Sitting at the southwest corner of Lake Tahoe, Mount Tallac is one of the most recognizable peaks in the Tahoe Area. It borders the Desolation Wilderness, an area with many great backpacking opportunities. Mount Tallac is a challenging day hike. The distance is short, but the elevation gain is tough. Set out on this steep and challenging hike to get unsurpassed views of Lake Tahoe and panoramic views into Desolation Wilderness. We always joke about this hike being one of first difficult hikes we have done together. We look open it fondly because it the opened door to new adventures.
How to Get There
From Highway 89, turn off at Camp Shelly/Tallac City. Coming from the north, this is the first right turn after Spring Creek Road. Coming from the south, it is not long after the Lake Tahoe Visitor Center on the left. Follow signs for Tallac Trailhead.
Permits are required, even for day hikes. They are free and available at the trailhead. Fill out the wilderness permit at the trailhead before the hike.
Distance: 9.6 miles return (15.5 kms)
Elevation gain: 3,250 feet (991 meters)
Time: 4 hours
From the trailhead, start through the forest on a wide path that gradually takes you up to the ridgeline. Passing the Fallen Leaf Lake, after ¾ miles on the ridgeline, the trail ascends into the Desolation Wilderness. Roughly 1.5 miles in, Floating Island Lake is your first water source.
From here you can see the ridge line and summit of Mount Tallac. Continue to Cathedral Lake, another ¾ miles further. Just before Cathedral Lake, there is an offshoot with another trail leading to the summit, which is extremely steep and only for very experienced hikers. Cathedral Lake is your last chance for water. From here, the trail becomes fully exposed.
There is a section with very steep switchbacks until you reach a large meadow close to the top of Mount Tallac. Right before the summit there is rocky area that requires some scrambling. Once on top, enjoy the views from the highest peak around Lake Tahoe!
What to Bring on the Hike
Snacks (jerky, gummies, nuts)
Check out our other posts from California:
- Backpacking Santa Rosa, Channel Islands
- Exploring Angel Island: San Francisco
- Hiking Guide to Half Dome
- Hiking Mount Tallac: Lake Tahoe
- Thousand Island Lakes Loop: Mammoth, California
- Trinity Alps Hike to Caribou Lakes
- Ultimate Guide to Point Reyes