Mount Tallac Hike Review and Video
Mt. Tallac, or “Great Mountain” as translated in Washoe, is the highest peak closest to the shores of Lake Tahoe. It stands 9,735’ above sea level and this weekend I stood on the tippy top to make it just over 9,740’ for a second. The trail to reach the top is one of the most strenuous in the area, but the views are worth every burning step. Hello calves and hamstrings!
I have been lucky to call Lake Tahoe “home” for nearly 25 years and in all my time here, I have never tackled the mountain. The idea to take it on started like all great ideas do, sitting around and drinking a beer with friends. At first we had the really great idea to do it with our snowboards and ride down. I am glad that we realized that was a really bad idea when we had a clear conscious the next day. Although there are hardcore skiers and snowboarders that will hike the mountain with their gear to enjoy the crazy chutes and open bowls, it is no joke. A daypack with LOTS of water, some food, and a long sleeve shirt was more than enough to carry up the mountain on my back.
We left Incline Village on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe a little after 9:00 am and made it to the trailhead at 10:00. The trailhead is pretty easy to find and there is a decent amount of parking. If you are hiking in the popular summer months of June to August, make sure that you get there early to beat the crowds and the heat. Click here or here for more info. Also, when you get to the trailhead, you will have to fill out a permit to enter Desolation Wilderness. One form for each group is fine and I think they really only do it to keep track of all the people that get eaten by bears. Just kidding. Don’t be scared now.
From the trailhead, you might as well plan on sucking wind for the next 4.5 miles. Over that distance, you will climb 3,255’ to the summit. The first part of the trail is little more mellow, but still has an uphill pitch. It winds through a beautiful forest with some amazing views and then comes to the first of two lakes after 1.6 miles, Floating Island Lake. After that, there is more beautiful trail for 0.7 miles until you reach Cathedral Lake. Make sure to stop here, enjoy the view, and drink up. After this stop, you have 2.5 miles to the top.
The next section of the hike is pretty intense. There are also a lot of loose (and I mean, really loose) rocks to navigate, so be careful and don’t try this in your flip flops! Once you get up the steepest part of the mountain, you will reach the ridge top and follow it all the way to the summit. The ridge is beautiful and borders on Desolation Wilderness. There were some wildflowers starting to come up this time of year, but I can only imagine how breathtaking it is in peak season.
Once you reach the rocky summit, you will be rewarded with one of the most amazing views of Lake Tahoe I have ever seen. Views of Fallen Leaf Lake, Cascade Lake, and Emerald Bay add to the “wow” factor. We stayed up top for a couple of hours to enjoy the view, cheers a celebratory brew, and make friends with the chipmunks and yellow-bellied marmots. They are everywhere up there and so cute. Just don’t be tempted to feed them no matter how cute they are or what they tell you.
On the way back down, make sure to take your time. All the loose rock is an accident waiting to happen and you certainly don’t want it to be you. By the time you make the 4.5 mile trek downhill, your quads, knees, and toes will have never been happier to see your car. All-in-all, you can count on being reunited with your car in about 6-8 hours round trip.
I would recommend this hike for advanced hikers only. Although you can go out to one of the beautiful lakes and back, the main attraction here is really the summit. The trail is pretty well marked, so even if you are not familiar with the area, you should be able to follow along by paying attention to signs. Let me know if you get the chance to do it or have ever done it before. What are some of your other favorite hikes?