Best Hikes in Tahoe National Forest (CA)


Located in California, in the north-central Sierra Nevada Range, the Tahoe National Forest lies between Lake Tahoe on the east and the Sacramento Valley in the west. The land rises from 1,500 feet on the west with steep-walled river canyons, to an elevation of 9,100 feet along the rugged peaks and ridges of the Sierra Crest. The Tahoe National Forest’s abundant and varied natural resources provide countless opportunities for visitors. 

Tahoe National Forest boasts hundreds of miles of trails for riding or hiking, and hundreds of miles of off-highway vehicle trails. In addition, portions of the trail system are signed and marked for Nordic skiing and snowmobiles. Since the trail system is continually being expanded and improved, more current and specific information is available on request from the individual Forest offices or on the web. Official Website.

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Nearest Metro AreaReno, NV
Area Size871,495 acres
EstablishedOctober 3, 1905
Hiking Trails386 miles

Trailhead Traveler’s Recommended Hikes in Tahoe National Forest

  • Castle Peak Trail – 5.9 miles out and back
    • A short and relatively easy summit hike to the top of Castle Peak. The last 1/2 mile gets steep as hikers scramble up the rocky trail to the final summit but the views are amazing.
  • Five Lakes Basin Trail + Penner Lake Trail  – 15.5 miles out and back
    • Combination of 2 popular and beautiful trails with numerous secluded lakes to stop and enjoy along the way. From the Carr Lake Campground, head east to Five Lakes Basin along the well maintained trail. On the way back, head north to Penner Lake. All lakes are great for fishing, camping, or swimming in summer months!
  • Loch Leven Lakes Trail – 7.2 miles out and back
    • Loch Leven trail leaves the South Yuba river canyon, crossing the ridge above to reach the glacially formed Loch Leven lakes chain, small bowls in the granite. Granite outcroppings and glacial erratic are numerous along the first portion of the route, and the trail can be difficult to follow on the bare rock sections.
  • Mount Judah Loop – 4.5 mile loop
    • The vantages rewarding the hike during the climb up Mount Judah are spectacular: Mount Rose, Truckee, Donner Lake, and in the immediate foreground Coldstream Canyon. The trail then meanders along the crest of Mount Judah offering outstanding views of some of the prominent peaks in the area.
  • Shirley Canyon Cascades Trail*** – 5.8 miles out and back
    • Great hike that features a waterfall and many large granite boulders to explore. This is a very challenging trail as it climbs nearly 2000′ in elevation in under 3 miles. You will have the option of taking the tram down from the top for free to cut this hike in half if you wish.
  • Sierra Buttes Lookout Trail*** – 4.8 miles out and back
    • Following along the PCT for a stretch, this trail branches off to the left up to the fire lookout tower on top of the Sierra Buttes. There are spectacular views along the way and from the top; on a clear day you can see Mount Lassen, Mount Shasta, and Mount Rose. Upper and Lower Sardine Lakes can be seen below Sierra Buttes as well.
  • Stevens Trail*** – 9.0 miles out and back
    • On the far west side of Tahoe National Forest, this trail offers spectacular views rich in history. Stevens Trail was built and used in the late 1800s by gold miner, Truman A. Stevens. While on your journey you will enjoy a series of spectacular views of the famous Gold Rush era river, pass the infamous China Wall built by Chinese laborers, several mine shafts, and other early signs of mining. 

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