Mount Tallac Hike

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This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
16.9 km
This reflects the total elevation gained throughout this route as measured by the GPS file. This includes all ascents and descents, and is higher than what is quoted in most route guides, which simply measure the distance between the starting-point and high-point of the route.
998 m
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Directions to Trailhead
Mount Tallac Hike

Hiking the Mount Tallac Trail is a technical trek that boasts breathtaking vistas of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range and the alpine lakes that adorn the glacial basins. A commanding landmark along the shores of Lake Tahoe, Mount Tallac offers countless adventure opportunities, attracting thousands of intrepid explorers year-round. If you are seeking a challenging hike, then the Mount Tallac Trail is an excellent option.

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Route Description for Mount Tallac Hike

Offering a diversity of views, the Tallac Mountain Hike travels across a variety of terrains—from talus fields to stream crossings. As the route along this adventure is rough and rugged, we suggest wearing a pair of microspikes and considering bringing trekking poles. Additionally, the path weaves between tree shade and exposed ridges—wear sun protection and layers as insurance against changing conditions. Set out early to the summit before noon, mitigating the chances of getting caught in an afternoon storm and avoiding the inevitable afternoon crowds. Pack plenty of water to stay fueled along this technical trek. Note hikers are required to get a self-issued permit which is available at the trailhead.

The Tallac Mountain Hike is an adventurer’s oasis, and it’s at the top of our hiking itinerary. Wander through mixed conifer forests, over snow-melt streams, past shimmering alpine lakes, and up the scree to the summit of the tallest mountain on the lake’s immediate shoreline. Open year-round, daring spirits climb up to the peak and ski down the snow-cloaked slopes. The hike is more easy-going in the summer months, meandering along ridges and bowls, revealing awesome panoramas of Lake Tahoe dominating the terrain and the bounding snow-capped Sierra Mountains. Though tiring, the picturesque scenes warrant the sweat.

Setting out from the trailhead off Mount Tallac Road, the Mount Tallac Hike tracks the Floating Island/Mount Tallac Trail. Wander this route through light forestlands of mixed pines, red firs, and quaking aspens. Enjoy the sparse tree shade of the towering trees as you hike south, gradually climbing along the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountain. Soon the path will open, warranting jaw-dropping views of Fallen Leaf Lake below. The first rest stop you will reach is at Floating Lake. A charming body of water named for the grass island in the middle of the lake. Rest and rehydrate before continuing your climb.

Soon you will have to cross over Cathedral Stream—it should be low enough to safely cross. Meandering south through the woodlands, you will reach the shore of Cathedral Lake, the second alpine lake along this trek. At this point, the terrain will become increasingly intense and technical; take your time, and mind your footing as you are diverted west up several switchbacks. This section of the route will be almost entirely exposed, boasting great views and windy conditions. Eventually, you will ascend the first ridge, which will reward you with sights of Gilmore Lake.

Continuing along the Mount Tallac Trail, you will be diverted north up the ridgeline. Take your time navigating the talus field up to the summit of Tallac Mountain. You will be overwhelmed with extraordinary panoramas from every direction from atop the peak. In the east, you will be granted a view of Fallen Leaf Lake, and in the northeast, expansive views of Lake Tahoe. Notice Maggies Peaks in the north and distant sights of Emerald Bay. After reveling in the 360-degree panoramas, you can begin your descent. To get back to the trailhead, simply retrace your footing the way you came, all the way back to the carpark.

Trail Highlights

Tallac Mountain

Tallac Mountain is a dramatic summit that towers above South Lake Tahoe and Emerald Bay. Similar to Mount of the Holy Cross in Colorado, Tallac Mountain has a snowfield cross etched into the eastern slope. Sitting at an elevation of 2,968 m, the Sierra Nevada peak attracts over 10,000 intrepid adventurers each year. Boasting panoramic views of the mountainous landscape adorned with alpine lakes, the scenes from atop the summit are truly unparalleled.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long is the Mount Tallac Trail?

The Tallac Mountain Trail is a 7.9 km out-and-back hike in South Tahoe.

Is the Tallac Mountain Hike challenging?

Yes, the Tallac Mountain Trail is a technical trek that demands stamina and determination!

Do you need a permit to hike Mount Tallac?

Yes, a self-issued, free wilderness permit is required for those tackling the Mount Tallac Trail.

Insider Hints for Mount Tallac Hike

  • Parking is limited, arrive early!
  • When backcountry camping, reserved your wilderness permit beforehand to ensure you get a spot
  • When hiking in the off-season be sure to strap on a pair of snowshoes or microspikes
  • Though note necessary, trekking poles are helpful
  • Acclimatize to the area’s elevation If you are from out of town

Getting to the Mount Tallac Hike Trailhead

The Tallac Mountain Hike departs from the Trailhead and Parking Area at the end of Mount Tallac Road.

Route Information

  • Backcountry Campground

    Backcountry Camping, Wilderness Permits Required.

  • When to do


  • Pets allowed

    Yes - On Leash

  • Family friendly


  • Route Signage


  • Crowd Levels


  • Route Type

    Out and back

Mount Tallac Hike Elevation Graph

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