You can’t call yourself a Tahoe hiker until you’ve climbed 9,735-foot Mount Tallac, the imposing peak that towers over Lake Tahoe’s southwest shore. This butt-kicking, 9.4-mile hike (round-trip) boasts 3,400 feet of elevation gain (pack plenty of food and water). The Mount Tallac Trail starts out deceptively easy as it climbs the glacial moraine that hems in beautiful Fallen Leaf Lake. Savor the double lake view with Fallen Leaf in the foreground and Tahoe beyond. In 1.5 miles, you’ll reach grassy Floating Island Lake, then a mile later, tiny, rockbound Cathedral Lake.
Rest and fuel up, because the going now gets tough as you face a punishing 2,100-foot gain over 2.2 miles. Your thighs will burn traversing to Tallac’s southwest side, then ascending the jagged metamorphic rocks that mark the tip-top. Now your biggest dilemma is deciding which way to look. To the east is Emerald Bay and Fallen Leaf Lake. To the west and south are the lake-laden basins of the Desolation Wilderness. Spin around and take it all in. And yes, do a summit selfie!
Tip: Another trail leads to Tallac from the Glen Alpine Trailhead at Fallen Leaf Lake, but it’s about one mile longer.
From the Y-junction of U.S. 50 and Hwy. 89 in South Lake Tahoe, drive 3.5 miles northwest on Hwy. 89 to the turnoff for the Mount Tallac Trailhead (across from Baldwin Beach). Turn left and drive 0.4 mile, then turn left and drive 0.6 mile to the trailhead. Day hikers must fill out a self-serve wilderness permit at the trailhead. Dog-friendly!