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Mount Tallac

Lake Tahoe

Stroll through the forest past alpine lakes, then tackle a strenuous climb to the top of the proudest peak on Lake Tahoe's shore.

Hiking Difficult

15 km
1 km
1 km
4-5 hrs
Low Point
2 km
High Point
3 km
Mount Tallac Map

Mount Tallac (9,738 ft) is the prominent, craggy mountain above Lake Tahoe’s southeast shore. The Mount Tallac Trail is the typical route to the summit. Any distance along this trail is rewarding, even if you don’t tackle the final steep miles to the top of the mountain. Within the first two and a half miles are beautiful views over Fallen Leaf Lake and a few smaller lakes perched at the base of the mountain.


The journey to the summit is most popular in summer and fall. Early season warrants snow traction at the higher elevations, and winter ascents are a snowshoeing or skiing mission.

At the Mount Tallac Trailhead you must fill out a free permit to enter the Desolation Wilderness. Begin on an obvious path through open conifer forest and sagebrush meadows up a moderate incline. It climbs onto a broad bench in between Tallac and Fallen Leaf Lake. Views are of rocky slopes above, blue water below, and a horizon full of distant peaks.

At mile 1.6 is Floating Island Lake, a quiet pond at the foot of Tallac. Look for the small floating grass island that gives the lake its name. Just past here comes the first really great perspective of Mount Tallac. The trail crosses rocky meadows at the base of sweeping talus slopes. The toothy ridge overhead is what you must gain to reach the top.

At mile 2.3 you'll pass Cathedral Lake, a smaller but even prettier pond in a bowl placed improbably between the walls of Tallac above and the 1,000-foot hillslope to Fallen Leaf Lake below. This is a nice place to take a dip on a hot day, and to refill bottles if you have water treatment.

The rest of the hike up the mountain is dry and exposed to the sun. The trail heads steeply upward from Cathedral, earning evermore impressive views over the lakes below.

Switchbacks top out on the mountain’s south shoulder, where fields of wildflowers allow broad vantage to the west over the peaks of the Crystal Range and the interior of the Desolation Wilderness. The hulk of Pyramid Peak dominates the skyline, and the circular form of Gilmore Lake rests below.

The steepest section of the hike is behind, but more work lies ahead, so catch your breath and take in the view before continuing up, among wind-warped pines and more flower-filled meadows. One more rocky climb guards the summit, but it is short, and before you know it you’ll be atop the proudest peak on Lake Tahoe’s shore.



Hiking trails where obstacles such as rocks or roots are prevalent. Some obstacles can require care to step over or around. At times, the trail can be worn and eroded. The grade of the trail is generally quite steep, and can often lead to strenuous hiking.

Medium Exposure

2 out of 4

The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.


2 out of 4

Away from help but easily accessed.

Best time to visit

between June and October


  • Wildlife
  • Picturesque
  • Summit Hike
  • Dog friendly
  • Wild flowers
  • Water features
  • Family friendly

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area