Best Hikes in Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (CA)

Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit Overview

The Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit sits on the border of California and Nevada in the high Sierra Nevada. The area is very popular year-round as there are several ski resorts that draw in big crowds during the winter months. The Forest Service manages the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit as a unique national forest due to all of the special needs of the lake and surrounding areas. In many ways, the LTBMU can be described as a Restoration Forest, because of the strong ecosystem restoration roles. There are numerous opportunities for peak and lake hikes; the best hikes in Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit are described below. The 165 mile Tahoe Rim Trail encompasses the entire area and makes for a tremendous thru hike for those that have the time and endurance.

StateCalifornia / Nevada
Nearest Metro AreaCarson City, NV
Area Size154,851 acres
EstablishedApril 1973
Hiking Trails365 miles

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Trailhead Traveler’s Recommended Best Hikes in Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit

(*** = best hikes in Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit)

Eagle Lake Trail*** (West Shore) – 1.9 miles out and back
eagle lake
Eagle Lake, Photo by jen

Leading into the heart of Desolation Wilderness, this moderate trail offers majestic views of the Sierra high country. Just a 20-minute walk, Eagle Lake is a popular 1 mile each way hike. A longer and more challenging hike will get you to an intersection of Bayview Trail where you can head back or loop back to the trailhead. This is one of the most crowded hikes in Lake Tahoe.

Echo Lakes Trail (South Shore) – 12.6 miles out and back
Leaving Lower Echo Lake
Leaving Lower Echo Lake, Photo by J Brew

This hike follows a section of the Pacific Crest Trail and Tahoe Rim Trail to beautiful alpine likes. For a short walk, hike to the far end of Upper Echo Lake. A longer hike leads you to one of the many lakes farther down the trail – Tamarack Lake or Lake Aloha. A boat taxi operated in the summer by Echo Lakes Resort cuts three miles off your trip.

Glen Alpine Trail to Lake Aloha*** (South Shore) – 11.9 miles out and back
Lake Aloha
Lake Aloha, Photo by Cyril Fluck

Popular route that leads you past a small waterfall, a beautiful meadow and three alpine lakes. The length can deter some day hikers but the trail is full of highlights and you will have the option of turning back to the trailhead at any point.

Maggie’s Peak Trail + Cascade Falls (South Shore) – 5.4 miles out and back
Cascade Falls 2014
Cascade Falls, Photo by Ray Bouknight

With the additional 1.5 miles to Cascade Falls, these trails offer plenty of great views of Lake Tahoe, Granite Lake and Mt. Tallac. The last 1/2 mile on Maggie’s Peak is strenuous as the trail steepens on its way to the summit.

Mount Rose Trail (North Shore) – 10.5 mile loop
View of Lake Tahoe, Mount Rose Summit, Nevada
View of Lake Tahoe, Mount Rose Summit, Photo by Ken Lund

The highest peak on the north shore of Lake Tahoe Basin (10,778’), this 5.2 mile each way hike offers excellent views of the lake, the city of Reno and the surrounding area. The route is challenging but the steadiness of the elevation gain and switchbacks make it doable for most skill levels. If you are on the north end, this is probably one of the best hikes in Lake Tahoe.

Mount Tallac Trail*** (South Shore) – 10.0 miles out and back
Desolation Wilderness from Mount Tallac, Photo by Jeff P

Providing a spectacular view of Fallen Leaf Lake, Lake Tahoe and Desolation Wilderness, this strenuous hike is well worth the effort. Beyond Cathedral Lake, the trail becomes steep and strenuous as it continues up the front face of Mt. Tallac.

Rubicon Trail*** (West Shore) – 12.3 miles out and back
Emerald Bay from Rubicon Trail, D. L Bliss State Park
Emerald Bay from Rubicon Trail, Photo by Ray Bouknight

Extremely popular trail starting from DL Bliss State Park and taking you over rocky cliffs to Emerald Bay of Lake Tahoe with gorgeous views of the water the entire time. Along the way you will pass a historic lighthouse and Vikingsholm, a beautiful home built in 1928 modeled after Scandinavian architecture.

Rubicon Peak Trail (West Shore) – 3.6 miles out and back
Lake Tahoe Sunset
Lake Tahoe Sunset, Photo by Jonathan Fox

Emerging from the trees on its way up to the summit, this rocky trail is very challenging but worth it. The journey up isn’t particularly noteworthy but the views from the top offer some of the best looks of the lake.

Featured Image: Sunset on Angora Ridge after a Thunderstorm, Photo by Jonathan Cook-Fisher

Don’t forget to stock up on the essentials before you plan your next hiking or camping trip! We have recommendations on:

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