Explore the most popular trails near Emerald Bay with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.


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Emerald Bay, California Map

We live local and access this trail a couple of times a week. It is comprised of both narrow and wide trails. On weekends you will encounter a significant amount of hikers and bicyclists, and parking is limited. Along the trail you will see multiple types of shrubs, weeds, and cacti.The hike climbing back down to the lower parking lot and from Moro Ridge is the most beautiful. You have sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean , and on a clear day you can see as far north as Palos Verdes, San Clemente Island to the West. Along the trails you will encounter numerous birds, rabbits, and occasionally snakes ( rattler, king, and gopher ). If you have an entire day, bring a cooler and your lawn chairs, and after the hike you can access the beach through the pedestrian tunnel. This beach is rarely busy (due to limited parking) and is unparalleled in beauty. If you still have energy though, you can meander north on the sand for about a mile to the Beachcomber Restaurant. Fresh food and libations. I would recommend the Pim Cup.

Left Bayview trailhead at 12pm on Friday in late June and got to Dicks lake at 3:30pm. I found a quiet spot around the lake and set up camp for the night. It was perfect weather, water was chilly but swimmable and the mosquitos were in full force! The hike was fairly easy, the first climb is taxing but not bad at all! I highly recommend this hike!!

Great hike. There is still some snow, but nothing too difficult to cross or very long. There are 2 larger creek crossings in the upper loop that are not too difficult but require some caution. On one crossing we needed to remove our shoes/socks to avoid getting wet, but it was still easy to cross and not dangerous. This is a beautiful area and well worth the effort. Poles will help with the snow and creek crossings.

Awesome hike! Still quite a bit of snow to cross up at Upper Velma and Dicks. Still fairly stable snow, but you will fall through up to your waist in places.

Wow, we had a very nice hike today in the misty rain.

Solitude seekers may already be second-guessing themselves when they pull up to the Velma-Eagle Lakes parking lot, often bloated with drivers frantically looking for a spot, international visitors, and idle North Face sportswear types posing for photos at the sign (oh yeah, I totally just went there). Note: You are allowed to park along the road in some spots. $5.00 fee needed for day-use during the on-season.

Appearances can be deceiving, fortunately. The hassle to find a parking spot and navigate crowds early on is well worth the hike. The amount of people will drastically go down after you cross a bridge which is about 0.5 miles along the trail. (Let's say 100 visitors are on the entire trail. After the bridge it will be 20. Then after a full mile maybe 10). The reason for this is that the elevation gain is a butt buster right at the start, though a well-marked trail and stone steps help accommodate.

I did this when there was lots of snow and completing the full loop is a challenge, largely because the trail is often buried. I diverged, half intentionally, and ascended a ridge a few miles in, with spectacular views of Lake Tahoe and Fallen Leaf Lake at the top. Others happened to be up there as well, and they seemed to be improvising their navigation too.

Give yourself plenty of time in the day if you intend to do the whole loop. Plan carefully before venturing off into the snow (Nov-May).

This is a very good training run if you are looking for elevation gain and beautiful scenery. Can’t wait to run this again!

Many inclines but worth the hike. Great cardio workout!

Amazing view of the beach and cute art works when you enter the tunnel at the beginning of trail. Prepare yourself for a lot of inclines. Definitely worth the hike, though!

Major inclines make for a great workout. Beautiful ocean and mountain views. I enjoy hiking in a bit more solitude and the 1st half is heavily populated, you walk along the 73 freeway for a bit and share with mountain bikers, which can be a bit scary on the more narrow sections. Definitely felt accomplished when we finished!

Beautiful scenic views and intense incline.

The inclines are rough. Took my kids and they could have been helpful if they had some hiking sticks.

Always a favorite!

Very beautiful views, crystalclear lakes, nice nature. The climb takes long (3h with little breaks) for a non-experienced hiker. The descent is very steap and took us 1h, because we were in a hurry due to the sunset.
We only made the first loop, which apparentely is the harder one.
Only critical point: the last 20min along the street. This is not nice and kind of dangerous.
Recommendation: start towards eagle lake - very nice climb, I guess nicer than towards granite lake.

