe Rim Trail: Spooner Summit to Snow Valley Peak
44. Spooner Lake
45. Marlette Lake
46. Flume Trail
47. Tahoe Rim Trail: Spooner Summit to South Camp Peak
48. Skunk Harbor
49. Tahoe Rim Trail: Kingsbury South to Star Lake
50. Tahoe Rim Trail: Armstrong Pass to Star Lake

Appendix 1: Top-Rated Trails
Appendix 2: Local Resources
Appendix 3: Useful Books
Appendix 4: Maps
About the Author

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