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Half Moon Lake is a 10.8 mile out and back trail located near South Lake Tahoe, California that features a great forest setting and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking and backpacking and is best used from July until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Distance: 10.8 miles Elevation Gain: 1,847 feet Route Type: Out & Back

dogs on leash

backpacking

hiking

forest

lake

views

backpacking
muddy
rocky
snow
1 month ago

Spent 2 nights at Half Moon Lake last weekend. The scenery was breathtaking! We had complete solitude. No bear sightings or tracks, and no mosquitoes (yet...). Trails had patchy snow on north-facing slopes, but we did not need microspikes or waterproof gaiters the entire time. Still lots of snow around Alta Morris Lake, so be careful exploring over there and near the waterfall. Portions of the trail were also flooded, so be prepared to get wet or circumnavigate marshy areas. There were plenty of dry spots to pitch a tent. We day hiked up to Lake Aloha just before a big wind and hailstorm hit. The views and cloudy skies were magical!

hiking
10 months ago

We started at 815am and were back to car at 5pm. We arrived at Half Moon Lake around 11, had lunch, went for a swim and started back around 220pm. It should be noted, if you want to get a closeup view of the waterfall, it’s a good 20-30 minute hike around to that side of the lake. Biggest bummer about hiking in this area is the 1 mile of rocky road from the parking area to soda springs, definitely not fun on the way out.

hiking
10 months ago

Aug. 13 - the wildflowers were fantastic, waterfall running above lake, and saw only 3 people. This lake is a real gem.

hiking
11 months ago

This trail made me fall in love for the wilderness and realize how much I love hiking in open mountains. I’m forever searching for hikes as memorable as this one.

Thu Jun 13 2019

We did this trail trying to find an alternate route to Aloha Lake cause we couldn't reach it past echo lakes. The trail was good for three miles then it turned to complete snow about .5 mile before the junction to Aloha Lake. We saw a couple who said they were turning back so we decided just to try and make it to the junction and go back. Then we saw a family of hikers and their two dogs that said they made it, to just follow their footsteps so that encouraged us to finish. The whole way was hard in the snow with the hot blistering heat. There was no trail so I just used geography and every now and then I found the footsteps. It was hard wandering in the snow but we made it over the crest to the lake. I'm sure it would be easier if we actually followed a trail but it was hard! On the way back we still had enough in the tank to go up the Grass lake trail to the lake before heading back to fallen leaf.

hiking
Sun Sep 30 2018

Note about the drive to trailhead: Fallen Leaf Lake Road is overdue for some maintenance, get ready for some giant potholes and bumps. This is a trail I've overlooked for years. While the lakes aren't too remarkable you will have a pleasant time arriving to them - the series of switchbacks are mild and elevation gain is gradual. This is a good hike to introduce someone who isn't yet an avid hiker (the views may transform them). A benefit of this trail is that it connects to turnoffs that link to Mt Tallac and Lake Aloha. The Desolation Wilderness hikes near South Lake Tahoe always seems to be the more crowded option. If you are in the mood for solitude you may want to go elsewhere.

backpacking
Sat Sep 15 2018

This is one of my favorite places in the world.... if camping, I highly recommend going past the end of the trail to this private campsite near several lake inlets. Truly stunning. The water was some of the warmest I’ve felt in the area in July

Wed Aug 15 2018

Loved this backpack trip. Did a slight detour up to gilmore lake for lunch then back on trail to Half moon. Fairly steady incline the whole way there, so if you like hiking up with little relief this is your trail. Had place to ourself and actually camped at Alta Morris, a bit of scrambling to get to alta and loss of trail but geographic markers and following edge of half moon lake helped with direction across granite boulders. Alta was well worth it, had the whole lake to ourselves, saw two couples in the distance the whole weekend.

hiking
Sun Jul 22 2018

Beautiful wildflowers. After Gilmore Lake split it’s pretty much flat. If you want to swim not the lake for you. Lots of grass along the shores and felt more like a very big pond. Not like your typical alpine lakes you see in Tahoe. Still a great workout. I clocked 11.5 on Strava.

backpacking
Tue Jul 10 2018

Pretty lake, secluded. Tougher hike than I expected. Map shows it as 5.5 from Glen Alpine but it felt more like 7. Could just be my lack of conditioning backpacking though. Wildflowers were outstanding. Loose rock on parts of trail were tough on feet.

backpacking
Tue Jul 03 2018

Saw 0 people. Amazing views all around. The right half is all meadow and left in granite and trees- left is your best bet for backpacking. All facing a beautiful waterfall. The hike is very easy after the Gilmore lake split.

hiking
Sun Sep 03 2017

Awesome hike! Nobody on the trail after split with Gilmore Lake trail. Awesome views. Not really a tough hike compared to some. Lake was great to take a swim in after the climb up. Start early to beat the heat.

hiking
Thu Aug 17 2017

Pretty much all uphill from the start until you reach the lake. Terrain is really rocky. I wore my trail running shoes and had wished I'd wore my hiking boots. A lot of the hike is exposed. It is an absolute beautiful hike with all the different landscapes. The wild flowers were amazing. When we got to the lake they were 4 feet tall and we had to push through them for about 500 ft because they had overgrown the trail. Quite a few people on the trail until the split to go towards Gilmore lake. After that it was just us on the trail.

hiking
Sat Jul 22 2017

Warm weather patches of snow here and there but mostly melted.

backpacking
Mon Jun 19 2017

Still very snowy above ~7500 ft and the lake is ~90% frozen, so getting there for the next month or so is likely to require snow shoes and some navigation. Also a pretty big creek crossing to tend with about three miles in. Worth the views and seclusion if you go in prepared though!

fishing
Mon Jun 08 2015

Beautiful beautiful hike, little longer than expected although we did see Grass Lake, Shirley Lake, and others in the distance. Plan your time so your out before dark, the hike down is hard on your knees so be careful and bring a knee brace. Fishing was amazing at Half Moon Lake, we caught one every cast and released it. Next time we want to plan an over night stay because it really is amazing up there.

camping
Wed Feb 02 2011

This quick review is for Half Moon Lake in Desolation Wilderness. However, we normally approach from the Glen Alpine trail head at Fallen Leaf lake and go left at Gilmore lake branch off. You will pick your way along the right edge of a wet marshy area until you reach the base of falls. Lakes are to your left from there. When taking this hike from the Glen Alpine trail head be prepared for pockets of standing water at the beginning of this hike, especially in early spring. If looking for high alpine views this is not your hike. Half Moon Lake is a small shallow lake nestled into a nice secluded pocket of privacy. Not much direct sun either, as it has less southern exposure than normal due to the way it is tucked in along the bottom of the mountains. Attraction here is a nice misty light waterfall cascading from high above. When camping at Half Moon Lake this small cascading sheet of water is what will gently put you to sleep or keep you awake. Some small fish can be coaxed into your frying pan once in a while if late enough in the season. This is an easy to moderate hike of 6 - 7 miles one way. Spend a second night at Gilmore Lake and stand atop Mt.Tallac for a great view of Lake Tahoe, via a fairly easy 1.5 mile saunter from Gilmore Lake up the back side of Mt.Tallac. Elevation and getting back down before dark are only concerns here, aside from the crowds if you are hiking on weekends. Desolation Wilderness is typically busy due to it's proximity to the Tourism crowds and small size. Moderate traffic and crowds should be expected most of the time.

hiking
9 months ago

hiking
9 months ago

hiking
Tue Jul 02 2019

hiking
Wed Aug 22 2018

hiking
Thu Aug 09 2018

hiking
Sun Jul 23 2017