Pets allowed
Elevation Gain
3,258.00 ft (993.04 m)
Trail type
9.60 mi (15.45 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Most who have visited Lake Tahoe have heard of Mount Tallac, or at the very least, have laid their eyes on it. Rising above the southwest shore of the lake, Mount Tallac is part of Desolation Wilderness and the tallest mountain on the lake's immediate shoreline. At 9,738 feet, the mountain stands as a commanding landmark, and it is a continual draw for hikers in the summer and backcountry skiers in the winter.

During the summer and shoulder season months, the Mount Tallac Summer Trail offers a reasonably direct and quick trail route up the mountain. Just shy of 5 miles, the trail meanders past lakes and through forests, climbing bowls and ridges to gain the summit nearly 3,300 feet above the trailhead. The 10-mile round trip takes most hikers around six hours, including time to soak in the panorama on the summit

At the trailhead parking lot, hikers will need to complete a wilderness permit, even if just for day-hiking (Desolation Wilderness requires both overnight and day use permits). Follow the trail through sagebrush and fir and pine forest as you climb moderately toward a ridge between Fallen Leaf Lake and Tallac’s northeast aspect. The trail follows this ridge, affording sweeping sweeping views of Fallen Leaf Lake and Tahoe’s south shore. Shortly after the 1.5-mile mark you’ll reach peaceful Floating Island Lake, named for a grass island that floats freely around the lake. 

Continuing beyond Floating Island Lake, pass a junction with a side trail that branches off to Fallen Leaf Lake. Shortly  thereafter you'll reach Cathedral Lake, the last water source along the trail and a nice spot for a dip on hot day (hikers should carry at least 64 ounces of water for the full hike). Above Cathedral Lake the trail steepens, switchbacking up a to a small shelf and up a broad bowl to gain the south shoulder. Views of Lake Tahoe just keep getting better and better the higher you climb.

The trail then wraps around Mount Tallac’s broad south shoulder, opening to brilliant views of the Desolation Wilderness with the Crystal Range and Pyramid Peak dominating the skyline. This is a great area to slow down and take in the abundant wildflowers. Eventually the trail veers back easterly as it nears the summit ridge and then climbs up rocky talus to the summit.

From Tallac’s summit there is no better view of Lake Tahoe’s soothing blue waters and the surrounding Sierra mountain landscape. Assuming you’ve chosen a fair weather day, you’ll have hit the jackpot of Tahoe scenery, with all of Desolation Wilderness, alpine lakes, and the nooks and crannies of Lake Tahoe’s shoreline in view. When you’ve finished soaking up the mind blowing view, retrace your steps and follow the trail back to the trailhead.

Make sure to bring plenty of water, as this is more or less a full day excursion with lots of elevation gain. Dogs are allowed on the Mount Tallac Trail.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass

Not Required


Hike Lake Tahoe's tallest peak. Fantastic lake views.



Trailhead Elevation

6,480.00 ft (1,975.10 m)


Big vistas


Nearby Adventures

Nearby Lodging + Camping


Would recommend booties for dogs. Most of the trail is uneven/rough hewn granite footing and I've seen bloody footprints from dogs who didn't have them.
Pronounced: 'Tuh-Lak'
Summary: ~5 miles out and same back; ~3,100 elevation gain
Duration: <2.5 hours to peak (if fit, but much longer if not)
When: hiked late summer to avoid snow
Which: hiked main Tallac Trail, but other options include Glen Alpine (longer) and Middle Tallac (steeper and shorter)
How: park at Mount Tallac Trailhead; fill out pass; start hike, which encounters loose rocks and climbs in earnest; go past two lakes and climb up rock headwall; at trail post, go right to Tallac (if you go left you are going down Glen Alpine Trail;) keeping right, scramble up rocks along bit of ledge and you will quickly reach summit, which is close to 10,000 feet and offers abundant views
Pitfalls: bears may be encountered, which happened in my case; descent can be confusing, because you have scrambled to peak and retracing your path down can be difficult --- take precaution!
Parking: ample early, but limited later
Pass: required to carry
Pets: sure, but puppies should not hike until grown
Provisions: food and water (duh!)
Equipment: hiking boots (c'mon;) poles offer more challenge than assistance (in my opinion;) backpack with mobile phone and perhaps safety supplies
After hiking this trail to watch the sunrise at the summit, I don't believe I could do it any other time. spectacular view and the horizon emitted all colors of the rainbow at one point. Started the hike at 1230AM and reached the summit by 4AM. Something about hiking by headlamp made it a lot less discouraging as we could never see the huge elevation gain we were about to conquer. Just taking one rock at a time. It was a great way to beat the summer heat as the high sierra temps drop during the night and was refreshing as we hiked. However the summit was very cold once we stopped moving so make sure to bring a lot of layers. (a sweat shirt and Sweatpants were still too cold) We had chose a great night to make the journey as it was the peaking time of the perseid meteor shower. Star gazing was a great way to pass the time as we waited for the sun to make its debut. We saw no other hikers the whole time until reaching the summit where we met some back-country campers that camped in the meadows and had the same idea as us. The hike down was a whole new hike as we encountered everything we had passed but could not see on the way up. The wildflowers in the early morning, the multiple lakes we had not noticed, and walking down a huge pile of rocks we didn't realize what we had faced. by the time we reached the forest is when we saw many hikers on their way to make the trek to the summit. Highly trafficked. The most people I had ever seen on a trail in my life. However it was a Saturday in August and I was happy to see so many people taking the challenge. We arrived to the trail head at about 9am exhausted and had legit trouble staying awake but it was all so worth it. So many perks of doing this hike at night. Cool temps, no traffic, even more breathtaking views, and a better mentality of what you're about to face.Tallac was a highlight of my summer adventures and I highly recommend sunrise hiking to anyone willing to take the challenge
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