Nice hike. Clean path. Take a swim at the beach after your hike.
Will do it again.

One of the best hikes I did near Tahoe area. If you are doing the loop just as AllTrails, make sure you plan early. This one can be a long hike with so many scenic points that one day feels to be on a tight schedule. I did the loop starting from Bayview trail and ending at Eagle creek trailhead.
If you are climbing from Eagle falls side, be aware that its somewhat steep compared to Granite Lake side. Rest assured, the views at Dicks Lake and Fontanillis Lake make up very much for the effort. Would like to plan a backpacking trip next year just before snow completely melts away. Definitely one of the top hikes near South Lake Tahoe.

Fantastic views. Did it just after the first snow. A bit cool but a wonderful backpacking trip with my daughter.

7/3/17. Did Moro Canyon to East cut across to Moro Ridge. Trail starts low and slow. Cut across provides all elevation. WOW at top. Worth the hike! 5 miles. Great trail. Can do it in sneakers.

great alpine views and swimming

Did this last week as a solo overnighter, I included a summit of Dicks Peak on the second day. Trail starts out steep all the way to Granite Lake, then levels off for a minute before climbing again steeply toward Maggie's Peak. It's a beautiful area but in the summer this section of the trail can be an absolute zoo! Once above the switchbacks the people traffic dropped off sharply and it seemed a pretty quick trek down and over to the Velma Lakes. I didn't see a trail heading to lower Velma but if you have a map and even an average sense of direction it's an easy find.

After checking out lower Velma I continued on to Middle Velma and then up to Fontanillis Lake for the night to camp. There didn't seem to be much in the way of open space around the lake but I probed around a bit on the west side and found a beautiful spot to set up. A breathtaking view and good fishing to boot! Even in August there wasn't a single other person around that I saw.

After waking early I continued onto the intersection with the PCT. This is where my hike detoured a bit as I wanted to bag Dicks Peak while I was out there. After stashing my pack I headed up and over Dicks Pass. Even if you aren't heading up the mountain, a trip over the pass itself is amazing: endless views in all directions! Dicks Peak via Dicks Pass is certainly not for the casual hiker; requiring some steep hard class III scrambling over very loose rock. I would absolutely not recommend trying to take a dog up here.

After a difficult false summit I made the top and the views were the best I've seen from any Peak in Desolation. You're smack dab in the middle of everything so everything from Round Top to Pyramid Peak to Freel and beyond is on show here. Spectacular and worth the extra effort!

The way back was a bit of a blur as I hadn't gotten too much sleep the night before, but I was back at my truck by 6pm.

The Eagle Lake and Bayview trailheads are probably my least favorite to access the Desolation Wilderness, but that's solely because of the very high amount of traffic they get. However, as with all things Desolation, once you get a few miles in you're very much on your own.

Will be back to hike this trail again. There were a lot of mountain bikers on the trail also. The view and the ocean breeze from the trail was amazing

This trip was just breathtaking. We headed out with 3 adults and 6 teens from Eagle Lake trailhead (Get there early, early as there are many day hikers and sight-seers filling up the lot and all along the road.) Our permits were for Dick's Lake and we were originally going in on Bayview Trail, however we could only find online info that said Maggie's Peak was impassable, so decided to go in by way of Eagle Lake. Now that we know Maggie's Peak is passable, we would have preferred that short steep elevation gain over the brutal mile or more of steps heading up from Eagle Lake (especially for my shorty legs). As always, the challenges made the trip. We lost the trail due to large snow patches and ended up at a small lake after finding the trail again. After a hot day, significant elevation gain, a waning sun, and not knowing how difficult the trek to Dick's would be, we ended up camping here and enjoyed a stunning apricot sunset, the reflection bouncing off the granite hillside and onto the lake. Fresh and well-rested, we easily trekked up and over to Dick's the following morning. The snow was plentiful, but found that if we followed the ridge on the high side and climbing the rocks and boulders we could skirt around the snow and any potential fall throughs. Dick's Lake was about 85% frozen but we found an easy trail to the northwest corner. Here we had easy access to the water draining down towards Fontanellis. The lake itself had melted enough at this corner for some iceberg hopping and bracing jumps into the water. The weather couldn't have been better with mid-80s during the day and high 30s at night. Part of the group needed to return the following day so we hiked back Bayview Trail to Granite Lake. The water there felt warm and comfortable after Dick's! The remainder of the group camped on the southeast of Granite where we found several fantastic tent sites. We all agreed the best one was just over the ridge facing southwest with breathtaking views of south Lake Tahoe, Cascade Lake, the Cascade Falls, and Fallen Leaf Lake. A huge orange full moon rose up from the east leaving us all in awe and gave a perfect closure to a short but adventurous trip into Desolation.

