The trails in Lake Tahoe are just waiting for the season's first hikers. Whether it's Desolation Wilderness, Granite Chief or Mount Rose, there are dozens of options for getting away from it all. Overnighters and day hikers alike can find every level and length. Below are a few suggestions that will get you out of the car and into the wilderness in no time.
Coolest lake hike: Echo Lakes to Lake Aloha
A staple of local backpackers is Lake Aloha. The sprawling alpine lake has crystal blue bays and deep narrow channels. The open granite around its shores offers many places to camp, though a Forest Service permit is required. For peak-baggers, Pyramid, Mt. Price, Cracked Crag and Jack's Peak are nearby. For those who want to get a little farther off the path, there's also tons of smaller hidden lakes in the Aloha area. For $12 each way, hikers can take a boat across Echo Lakes. Or, if you're looking for more of a challenge, try hiking in from Horsetail Falls.
Longest hike: Tahoe Rim Trail
The 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail is the ultimate in Lake Tahoe hiking. The trail circles the Tahoe Basin, allowing hikers unbelievable views of the lake from every angle. Construction of the trail began 1984. The full loop was completed in 2001 and is now maintained by volunteers through the Tahoe Rim Trail Association. Hikers typically complete the trail in one of two ways: They either through hike, which often takes around two weeks, or they pick and choose sections, depending on conditions.
Best mellow afternoon stroll: Taylor Creek Visitor Center
The U.S. Forest Service has constructed an amazing series of trails in one of Lake Tahoe's last undeveloped marshes. The four trails, accessed from the Taylor Creek Visitors Center, are perfect for bird and wildlife watching. Bears and bald eagles frequent the area. There's also a stream profile chamber, where visitors can see what goes on beneath the surface of Taylor Creek. All trails are handicap accessible. There are no major hills or climbs.
Toughest peak: Freel Peak
Those who want to stand atop the Lake Tahoe Basin's highest mountain will have to work for it. At 10,886, Freel Peak stands tall on Lake Tahoe's South Shore. It is easily visible from almost any spot on the lake. The most popular trail to the top, Horse Meadow, winds around the backside of the mountain. A quick detour will take you to the beautiful Star Lake. Much of the upper climb is through very loose sand and can be difficult even for those in great shape. For directions to the trailhead, check out Summit Post.
Best picnic: Skunk Harbor
Popular with boaters for its protected anchorages, Skunk Harbor is also an amazing hike. The easy route down from Highway 28 takes around an hour. Once there, hikers can dip in the turquoise shallows or picnic on the many granite boulders. There is no direct vehicle access to Skunk Harbor, so, other than the boats on a busy summer days, there won't usually be a crowd. If the beach is too wild, hikers can turn toward the peaceful Prey Meadows. Click here to get directions from The Forest Service.