Best Hikes in Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (CA)


The Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (‘LTBMU’) sits on the border of California and Nevada in the high Sierra Nevada. Approximately 78 percent of the area around the Lake Tahoe is public land managed by the United States Forest Service. Totaling over 154,851 acres, this land includes beaches, hiking and biking trails, wilderness, historic estates and developed recreation areas such as campgrounds and riding stables. 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. Official Website.

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

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

  • Eagle Lake Trail*** (West Shore) – 1.9 miles out and back
    • 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
    • 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 – Tamarak 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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 architecure.
  • Rubicon Peak Trail (West Shore) – 3.6 miles out and back
    • 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.

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