Gorgeous hike up to Fontanillis lake, but still tons of snow and the lake is pretty much entirely frozen over.

Snow starts to show up after the first small creek crossing and then before the fork to Dicks. We decided to test out our orienteering skills and take the left to Dicks Pass and it was definitely more efficient, but all snow without tracks so definitely make sure you know how to navigate with a Topo map or GPS. The marmots were out in full force at Fontanillis Lake so be ready for them! High in the 70s, lows in the high 20s.

We decided to do the loop back. Coming down to Velmas it was equally as difficult to find the PCT. We crossed the river as high as we could as it was still snow covered with plenty of snow to make it across (move quickly). We then hugged the left side of the river to upper velma lake. We crossed at the bottom of the lower portion of upper velma just before it feeds into a creek that feeds lower velma. From there it's pretty straightforward.

Make sure you bring a bear hang for the marmots (and there were bear prints in the snow as well), gaiters, and even crampons if you want to try to do the pass early in the morning.

Went early June 2017 and the amount of snow made the hike a bit of an adventure. The views were sumptuous and the weather gorgeous. We camped at Fontanillis lake, the wind was howling all night long but waking up to the sunrise over lake Tahoe was worth the loud night.
The hike is moderate and could be done within a day but I recommend camping up in altitude to be able to spend more time taking the scenery in.
We actually did the loop the other way round and I would highly recommend doing that way since you end up walking down with a glorious view over Tahoe city, Heavenly and Granite lake.

Went at the end of May 2017 and unfortunately the trail was snowed over. We walked into desolation and made it to Granite Lake (which was mostly still frozen over) From there we were unsure of where to go so we climbed the snowed over mountain to the top of the ridge. From there we could see Eagle Lake. We walked along the ridge (by which I mean we scaled across the rock cropings) and then scaled down the mountain and ended up at Eagle Falls where we pitched our tent and camped for the night. It was absolutely beautiful and I would recommend doing it if you're looking for a short but demanding hike. The hike up in the snow was difficult as we were just in hiking shoes and slippery on the way down. This way also required a lot of bouldering. Sad we didn't get to do the loop but just a heads up, check conditions before heading up :)

trail running
Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Beautiful view of Laguna Coast. Inland trail views are expansive and well worth the effort.

Great hike. Lots of up and down hills. Started to rain on us and it was perfect. Some of the trail is mildly overgrown which makes for exciting bushwhacking. Bring a fair amount of water. If done on a hot day I would bring about 2 liters or more.

Excellent hike with great views. Spent the night at Middle Velma which was pristine and a nice swimming spot after a long hike.

The trail out of Bayview is pretty steep and draining for a little over the first mile and a half, especially with a pack, but levels out nicely after reaching the "summit."

Would not recommend the taking Eagles Pass, and just go back down the Bayview trail. Eagles was overly crowded, and the walk back on 89 was a disappointing way to end a great hike. If you are planning this hike Fall 2016 be aware of road construction on 89.

A great day hike: countless pristine lakes, bogs, and views, all enjoyed at a moderate grade. Plus, even on a holiday weekend, this trail was not overly-trafficked. You start up a sandy slope but that doesn't last too long until you level off for the rest of the hike and hit your first lake.

I see many weren't thrilled with the walk back up the highway, but we didn't mind...especially since started the hike a bit later in the day so it was sunset over Lake Tahoe when we made the short trek back to our car, parked along road near Inspiration Point.

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