Pets allowed
Allowed with Restrictions
Elevation Gain
500.00 ft (152.40 m)
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
2.50 mi (4.02 km)
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The Monkey Rock hike is a hike that gives you a lot of bang for your buck in terms of epic views following a relatively short hike. Lying about a mile up Tunnel Creek Road inside the boundaries of Spooner Backcountry - Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park and a little farther down a well-worn spur trail are some wide, panoramic views of north Lake Tahoe, as well as the photogenic granite boulder carved out by a local to resemble a monkey. At 2.5 miles roundtrip, the trail isn't too long, and the hike tends to be a popular one with all age groups, but with a little over 400 feet of elevation gain, expect a slow, steady pace.

Just a short distance past the state park gate, where a self-pay station has envelopes for the state park's $2-per-person entrance fee, the trail hits a noticeable fork with the main route continuing at a gradual uphill ahead, and an especially steep shortcut forks off to the left. The shortcut will get you there quicker, however, you'll also be missing some views through the trees of the East Shore Trail passing along the emerald banks of the lake.

At the point where the main trail meets back up with the shortcut, an unsigned trail cuts left, leading to the peak and the stone monkey just over a granite-lined bluff with breathtaking views. The smiling ape isn't entirely natural; it's said that a local came up here and carved a more distinct set of facial features into the granite. But grab a spot nearby and share the views for a while before heading back out and retracing your route up. That shortcut is a lot more appealing on the return trip.

Park in one of the paid lots at the bottom of the hill or free off-street parking a little farther away. To reach the trail, walk up Tunnel Creek Road as it heads up the hill in a southern direction behind the Tunnel Creek Cafe. As an added bonus, you'll be passing the site of the outdoor sets for the old television show Bonanza, however, the site lies behind a fence right before the pavement ends, and most of the old buildings have been demolished. There are no amenities once you start the hike. Food and drinks are for sale inside Tunnel Creek Cafe.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer
Fall

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Great views.

Cons

Can get crowded. Limited parking.

Trailhead Elevation

6,315.00 ft (1,924.81 m)

Highest point

6,735.00 ft (2,052.83 m)

Net Elevation Gain

420.00 ft (128.02 m)

Features

Near lake or river
Wildlife
Family friendly
Big vistas
Wildflowers
Potable water

Typically multi-day

No

Suitable for

Biking
Horseback

Permit required

Yes

Permit self-issue on site

Yes

Location

Field Guide

Nearby Lodging + Camping

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