Mount Tallac Trail

Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, California

Distance4.7mi
Elevation Gain3,500ft
Trailhead Elevation6,428ft
Top9,719ft
Elevation Min/Max6428/9719ft
Elevation Start/End6428/6428ft

Mount Tallac Trail

Mount Tallac Trail is a hiking trail in El Dorado County, California. It is within Desolation Wilderness and Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit. It is 4.7 miles long and begins at 6,428 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 9.1 miles with a total elevation gain of 3,500 feet. The Tallac Trailhead Parking is near the trailhead. The Cathedral Lake water can be seen along the trail. There is also a viewpoint along the trail. The trail ends near Mount Tallac (elevation 9,734 feet). This trail connects with the following: 17e33.

Mount Tallac Trail Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

101 Hikes in Northern California: Exploring Mountains, Valleys, and Seashore (Wilderness Press)
Matt Heid
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"Mount Tallac soars above Lake Tahoe’s southwest shore, a landmark peak beckoning fit hikers to its lofty summit. From the top, Lake Tahoe and the heart of Desolation Wilderness spread out below you."
Top Trails Lake Tahoe (Wilderness Press)
Mike White
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"Mt. Tallac is regarded by many as the quintessential Tahoe peak. The dark, metamorphic hulk looms over the south end of the lake in dominant fashion, casting a long shadow over the surrounding terrain. Tallac is a Native American word meaning “great mountain,” an appropriate moniker for this stately peak. Not only is the mountain imposing when viewed from various points around the basin, the vista from the summit is equally stunning. Prospective peak baggers don’t need specialized mountaineering skills in order to reach the incredible view, as a maintained trail can be followed all the way to the top of the peak."
Five-Star Trails: Lake Tahoe: 40 Unforgettable Hikes in the Central Sierra Nevada (Menasha Ridge Press)
Jordan Summers
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"Your path from the Desolation Wilderness trailhead is a straightforward march to the south along a well-defined ridge that offers excellent vistas over the cobalt-blue waters of Fallen Leaf Lake. The views continue as your trail sidles by tree-lined Floating Island Lake, where your final destination’s reflection stands out sharply in the placid waters. But right after Cathedral Lake, the bliss ends. The views will distract you from the tortuous switchbacks, stairs, and straight-ups leading to a vegetated talus slope capped by Mount Tallac. The memorable photos from the summit are your reward for persisting across windblown slopes and scree-covered trails."
Hiking The Sierra Nevada (Falcon Guides)
Barry Parr
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"The sheer face of Mount Tallac, with its celebrated crucifix of snow, looms so formidably above Lake Tahoe that it makes a very impressive notch in any mountaineer’s belt. This route presents a near-continuous panoply of changing vistas over Lake Tahoe, Fallen Leaf Lake, Emerald Bay, and Desolation Wilderness, all leading to an extraordinary grand finale atop the summit. Mile for mile, it’s one of the Sierra Nevada’s most magnificent trails, and arguably the premier hike of the Tahoe region."
100 Classic Hikes in Northern California (The Mountaineers Books)
John R. Soares & Marc J. Soares
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"This hike challenges even the most physically fit, but the reward of a panoramic view over Lake Tahoe, Desolation Wilderness, and the rest of the northern Sierra Nevada makes the exertion worthwhile. Be sure to bring warm clothing and protection from the sun. Also, check the weather; you don’t want to get caught in a thunderstorm on Mount Tallac’s exposed ridges and summit. Hardy backpackers can climb Mount Tallac and then head down to Gilmore Lake. You must obtain a permit for this hike. Call Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit for more information."
Afoot & Afield: Tahoe-Reno: 201 Spectacular Outings in the Lake Tahoe Region (Wilderness Press)
Mike White
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"Many regard Mt. Tallac as the quintessential Tahoe peak. The dark, metamorphic hulk looms over the south end of the lake in dominant fashion, casting a long shadow over the surrounding terrain. “Tallac” is a Native American word meaning “Great Mountain,” a particularly appropriate moniker for this stately peak. Not only is the mountain an imposing sight when viewed from various points around the basin, but the vista from the summit is equally stunning. Prospective peak baggers don’t need specialized mountaineering skills in order to reach the incredible view, as a maintained trail can be followed all the way to the top of the peak."

