Best Family Friendly Hike in North Lake Tahoe – Stateline Fire Lookout
If you are looking for an easy, paved hike with spectacular views this is the place to go. Stateline Lookout was one of the earliest fire lookouts in Lake Tahoe. Wildfires are a serious danger and there are about 80 per year in the Lake Tahoe Basin. Lightning strikes start some fires however most are caused by humans so please be careful. The Lookout was built in 1936 at an elevation of 7,017 feet. The tower was taken down in 2002 when technological advances in fire detection made human spotters too expensive and obsolete; you can still explore the base of the tower at the top.
Length: 1.8 Miles
Vertical Feet: 335
Trail Type: Lollipop (Out and back with a loop at the top)
Surface Type: Paved
Features: Lakeviews, Dog friendly
Getting there: Stateline Fire lookout is located in Crystal Bay on the north side of Lake Tahoe. To get to the trailhead turn off of SR28 uphill (west) onto Reservoir Drive. You will see a wayfinding sign that says “Fire Lookout” on your left as you drive up the hill. Turn right onto Lakeview drive and go for about 1/2 a mile until you see a locked forest service gate on your left.
Parking: Park on the right side of the road, off to the side so you are not blocking traffic. There’s not a lot of room for parking and this is a residential neighborhood so please be respectful. There’s room for about 6 cars at the trailhead. Once that is full you might need to park further down the hill or walk up from the Biltmore parking lot if it’s a really busy weekend.
Trail Description: The best thing about the Stateline Fire Lookout is the panoramic lakeview. From the moment you park your car you are rewarded with stunning views of the lake that keep getting better with every step.
The trail straddles the Nevada – California Stateline which is where it gets its name. The Cal-Neva Lodge was built in 1927 as a guesthouse and soon became the lake’s first gambling resort. It is the only building that can be seen from the South side of Lake Tahoe.
The trail has one switchback then follows the paved forest service road up to the top. Slightly before the top there is a smaller paved trail on each side of the road that does a loop around the lookout. I recommend going clockwise around the loop so take a left. There are multiple benches and interpretative signs along this trail so bring your camera and plan to take your time.
It feels like you are hanging over Lake Tahoe as you walk along this section since it drops off pretty steeply. As you walk along look across the lake past Incline Village towards the east shore and image these mountains and forests being cut down for the silver mines near Virginia City. Logging camps and lumber mills were the main sources of revenue in the mid-1800’s. There was an elaborate system of hydraulic lifts and flumes that were used to move the logs from the mountains down to Carson City and beyond.
The birds were chirping and this was a great place to stop and take it all in. Check out this short video and feel the serenity of it all. Even if you don’t live here you can enjoy the peaceful surroundings.
Interpretative signs display information about the logging history, drawing of the State Line, wildfires, recreation, the forest, along with lots of information and facts about the history of Lake Tahoe. Take your time learning about this special place that millions of people come to visit each year.
As you come around the ridge from the Nevada side to the California side you are afforded an amazing view looking down on Kings Beach. This quaint town has a rich history beginning when Joe King won the land in a poker match. Stop at the Kings Beach State Park Beach after your hike and check out the historic cobblestone paths that were once part of his estate while taking a dip in the crystal clear water.
After you round the tip of the ridge you will see a dirt path off to the left. If you follow this path you will end up in Kings Beach, a great option if you want a longer hike however you’ll have to come back up if you go down.
After I got back to the main road and finished the loop I walked up the road to check out the historic site of the fire lookout. There are restrooms at the top however they were locked when I was there with a port a potty in front of them.
Then you can hike down the way you came up back to your car. It’s an easy downhill. This is a great place to take photos that you will cherish for years to come. Even though I live here Lake Tahoe continues to take my breath away and I always appreciate the view. I hope you do too.