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General Information: The Tallac Trailhead provides intermediate ski/snowshoe access to two fine lakes on the southwest shore of Lake Tahoe. Floating Island Lake, with its terriffic views of Lake Tahoe as well as Fallen Leaf Lake along the way, is just 1.5 miles from the trailhead. Cathedral Lake with its Mt. Tallac and Cathedral Peak views is worth the extra 0.6 miles. In mid-winter, the paved Forest Service road to the trailhead may be unplowed, thus extending the tour by another mile or so in each direction. The hardy can actually continure past Cathedral Lake all the way to the summit of Mt. Tallac, although this is an advanced ski tour requiring backcountry travel experience and good skiing ability. For more information on skiing/snowshoeing Mt. Tallac, see our Mt. Tallac Peak Climb page.

Where To Start: The trail starts at the Mt. Tallac Trailhead. From the "Y" in South Lake Tahoe, drive about 4.5 miles north on highway 89 towards Emerald Bay.


After passing the Visitor Center on the right, look for a sign for Tallac Trail, Camp Shelley, and Camp Concord off to the left. Follow the signs on this road back to the Tallac Trailhead. In the winter, this paved Forest Service road may not be plowed. If this is the case, you can usually park at the beginning of the road and ski to the trailhead.

Trail Description: The trail winds steadily up through pine and fir forest. The skiing is not flat, gaining over 700' to Floating Island Lake, but taken slowly is well within the ability of most moderately fit people. Filtered views of Mt. Tallac to the west and, as you climb onto the ridge overlooking Fallen Leaf Lake, beautiful Lake Tahoe views to the east and north reward the tourer. The trail runs along the ridge for awhile then turns west and descends a small gully, only to climb again. Shortly after climbing out of the ravine, you may be able to hear the splashing of the creek that flows from Floating Island Lake. The trail switch-backs a couple of times close to the stream then tops out on a small rise as the lake comes into view. The best place to enjoy the views and peacefulness of the lake is along the northern shore. The view of the lake with Mt. Tallac in the background is quite stunning as well.

After a rest and perhaps a snack, you can continue south along the trail as it winds its way up to Cathedral Lake. After less than a mile and 500' of vertical, Cathedral Lake will open before you. Although Cathedral Lake is not much in itself, the trail just above the lake, as it climbs through a series of flat rock ledges, offers fantastic lunch spots with million dollar views.

Continuing on this trail will eventually get you to the top of Mt. Tallac, but don't be fooled by the short 2.5 mile distance. The hike from Cathedral to the top of Tallac can take several hours and at times involve severe avalanche danger.

The descent is quick and fun, but will test the ability of novice skiers. The trail can occasionally get icy and is, in some places, narrow with lots of turns amidst the trees. Still, this tour is considered to be an easy intermediate tour.

Environmental Concerns: Pack it in, pack it out. Go to the bathroom at least 100 yards from streams and lakes.

Advisory: Although the risk is usually minimal, in the right conditions, parts of this trail could avalance, particularly above Cathedral Lake. Be sure to check the Avalanche Forecast before you head out. Only you can evaluate snow stability! As always, dress for the weather and pack more clothing than you think you will need.

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