Mount Tallac Trail is a 9.6 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near South Lake Tahoe, CA that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible from May until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail.
The jewel in the crown of mountains which ring Lake Tahoe, Mt. Tallac promises unparalleled views from its summit 9,735ft above sea level. Unparalleled vistas await the Tahoe hiker on a memorable journey to the lake's tallest peak. This route takes you to the top via the most direct summer route through lush forest, along scenic ridgelines, past small alpine lakes and across blazingly colorful wildflower strewn high-altitude meadows. Sure the 3,500ft elevation gain is greater than you might experience on most day hikes, but both the journey and the destination are worth every single thigh-burning step.
This is a hike that is going to test you physically yes, but mentally as well. I went on a Saturday, didn't start until 3:30pm, so there was a lot of traffic moving against me. I reached the summit at 5:30pm and had it all to myself for about 20 minutes. A few backpackers came up from Gilmore Lake, the lower left lake from Tahoe, to watch the sunset.
Having hiked the PCT in 2014, it brought back fond memories of the Desolation Wilderness and absolutely stunned me with the view of not simply majestic Tahoe, but the oceanic roll of the mountains behind. Simply the best that life has to offer.
All in all starting in the later afternoon was ideal because I had very little direct sun until I reached the pass, false summit. I brought 2.5L and this was perfect, particularly because of the cool afternoon. Pace yourself, it is much easier on the mind to keep your eyes just in front of your step, not staring off to see how far you are from the summit. Enjoy the walk and feel the reward
My father and I completed a three-summit weekend by climbing Mount Tallac. We left from our hotel at 4:45 AM, which disgruntled my father, and were hiking by 5:15 AM. The beginning of the trail is easily navigated with headlamps and moonlight, for there are no junctions and the trail is well-maintained. To the left, views of Fallen Leaf Lake and Mount Tahoe were already visible, illuminated by the moonlight. Above us, we could see the Milky Way, albeit not as clearly as we had in Yosemite.
It was still before sunrise when we arrived at Floating Island Lake. In the dark, it's an incredible optical illusion; we had thought it was an abyss of some sort before realizing we were virtually standing in the water. The night sky had rendered the lake invisible, with not even starlight visible in the nonexistent reflection of the lake. Fearing bears, we quickly hiked past the area.
The sun rose as we arrived at the second lake/pond. Our objective was visible to the right: a towering section of rock, 2,000 feet above us, looking as intimidating as a mountain could be. Regardless, we continued on the way up to the summit.
At this point, the trail conditions deteriorate significantly. The route becomes littered with loose, watermelon-sized rocks which disallow you to look at the views; if you're not attentive, you'll surely fall while heading up this trail. There's also small sections of snow adjacent to the route, which acted as a nice addition to the trail.
The most damning section of trail is roughly halfway up from the second lake. Note that the route shown on AllTrails is INCORRECT, for a new trail has been established to restore part of the wilderness. As it turns out, this trail is indescribably tough to follow. There aren't many trail markers, no arrows, no signs, etc. With no one else to guide us up the mountain (we were the first on the trail,) my father and I were confused as to where to go.
At one particular point, the trail consists entirely of pumpkin-sized rocks, with no gravel to mark an established trail. As it so happens, this is where we lost the trail. Instead of continuing straight, we interpreted a switchback, and subsequently began a class-3, unmarked climb up deceivingly loose rocks (check "recordings" if you're interested in the route we took). So much for restoring the wilderness, I suppose.
The last 0.8-mile section up to Mount Tallac is mentally taxing. Despite only having to gain 300-400 feet, Mount Tallac looks much higher as it comes into view. Furthermore, the ascent is on loose, washout rocks, preventing you from swiftly moving through the trail. Nonetheless, this did not deter us, and we summited at 8:30 AM.
We left early enough to be the only ones at the summit. Waking up at 4:00 AM, packing our bags while half-asleep was suddenly worth it. Unobstructed 360 degree views were visible from the 9,700 foot tall peak, with no other souls distracting us from the serene beauty. No matter how early you have to leave, it'll be worth it to have the summit to yourselves.
The views from Tallac's summit are remarkable because of the variety. Fallen Leaf Lake and Lake Tahoe are obviously the most recognizable parts of the view, and they're indubitably beautiful. The sandy Freel Peak is visible in the distance, as well as various other named and unnamed mountains. The city of South Lake Tahoe can also be seen.
