A peakbagger's guide to Tahoe's mountains
Lake Tahoe doesn't have the tallest mountains, but there are quite a few peaks in the area that are well worth the climb. Some summits offer spectacular views while others are obtainable only via a challenging approach. Below are a few ideas to get your mountain climbing campaign off the ground. For directions to the trailheads, check out the links. And make sure to sign the summit ledger when you get to the top.
Best on a full moon: Mount Tallac
Climbing Mount Tallac in the middle of the night is practically a Lake Tahoe ritual. The trail to the top can be fairly busy and don't expect to be alone on the summit. That's because the views of the South Shore under the stars are amazing. When the sun comes up, prepare to witness one of the finer moments in life. Just don't forget breakfast.
Top of the world: Freel Peak
The tallest peak in the Basin is on every peakbagger's hit list, but nailing the rounded top of Freel is not easy. Though it can be done in a day by fit and fast hikers, there's also the overnight option. The camping at Star Lake is fantastic. From there, it's a short, but steep, jaunt to the summit. Once on top, it doesn't get any higher, at least in this vicinity.
Great place to start: Mount Rose
A favorite of the mountain climbing set, Mount Rose is a tall peak that doesn't have a huge approach. Starting from the Mount Rose Highway, the trail to the summit is 5.3 miles with around 2,000 feet in elevation gain. With both Reno and Lake Tahoe in sight, the views at the top are 360 degrees of awesome. At 10,776, this summit ledger is a serious notch on your peakbagging belt.
Take a day or two: Dick's Peak
Almost in the geographic center of Desolation Wilderness, Dick's Peak is a prominent point of the area. The bald summit lies just under 10,000 feet. The approach, shortest from the Bayview Trail, is almost as difficult as the climb. The most practical way is to camp in Desolation Wilderness for a night or two and grab the top before you have to head back to lake level.
Best ridgeline: Pyramid Peak To Mount Price
Not for those with a fear of heights, the jagged edge of the Crystal Range is a challenging and fascinating ridgeline. Often mistaken for the tallest peak in the area, Pyramid Peak is a lowly 9,983. But that doesn't mean it's not worth climbing. On clear days, you can see the summit from as far as Sacramento. Linking it up with Mount Price is an old local's favorite. Be prepared for a long day of class 2 scrambling and a serious knee workout.
View to climb for: Jake's Peak
A favorite with backcountry skiers and riders, Jake's is a short climb with an enormous payoff. The peak lies just northwest of Emerald Bay and offers one-of-a-kind views of the lake. Big, flat granite boulders at the top are a great place to chill out and look down on the crowds of sightseers that wish they had a view as good as yours.