Mount Tallac Trail Trip Reports

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7/22/2018
Tough and steep, but oh so worth it! Amazing panoramic views, lush forests, pristine lakes. It doesn't get a whole lot better in Tahoe than this beautiful trek. Pack plenty of water and look out for bears. Please...if you have a dog healthy enough to do this trail remember to bring some booties for the paws. The rocks get kind of brutal.
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10/5/2013
Ralston Peak Trail
Nearby City:Meyers
Length:6 total miles
Elevation Gain:2,875 feet
Trail Type:Out-and-back
Skill Level:Moderate to Difficult
Duration:5 hours
Season:July - October
Trailhead Elevation:6,360 feet
Top Elevation:9,235 feet
This is one of my favorite hikes. It is extremely challenging as it’s almost 3000’ elev gain in 3 miles – but the view at the top is sooooo unbelievable! The trail starts beyond the parking at the freeway – if you’re lucky you can go up that dirt road, past the church and park up at the sign – trust me you’ll be glad you have that much less to hike! The trail brings you up through the nice shady forest via lots of switchbacks – then about 1-1/2 hours up you’ll break through the forest edge and be up above the tree line with views of granite all around. You’ll see the “false” top from here, but believe me you still have a ways to go! When you get to the sort of flat area with tall pines at the base of the steepest part, where it will remind you of a camping area – don’t follow the trail that goes slightly downand to the left – go up. Yes it is tough, but it gets you to the rocky peak where all the world is at your feet! Youll have to go over a pile of fractured granite – but it’s soooooo worth it. This time we went left instead – it’s longer but more gradual. the hike down is tough. It took us 2 hours and I do not believe I could go down any faster unless I was being chased by a bear! I used poles both ways – the steep steps up boulders, combined with the slippery pine needled trail is not the greatest surface, There is a watering hole about half ways up for the dogs,but that’s about it so make sure you pack plenty. it took 3-1/4 up and 2 hours down.
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7/18/2010
Beautiful trail, still several snow fields that made navigating to the trail a little difficult. Not a kid friendly hike. Wild flowers were amazing!
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6/25/2010
Steep, Steep... Very Steady
Rewarding Downhill Gallop...

Best Hike of the Season
Jawdropping Beauty, I found it hard to leave the peak.
100+ Frames shot, some Percarious Locations, Age, Complexity...

My New Favorite Spot
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10/11/2009
Clear blue skies and patches of snow along the trail made this an excellent fall excursion. Nice hiking for the first half of the trail, as it was shaded from the elements. Past Cathedral peak it got windy as you break above the treeline and climb steadily. The last quarter mile or so, you boulder hop to the top of the mountain, which makes for a challenging finish.
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9/1/2009
This is the perfect training hike. Steep, lots of stairs type rocks to climb up, and views the whole way up of Sierra at tahoe. After a scramble at the top, you can see four lakes and panoramic views. I have read different reviews that this hike is actually closer to 8 miles, so bring plenty of water and layers, base was 70 degress and summit was 42 when i went. Happy Hiking.
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9/13/2008
Trail guide is a little unclear as to the best approach to the foot of the mountain. I found the trail to be short in distance, but steep with slightly exposed traverse to reach the ridge.
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8/19/2008
I hiked this trail in mid August. The weather was warm, but comfortable. Windy and cool at the summit so carrying a light jacket or sweat shirt is advisable.

The first third of the trail is easy with a good view of Fallen Leaf Lake. At Cathedral Lake the trail takes a steep upturn with rocky and sometimes loose footing. Shade is minimal in this second third of the trail. After some long switchbacks the ridge is reached with an abundance of wild flowers in view. The view of Lake Tahoe and Fallen Leaf Lake is spectacular as well as the many small lakes and peaks of the back country.

The final third of the trail is for the most part a gradual ascent to the junction with the trail to Gilmore Lake. The last part of the climb is over very rocky terrain to the summit. The views are awesome so plan to linger awhile and take lots of photos. There are also multiple chipmunks in the area who seem to be use to people and are probably looking for a handout. I encountered several dogs on the hike as well as two at the summit.

Ascent time for me was 3 1/2 hours, about 45 minutes at the top and 2 1/2 hours back to the trail head. I also carried 2 liters of water and drank most of it although I probably could have done with about 1 1/2 liters. I hope this review helps. If you are in the Lake Tahoe area this is a must day hike.
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7/4/2008
This is a very difficult hike. It was my first of the season (not a great idea) so I was last in my group of 6 or 7. The reward of seeing Lake Tahoe and Emerald Bay from that view is totally worth it! I plan on hiking it again before winter!
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9/19/2007
This is an excellent trail because of the high percentage of the time that you are on the shoulder with great views or otherwise above treeline with a gratifying sense of openness. The two lakes you pass along the way are welcome opportunities to kick back for a few minutes and remember to enjoy being at peace as well as moving briskly.
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Trail Information

Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit
Nearby City
Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit
Parks
Dog-friendly
Accessibility
Moderate to Difficult
Skill Level
Snowboarding
Additional Use
Emerald Bay State Park
Local Contacts

Trail Log