Growing up on the West Shore, hiking in Lake Tahoe’s woods and spending afternoons wading in high altitude lakes were things I took for granted. In hindsight, I was one lucky kid to have the endless trails in Tahoe just out my back door and I realized it as soon as I moved away. (Which is why I moved back home to Tahoe immediately after college.) Tahoe offers a plethora of scenic trails in the woods for both the avid hiker and the young family. For this post, I thought I would outline a few of my favorite family hikes in Lake Tahoe from when I was a kid. These easy-to-moderate trails are great day hikes with excellent destinations. Some are more crowded than others. But they all offer spectacular views, and most a nice cool body of water to dip your feet — or for the kids, to splash in feet first.
Photo Credit: Ktpdancer/Flickr Creative Commons
A gradual two-mile-or-so hike takes you to the two Angora Lakes, which are located above Fallen Leaf Lake. Both lakes are beautiful, but it’s the upper lake that you should hike to. Nestled in a glacially carved basin surrounded by Echo Peak and Angora Peak, the upper Angora Lake features a sandy beach, cool waters, and rocks — even large cliffs for those more experienced — to jump off of. You probably won’t find complete solitude on this popular hike, but you will find fresh-squeezed lemonade and paddle boat rentals operated by Angora Lakes Resort, a string of rustic cabins that have hosted guests since the 1920s.
Directions to the trailhead are a bit confusing, and I can’t guarantee signs. But take Fallen Leaf Road off of Highway 89, turn left on Tahoe Mountain Road, and then right on Angora Ridge Road. Follow Angora Ridge Road until you reach the parking area where the trailhead is located.
If you just have an afternoon (preferably on a less-crowded weekday), Eagle Lake is a great place to take the family. Located on the edge of Desolation Wilderness, this lake is very popular, and rightfully so. It’s a quick hike that’s not too steep. And the setting is spectacular with views of Emerald Bay on the way up and plenty of beach next to the lake. Bring your dog and throw a stick in the water. And don’t forget your bathing suit. You’ll find the trailhead in Emerald Bay. This is also one of the biggest access points to Desolation if you’re feeling like a longer hike and bigger adventure.
Vikingsholm and the Rubicon Trail
Take a stroll down history lane on this trail. Start at the top of Emerald Bay and walk down a wide dirt road to the famous Vikingsholm Mansion, where the infamous Mrs. Knight spent her summers and entertained guests in the early 1900’s. This Victorian mansion looms over the beach of one of the most famous landmarks in Lake Tahoe. A few hundred feet off shore sits the island, where Mrs. Knight hosted afternoon tea. There are plenty of trails that weave around the mansion, and you can walk up to Eagle Falls from here. But for those with a full day and more energy, I would highly recommend the Rubicon Trail.
You’ll find the trail weaving its way north from Vikingsholm. It follows one of the most dramatic shorelines in the Basin between Emerald Bay and Bliss State Park. Hikers pass secret coves and azure waters, and meander above gigantic cliffs that jut down hundreds of feet below the surface of the water. This is a great trail to set up a shuttle and park a car at Bliss and Emerald Bay if you don’t want to hike back.