True Blue

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Take a Hike

The scenic Rubicon Trail boasts uninterrupted lake views. (Photo by Jeremy Sykes)

Mike White wrote the book on hiking in the Tahoe region—in fact, he wrote two of them. The inveterate Reno-based outdoorsman and author of Afoot & Afield: Reno-Tahoe and Top Trails: Lake Tahoe walks us through five of his favorite Big Blue treks.

Echo Lakes Trail

“In the Echo Pass area, on the west side of the pass, is Echo Lakes. There’s a little rustic resort there and they run a water taxi in the summer, and you can shave off about three miles of hiking along the edges of the reservoirs. That drops you at the far end of the upper lake, and then Desolation Wilderness is at your doorstep. [At that point] there are varying hikes you can take of varying distances, and you’ll get right into the heart of Desolation Wilderness that way. You have a lot of high summits around there, too. It’s a great mountain environment—lots of peaks and ridges and stuff like that.”

Mt. Tallac Trail

"If you want the best summit hike in the area, that would be Mt. Tallac. This is a strenuous hike—it’s about five miles one-way and it gains a lot of elevation. But you get to see a couple lakes, some wildflowers, and then you get to the top, and you’ve got a supreme Lake Tahoe view. From South Shore, you can look across the lake and see this huge black massive hulk of a mountain. So it has some street cred when you say, ‘Oh yeah, I’ve been to the top of Mt. Tallac. That big black mountain over there? Uh-huh.’ If you’re a peak-bagger, you can get some kudos out of that.”

Rubicon Trail

“The mileage from Vikingsholm [mansion in Emerald Bay] to Rubicon Point in D.L. Bliss State Park—the full extent of the trail—is five miles [10 miles round trip]. But you have options: You can actually go out, circle around Emerald Point, come back and make it a shorter trip if you don’t want to do the whole thing. That would be about a four-mile [loop]. It goes right along and slightly above the shore of the lake, so you’ve got almost continuous lake views. If you have never been to Lake Tahoe, or go infrequently, and you really want to get the feel of the lake—and the beauty of the lake—this is a great hike.”

Mt. Rose Trail

“Over on the northeast side of the lake, near Reno, there’s the Mt. Rose Trail. You get the third-highest peak in the Tahoe basin, so again you get beautiful views of the lake. But one advantage is that it is one of those trails that, if you don’t want to do the full assault of the mountain, you can go in two and a half miles and there’s a pretty waterfall and wildflowers. It’s a fairly easy trail—not a lot of up-and-down elevation gain. Most of the elevation gain comes in the second half of the trip, when you climb to the peak. So that’s a nice one on that side of the lake.”

Tahoe Rim Trail (from Ward Creek Boulevard)

“On the west shore near Tahoe City, there’s a section of the Tahoe Rim Trail that goes from Ward Creek Boulevard. If you take it out six and a half miles, it’ll take you near the top of Twin Peaks. Then there’s a short little scramble, if you feel up to it, to get to the top and see the whole Tahoe Basin. You look across the lake at the Carson Range—a spur of the Sierra on the east side of the lake—and then, at the south end of that, is Freel Peak, which is Tahoe’s highest mountain. It’s a real reward for the climb.”

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