I’ve partnered with Hotels.com to share outdoor activities in Lake Tahoe that allow for safe travel and proper physical distancing based on my personal experience visiting the town.
South Lake Tahoe Hikes & Waterfalls
South Lake Tahoe, California is the home of unrivaled natural beauty in every season. In winter, Heavenly Mountain Resort, the largest ski resort not only in Lake Tahoe, but the west coast of the United States offers stellar skiing opportunities. Spring and fall are the shoulder seasons and offer amazing blooms and fall colors. Summer is the most popular time to visit South Lake Tahoe because of the enormous amount of outdoor activities including hiking, biking, beaches, lake sports and of course the waterfalls are at their most beautiful.
The lake at Lake Tahoe is 1,645 feet deep, 22 miles long, 12 miles wide, and a shoreline that is 75 miles long making it the largest Alpine lake in North America. It is the second deepest lake in America, next to Crater Lake in Oregon.
Lake Tahoe is in the Sierra Nevada mountains and sits 6,223 feet above sea level. You’ll find crisp and fresh air in all seasons. If I haven’t made it clear yet, Lake Tahoe is one of the most beautiful towns in California and worth a visit in all seasons. This article focuses on the best hikes in South Lake Tahoe and a few of the most beautiful South Lake Tahoe waterfalls.
If you haven’t already booked your hotel for Lake Tahoe, I suggest looking for a hotel in Heavenly Village or near the South Lake Shore. These two areas are where visitors can enjoy five-star lodging and dining and an especially great location if it’s a first-time visit. Ready for some fun exploring the amazing outdoor beauty in South Lake Tahoe, California? Keep reading!
Here are a few insights into the best hikes and waterfalls around this lake.
5 Awe-Inspiring Hikes in South Lake Tahoe
Tahoe features various incredible hikes, making it a suitable location for avid hikers. Here are the best hikes to consider.
Skyline Trail Hike
Skyline is one of the best South Lake Tahoe trails for amazing views and a nice easy hike. The 2.4-mile loop starts from the top of the Heavenly Ski Resort Gondola. Take the Tamarack Express chairlift to the top. Once you reach the top of the Gondola, you can enjoy expansive views of Lake Tahoe and the Carson Valley. From here hike down to the base of the mountain or do the loop and find your way back to base via the gondola.
Fallen Leaf Lake Trail
Fallen Leaf Lake Hike trail leads to a low rise and then the lake, with the trails touching the shoreline. This hiking trail is approximately 1.25 miles per round trip, which starts from the Fallen Leaf Lake Trailhead. This hike is fairly easy and features some beautiful aspens, pines and the views of Fallen Leaf Lake. The trees and leaves are gorgeous and the views are quite stunning!
Cascade Falls Hike
The Cascade Falls Hike is immersed in a forest setting. It is a 2.3-km trail that leads to a waterfall within Emerald Lake State Park, which is on the west side of Lake Tahoe. It comes with various vantage points that allow you to enjoy the views of Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe, and Cascade Lake.
Van Sickle Trail Hike
Van Sickle Bi-State Lake Park is among the most accessible parks and hiking areas in South Lake Tahoe. It has the Rim Trail Connector, which connects Stateline to the Tahoe Rim Trail. This trail provides you with stellar views of Lake Tahoe within the first mile of the hike. The hike then continues on to a waterfall at about the 0.75 mile marker. The full hike takes you to the junction of the Tahoe Rim Trail (3.6 miles one way).
Mt. Tallac Hike
This South Lake Tahoe hiking trail leads you to the highest peak in the Tahoe area, as it sits at about 3,200 feet above sea level. You will need a wilderness permit before you are allowed to enter the trailhead. This trail takes you through various small alpine lakes.
Waterfalls at Lake Tahoe
Have you ever thought about whether visiting a waterfall is worth the hike? Did you know there are many waterfalls California is famous for? Perhaps, a few details about the beautiful waterfalls on Lake Tahoe will help convince you. Here are some of the best waterfalls to visit.
Cascade Creek Falls
Cascade Creek Falls is a popular hike as well as a waterfall to visit. Its mile-long path is home to various lush spring flowers and ferns. This trail is relatively rocky, meaning you need sturdy hiking shoes. Its thundering waters tend to attract most tourists.
This place allows you to enjoy the backdrop of scenic Lake Tahoe. It sits on the west shore of the lake, and it is between Emerald Bay. You can choose to visit either the lower or the upper falls. This moderate hike could take approximately 20 to 30 minutes.
Glen Alpine Falls
There are many spectacular California waterfalls and Glen Alpine Falls is among them! This waterfall has over 65 feet of layered drops. It comes with stair steps and a snow-fed stream that makes it picturesque. Typically, it is a succession of waterfalls that feed into the Fallen Leaf lake. The trail directly leads to Lily Lake.
Fontanillis Lake Falls
Fontanilis Lake Falls is a few miles away from Eagle Falls. Its 150-foot drop offers you a sight to behold, and it extends from Fontanilis Lake to Upper Velma Lake. It would help if you had a wilderness permit to explore this waterfall. The hike could take a day to complete, meaning you must carry enough food and be energetic enough.
This magnificent sight is near the Twin Bridges. This waterfall flows through the Desolation Wilderness and has an 800-foot drop that makes it the largest and most majestic waterfall in the region. It is surrounded by beautiful swimming pools, where you can relax. The hike within this region could be relatively challenging, meaning that it is best for seasoned hikers.
Best Time to Visit South Lake Tahoe
Its hottest month is July, while its coldest and snowiest month is January. The climate around Lake Tahoe is dry and temperate. Its backcountry has scenic alpine forests and mountains, providing you with serenity. It also has various inaccessible trails, hikes, and waterfalls.
From its hike trails to waterfalls, this place highlights significant beauty.
As travel today remains uncertain, please keep your safety and the safety of others in mind at all times. If you are comfortable with traveling, please travel responsibly and within regulations, as any travel is at your own risk.
If you do decide to travel at this time, here are a few recommendations:
- Wear a face mask.
- Bring hand sanitizer and wash your hands on a regular basis.
- Check official websites before your trip for the latest updates on policies, closures and status of local businesses.
- Book a hotel with free cancellation in case you need to change your plans at the last minute. I also suggest checking hotel reviews in my favorite site, TripAdvisor.
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Alexa Meisler is the editorial director of 52 Perfect Days. Born in Paris, France she has since lived in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon. She currently resides in San Diego with her husband and son where they enjoy exploring California and Mexico.
Travel has always been a part of her life; traveling to such places as Morocco, Tangiers and Spain as a young child as well as taking many road trips to Mexico with her grandparents as a young girl. Since then, she has traveled abroad to locations such as Russia, Taiwan and throughout Europe.
Prior to working at 52 Perfect Days she was a freelance travel writer; focusing on family and women’s adventure experiences.