Summit of Mount Tallac in Tahoe

Climbing Mt. Tallac for unmatched views of Lake Tahoe

Mt. Tallac is arguably the premier hiking trail in the entire Lake Tahoe area. Despite the strenuous nature of the trek, hikers will be met with spectacular views of alpine lakes, seasonal wildflowers, the rugged mountains surrounding the Tahoe Basin and of course, Lake Tahoe itself from over 3,500 feet above.

Mount Tallac hiking trail

Round Trip Mileage~10.0 Miles
LocationMt Tallac, California 96150
Parking LotSouth Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
Elevation Gain
~3,330 feet
Elevation at Summit9,735 feet
Average Time5 to 8 hours
Rating5 Mooses
Entrance FeesWilderness Permit Required (free and available at the trail head)
Best time to visitMay until October (outside of the snow season)
Our Hike3 Hours 45 minutes to hike up and 2 Hours 30 minutes to hike back down.
View of Mt Tallac from the trailhead
View of Mt. Tallac from the trail head

Interactive Trail Map

Check out the trail route below and a few points of interest along the trail. If you can’t see the map, it is viewable directly on google maps here.

What to expect on the Mt. Tallac Trail (our experience)

We arrived at the trailhead early to snag a spot in the extremely small parking lot. We saw a lot of cars get creative with parking if they were too late for an official spot. Our best advice is to arrive early!

Before leaving the trailhead, be sure to sign up for a free hiking permit. It is required to be in the wilderness area.

Mt. Tallac Trailhead Sign
Mt. Tallac Trailhead Sign

The first few miles of the trail start out gently through lush forest and feature tantalizing views of Lake Tahoe from the lower elevation. This part of the trail is extremely well marked and easy to traverse.

Views of Lake Tahoe from Mt. Tallac
Fallen Leaf Lake & early views of Lake Tahoe

After around 2.5 miles, you’ll reach Cathedral Lake.

Cathedral Lake is what we consider the last of the “easy” parts of the trail. It marks the exit from the tree line and the start of the upward climb to the summit.

Cathedral Lake along Mount Tallac trail
Cathedral Lake

You can see the beginning of the type of terrain the trail turns into. Large swaths of fully exposed rock fields that turn into a long upward slog to reach the summit.

Mt Tallac Hiking Trail
Views along Mt. Tallac trail

After you pass through the exposed rock field and make it up to the back side of Tallac, you’ll think you’ve made it. “False” summits are probably the most frustrating part of hiking and Tallac does not disappoint in this arena.

Vantage as you make your way up the trail

The good news is that on Tallac, once you’ve conquered the rock fields, you’ve done the tough work. You’re rewarded with a meandering (and far easier) final push to the summit through some lush meadows.

Expansive views along the Mt Tallac trail
Rock field along the Mt. Tallac Trail

If you’re lucky, you’ll be greeted with some wild pheasants to help you on your way.

Pheasant crossing on Mt. Tallac
Pheasant in the brush

What to bring on the Mt. Tallac Hike

Be sure to check the weather conditions and pack appropriately. This is what we brought for this hike:

Standard Gear:

Special Items of note:

  • Clothing – Be sure to bring appropriate clothing for rapidly changing conditions.  Weather can change extremely fast in the mountains.
  • Water / Snacks – There is no running water available at the trailhead. Bring plenty of water and extra snacks.
  • Navigation – We use Alltrails (no affiliation) on all our hikes. We didn’t need it for this hike, but you should always have a form of navigation on any hike you take. We also saw a few complaints online that some hikers felt it wasn’t obvious in some spots.
  • Footwear – We recommend hiking boots or trail shoes for this trail. Especially for the uneven rock-fall areas along the trail.

The day we hiked, we saw a gal casually walking up the trail with a Starbucks coffee in her hand, inappropriate footwear and no water or snacks in sight. She clearly had no pockets with a secret stash of supplies.

Maybe the joke was on us as we saw her on the summit.

Wildflowers on the trail

That might be OK for a casual short hike, but on a 10-mile-high elevation hike, extra water, food and supplies is the right way to go.

You’ll also save yourself from being that couple that decided it was time to turn around after attempting to cross the final uphill boulder field in the relenting sun with no shade in sight. Sadly, they turned around right before the lush meadows on the ridge line. They were tantalizingly close.

Don’t be like Starbucks girl, go prepared with the ten essentials (and sure, bring a coffee for the trail). ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

What type of wildlife is on the Mount Tallac trail?

Keeps your eyes out all along the trail for various critters. We saw marmots (they were quite camera shy), squirrels, birds, and of course pheasants.

Golden Mantel Ground Squirrel on summit of Mt. Tallac
Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel – stalking visitors for unapproved treats.
Squirrel climbing a tree along Mount Tallac hiking trail
Squirrel frolicking on Mt. Tallac
Squirrel seen along Mount Tallac hiking trail

Safety Considerations on Mt. Tallac

As with any hike, there are inherent dangers along the trail. Always use your best judgement when hiking, check weather conditions and take appropriate steps to keep yourself safe.

The trailhead sign had the following warnings and recommendations:

  • Carry water. Be prepared to filter or treat drinking water.
  • Be prepared for changes in weather and pack appropriate clothing.
  • Bring a detailed map and understand how to use it.
  • Leave travel plans with someone you trust.
  • Consider carrying a cell phone for emergies, however reception may be limited.
  • Know your physical limitations.
  • Plan ahead and prepare.
  • Stay on trails.
  • Respect wildlife.
  • Leave what you find.
  • Be considerate of other visitors.

Views from the Mt. Tallac summit

After a long hike, you’ll be rewarded for your efforts. Enjoy a full 360-degree view of mountains, lakes and the vast wilderness in the valleys below.

View of Lake Tahoe from summit of Mount Tallac
View of Lake Tahoe from Mt. Tallac Summit

Be sure to check the weather before you head out. You’ll want a nice crisp clear day before tackling the summit.

South Eastern view from summit of Mount Tallac
View overlooking the valley to the south east
Gilmore Lake seen from summit of Mt Tallac.
Gilmore Lake seen from the summit of Mt. Tallac

Should you hike up Mount Tallac?

Rating: 5 Mooses

5 Mooses Rating

Every step it takes to summit this magnificent mountain is worth the exertion.

What we liked:

  • The magnificent panoramic views along trail, especially at the summit.
  • A variety of stunning plant life and flowers are found throughout the trail.
  • We loved the abundance of cute little critters greeting us on our journey.

What we didn’t like:

  • The long and exposed rock falls were difficult to walk up, especially with the relentless sun.
  • Your quads are going to burn on the way up.
  • The trail isn’t for beginners, despite the unprepared we hikers we saw that day.
  • The official trailhead is small. You may end up adding a substantial amount of mileage to your trek if you arrive after its full.

Verdict: A fun and challenging hike with huge payoffs at the top.

We’ll be back one day to conquer Mt. Tallac again.

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