Hiking Mt Tallac for the best view of Lake Tahoe

This is a post about our past hike to the summit of Mt Tallac during our trip to the Reno-Lake Tahoe area back in July 2013. At the time, Reno was the place David and I considered for our retirement before we discussed the idea of full-time RVing. So we came to Reno to check out the city and visit the area.

Mt Tallac is located in the Desolation Wilderness. At 9,735 ft elevation, it’s one of the highest peaks in the Lake Tahoe area. The summit of Mt Tallac will reward you with a spectacular view of Lake Tahoe, Fallen Leaf Lake, and the Desolation Wilderness.

There are several trails in the Desolation Wilderness and Lake Tahoe area that lead to Mt Tallac. We took the trail from Mt Tallac Trailhead. The Mt Tallac Trailhead is located approximately 3.5 miles north of South Lake Tahoe on Highway 89. Look for the Mt Tallac Trailhead sign directly across from the entrance to Baldwin Beach. The trailhead parking is at the end of Mt Tallac Road A.

Map of Mt Tallac Trail. Topo lines are in meters.
Map of Mt Tallac Trail. The elevation lines are in meters.

The trail started ascending immediately as there were about 3,300 ft in elevation to gain in 4.5 miles. First part of the trail up to Cathedral Lake was through pine forests. The first sight of Fallen Leaf Lake was after we climbed up to the ridge line (about 0.7 mile from the trailhead). We stopped for a break at Floating Island Lake surrounded by pine trees. There’s a nice view of Mt Tallac over the lake. Next stop was at Cathedral Lake. From here the trail became steeper and strenuous as it continued up the front face of Mt Tallac. Fortunately, there were lots of great view of Lake Tahoe and Fallen Leaf Lake to see while catching our breath.

The trail soon left a partially shaded area and entered a long and steep section. There was almost no shade for quite a while. It was a steep climb up a headwall from the southeastern side of Mt Tallac. We did the hike in early July and wildflowers were blooming. There was even the last remaining snow pack on the trail. Once on top of the headwall, we could see mountains and lakes of the Desolation Wilderness.

After a short level walk, the trail started going steadily up the southern slope of Mt Tallac. About 4.3 miles into the hike, we came to a junction with a rock pile, we turned right for Mt Tallac summit (left turn takes you to Gilmore Lake). The summit of Mt Tallac is a walk-up summit. It’s really a big pile of rocks. We picked our routes to get to the top. The view of Lake Tahoe from Mt Tallac was unparalleled. We had a 360-degree view of lakes and mountains around us. Mt Tallac was the hike that we probably took too many photos on the way up. Every corners we turned the views got better, so we took some more photos. But once we were at the summit I felt like I didn’t need to snap those many photos before because the ones from the summit were the most breath-taking.

See for yourselves.

  • Date hiked: July 12, 2013
  • Hiking time: 8h 13m
  • Distance: 9.0 mi round-trip (out and back)
  • Elevation change: 3,335 ft gain
  • Self-issued wilderness permit is required for day-hiking.

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