The best hiking trails in Lake Tahoe prove that this vast landscape is an explorer’s mecca. With the Sierra Nevada looming overhead and the glistening lake waters of the shoreline below, there are all sorts of terrain to get exploring when you pull on the boots and pick up the poles in this corner of the US.

    This list takes a look at the most awesome, picturesque and unforgettable hiking trails in Lake Tahoe. It's got options for the adrenaline-hungry trekker and the casual rambler alike, with routes that take a whole day and others that demand just a few hours. Whichever you go for, be sure to check weather conditions ahead of time, and don't leave without telling someone about your plans.

    1

    Rubicon Trail

    Views that you'll know from the postcards

    The famous Rubicon Trail weaves around one of the most iconic bays on the south side of Lake Tahoe. The trailhead is in a small car park on a road, just below the Emerald Bay State Park Lookout. It's a short drive off the Emerald Bay Road.

    The Rubicon Trail is a challenging hike. At 16 miles, it's probably at the upper end of what most can achieve in a day. However, you'll hardly notice the miles clocking up because the Rubicon starts with broadside views of shimmering Emerald Bay. Eventually, it crosses into the D. L. Bliss State Park, which has boulder-speckled coves and uber-clear waters.

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    2

    Eagle Falls Trail

    For a quick trip to majestic waterfalls

    The Eagle Falls Trail is a short but sweet hike. It navigates through the hills on the south-west end of Lake Tahoe, starting at a small car park – that fills up very fast in the midsummer – on the side of the Emerald Bay Road. It's a loop of just under 2.5 miles, so can be completed in a single morning or afternoon.

    The path starts flat but quickly inclines up through the spruce and pinewoods. The route is on stone steps carved straight into the hills, which level out at the Upper Eagle Falls Bridge. There, gushing waters roll across the boulders and there are cracking views. Going forward, you can extend the hike considerably to add on shimmering Eagle Lake but only do that if you have the energy and the time.

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    3

    Cascade Falls Trail

    Discover scenic views of a different lake

    The Cascade Falls Trail is a fast in-and-out hike of fewer than 1.5 miles that still offers pretty stunning panoramas of legendary Emerald Bay – arguably the most scenic location on the south shore. You'll find the trailhead between the ponderosa pines behind Bayview Carpark.

    The path actually starts as part of the Bayview Trail but quickly veers off to the left. That takes you more directly up the mountainside, on a route that's dotted with dusty boulders and overlooked by hulking great trees. The money shot comes at the Cascade Falls themselves. They gurgle over a few rocks into small pools but open onto views of hidden Cascade Lake down below.

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    4

    Eagle Rock Hiking Trail

    Gain views across the water to Nevada

    The Eagle Rock Hiking Trail clocks up a length of a little over half a mile. That means it's a fantastic stop-off trail for those cruising through Tahoe Pines on the main West Lake Boulevard, which is where you'll find the trailhead waiting by babbling Blackwood Creek.

    But, despite the short length, the Eagle Rock is steep. You'll need a bit of energy to conquer the jagged rocks and big boulders that lie in wait. The reward is a lookout point on the great stone plinths above. The views from there take in the whole of the eastern shore, where the snow-capped Carson Range herald Nevada territory.

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    5

    Fallen Leaf Lake Trail

    Dodge the crowds in South Lake Tahoe

    Fallen Leaf Lake Trail is a great alternative if you're finding the walks around the ever-popular south side of Lake Tahoe a little busy, which they'll inevitably get in the middle of the summer months. This trek tends to pull in fewer hikers, largely because it weaves around Fallen Leaf Lake, south of Tahoe proper.

    It starts in the shadow of monstrous Keiths Dome – a sinewy rock peak that's often doused in snow. However, don't let the sight of that mighty summit put you off. This walk is actually relatively easygoing, wiggling through scented aspen woods. They look particularly nice in the autumn, turning gold and ochre before a backdrop of the stark Sierra Nevada.

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    6

    Tahoe Rim Trail

    A classic hiking challenge around the whole lake

    The Tahoe Rim Trail is the most quintessential Tahoe hiking trail out there. It encircles the entirety of the lake, running for a blister-bursting 170 miles across the heights of the Sierra Nevada in both California and Nevada. It's not easy stuff – you'll need to be an experienced hiker and have at least 10 days to spare.

    Most trekkers choose to go anti-clockwise from Tahoe City. That way leads through the Tahoe Meadows, up to Echo Lakes by around the sixth day, and through the Desolation Wilderness at the end of the walk. Along the way, you'll join up with portions of the legendary Pacific Crest Trail. You'll also need to apply for special permits and pack all the proper bear-protection equipment.

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    7

    Mt. Tallac Trail

    Up one of the tallest peaks in Lake Tahoe

    The Mt. Tallac Trail makes its way through the aspen and pine groves around the western banks of Fallen Leaf Lake. That means you'll be hiking far beyond the well-trodden paths of South Lake Tahoe and Emerald Bay. The route itself starts at the end of a track past the Fallen Leaf Campground.

    Things start going southwards from there. The 11-mile return route goes over lovely wildflower meadows and pockets of forest plants. Then, you hop Cathedral Creek and double back. That's when the ascent to Mt. Tallac itself begins. It's no walk in the park, but the reward is a jaw-dropping view north across Lake Tahoe with Cascade Lake in the foreground.

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    8

    Marlette Lake Trail

    A scenic trail on the Nevada side

    Marlette Lake Trail is a fine option for hikers looking to explore the Nevada shoreline of Lake Tahoe. It begins in the Spooner Lake Management Area, a little over an hour's drive from Carson City. In total, the route clocks up 10.1 miles of wooded alpine and exposed terrain.

    The real joy of this one is in the views of both Marlette Lake and wider Lake Tahoe that come at the final lookout points. It's a good idea to plan a trek in the spring or early summer because that's when you'll catch the swathes of pretty wildflower in bloom.

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    9

    Lola Montez Lakes Trail

    Get close to the Pacific Crest

    The Lola Montez Lakes Trail starts by pushing through dense forests of spruce and pine and ponderosa. It's actually on the main forest access road, which can be reached off the I-80 for Soda Springs, over an hour's drive from the shores of Lake Tahoe. After leaving the car park, the trail turns to sections of gravel path and then boulders doused in the mud.

    The one-way route is 6.3 miles in total back and forth, so you should reach the lakes themselves. They're small by Tahoe standards, but shimmer like mirrors under the gaze of rugged Andesite Peak. It's possible to keep going and turn this one into a mega, multi-day trek by connecting with the Hole in the Ground Trail and, eventually, the Pacific Crest Trail.

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    10

    Tahoe Meadows Interpretive Trail

    For pleasant springtime strolls

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    Take the Tahoe Meadows Interpretive Trail for an easygoing and pleasant stroll through the rustic reaches of the Washoe Valley, Nevada. It all starts at a parking lot on Highway 431, on the way from North Tahoe to Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe.

    Just over 1 mile long, the path is mostly flat and well maintained, with sections of boardwalk laid out along the harder sections. It changes considerably from season to season. The spring is the doozy, there's no doubt about that. Come in May and look for the multi-coloured wildflowers and butterflies. Winter, on the other hand, sees the whole meadow trail turn into an ad hoc children's play area for sledders and snowball fighters.

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    Joseph Francis | 特約撰稿人

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