The real jewel of the views, however, are seen to the West. A cascade of snow-tipped mountains offer an immaculate background to Aloha Lake and other smaller ponds in the area. An evergreen forest completes this ineffable view, truly making you feel that you're above the world. While you can see this view in pictures and visualize it based on my words, it's exponentially more beautiful in person.
The descent is as expected of this trail. Loose rocks require all of your attention; my father admired the view of Mount Tallac as we were descending, and subsequently mildly rolled his ankle. Additionally, traffic becomes heavy after 9:00 AM. We saw two people- backpackers trekking through the Desolation Wilderness- on our ascent, and 80-100 on the descent. Start early to avoid these crowds.
This trail is definitely difficult, not well-maintained at times, and mentally onerous. This is clear from the topographic map on AllTrails. However, do not let this deter you. Whether it takes you two hours or ten hours to summit, the views will fulfill all of your hard work. Bring hiking poles and your sturdiest shoes to help alleviate some of the difficulty.
Yes, there are bees. Remember the golden rule: don't piss off the bees, and you won't get stung. Have fun, start early, and enjoy the impeccable views!
Incredible views at the top, long hike but well worth the burn. Bring at least 2 liters of water with some GU hydration tabs. Saw some hikers getting cramps on the way up:(
The hike has a lot of variety for scenery woods, meadows, boulders, and cliffs. Of course you get a great view of Lake Tahoe but what is unique is the view to the SouthWest of all the lakes around Aloha Lake. What I disliked is the quality of the trail, most of the trail is not dirt but rocks the size of apples and cantelopes. So, you need to watch your step constantly!
Strenuous. Wanted to give up several times but once I reached the summit I was happy I did it. Take plenty of water and snacks.
Fantastic hike, a true test of endurance. Definitely bring 3 litres of water and snacks to replenish along the way. Only down fall to this trail is the massive amounts of people on it. Views were unexplainable!
This was my first difficult trail, and my first long hike, so I was not strong enough to make the summit. I stopped about 6/7ths of the way there and was encouraged by many friendly hikers to keep going which made it a lot of fun and had a community kind of feel to it. My legs were shaking and I knew getting down would be as long so I wanted to leave a bit of energy to get myself home to Sacramento.
Having said that i want to encourage anyone who is not in their best shape because I absolutely loved the hike! It is on par with Alpine treks I did in childhood.
You do not need to "complete" it to enjoy the stunning experience that each new vista holds. And there is a giddy feeling among your fellow hikers that makes it enjoyable.
But do keep in mind, going down is as tough on your thighs, so do leave a bit of water and snacks for that half of the trip. I went through 2 liters, and many snacks and was happy to have a sun hat and good sunglasses. Above the tree line, there's little shade, and as someone else noted- lots of bees.
One tip: take off your shoes and cool your feet in a pond before getting to the bottom and into your car. My feet were singing in the cool water.
let's just say it is not easy. but worth every ounce of energy that you spent to get to the top.
Great hike. Picked a perfect day, nice and sunny, but not too hot. Start early or it really heats up when you get above the tree line. We hiked with 3 liters of water and had it been hotter, we would have needed every drop. Chose to have lunch before the peak as the chipmunks and yellow jackets wanted to share it with us. It was a good call. Beautiful views from the top and the trail was very easy to follow. Only complaint would be the amount of people that were out there. Would be a great decision to hike on a weekday. The weekend is very busy. Great hike!
My Fitbit tracked this as an 11 mile hike in and out (11.3 if you count the walk back to the car), and it was quite the trek up to the top! However, the view from the top made the up hill climb well worth it! Bring plenty of water, you'll definitely need it.
Hiked the trails last weekend. My Watch showed 5.1 miles one way. Probably the most beautiful and toughest hikes I have ever done but the view from the top is worth every step. The trail from cathedral lake to the summit made me feel like quitting so many times but the views kept me going (and am glad for it). Take at least 2L of water, between my wife I and if we used up around 5L. We packed a sandwich for the summit and carried trail mix for the road. Other than yellow jackets you may also find squirrels at the top trying to be friendly with you for food.
great views along the trail! only downside was too many people!
Great hikes with spectacular lake views on top.
Great trail. It was tough but worth it especially when you're at the top and can see all the lakes.
This is only 8.5 miles but it feels much longer. It's a steep trail and very rocky which makes the ascent slower than one would expect. Views are incredible! We even saw a bear swimming in one of the ponds.