The Lake Tahoe region presents year-round recreation for every genre of backcountry athlete in all four seasons. Tahoe challenges adventurers with premier skiing, snowboarding, climbing and bouldering, trails at every desired length, spectacular fly-fishing, and mountain biking along with anything else the outdoors thrill-seeker can dream up.
And it’s all set in some of the most alluring scenery you can find.
Whether a veteran or just becoming acquainted, both agree a great way to gain exposure to this rich and plentiful territory is the short, yet challenging, day hike that leads up just inside the confines of the Desolation Wilderness to Eagle Lake. Having hiked this trail in both winter and summer I’ve found it to provide a peaceful escape filled with multiple vistas through the morph of seasons.
This trek begins at the Eagle Falls trailhead, which is along Scenic Highway 89 at the point of Emerald Bay. There is a large, yet popular, parking lot at the trailhead that even bestows views of Emerald Bay as it reaches out into the expanse of Lake Tahoe lined with trees and distant mountains on its horizon.
The trail begins as a meandering upward slope over rocks and unearthed roots. As it gains elevation it quickly increases also in steepness and ruggedness. Babbling of nearby creeks, gentle chiming of pine needles, and soft bird songs echo in the still forest as distance is achieved between you and the busy trailhead below. Soon the path opens as it comes to a rocky clearing where vast overlooks of the deep blue Lake Tahoe and its encompassing cliffs and mountains are clearly seen below and across.
Only a short distance further along a level saddle between two towering rocky points leads to a fork to either Eagle Lake or on to Eagle Falls. At this crossroads the trail has only traversed 7/10ths of a mile, but seems much further, not so much due to the strain of the climb but more so because of the hushed unspoiled terrain. Taking a right at the intersection proceeds an additional 1/5th of a mile on to the sandy banks of Eagle Lake a small tranquil pool surrounded by sturdy boulders, elder evergreens, and sharp summits.
For such a short trek this journey furnishes a well-rounded taste of what the Lake Tahoe Basin is made of and is sure stir a hunger for more.
Luckily there’s plenty!
National Geographic Trails Illustrated Lake Tahoe Basin #803