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General Information: Margaret Lake is a pleasant day hike destination, or an easy backpacking trip. At just 5 miles and 678 feet of elevation change for the round trip, Margaret Lake is an ideal trip for children. The lake itself is beautiful and refreshing and has several nice campsites. About the only drawback to the area is the number of visitors it receives on summer weekends.

Where To Start: From South Lake Tahoe, take highway 50 towards Sacramento, turning east onto highway 89 (Luther Pass). Follow highway 89 until it T's into Highway 88. Turn right onto 88 and head over Carson Pass. Just past the dam at Caples Lake, you will cross the spillway. Look for a brown Forest Service sign that says "Margaret Lake Trail Head". Park in this lot and look for the trail head marker.

Click here for a map and vertical profile

Trail Description: The trail meanders through riparian and sub-alpine forest past the spillway channel which may or may not be filled with water. The trail is mostly flat or downhill this direction.There are several smaller trails that branch off, but the main trail is always easy to recognize and follow. Still, a map and compass would be good things to have along on this hike.

You will cross Caples Creek after less than 1/2 mile then climb a short grade (150') before topping out and heading back down into a drainage. At about mile 1.5 you will pass a stagnant pond...our kids were very concerned that this was Margaret Lake. After reassuring your kids that the real lake is much nicer, continue down this drainage for another mile. The last 1/10th mile is a short 60' uphill into the Margaret Lake basin. The Lake has several rock islands that are fun to swim out to, and rock climbers might want to bring shoes and a chalk bag for some wonderful bouldering (and even top roping). There are not a huge number of campsites, but the ones that exist are very nice.

Environmental Concerns: None but the usual...keep it clean, pack it out, pick up after those who didn't, stay 200 yards away from steams and lakes when...you know...you've gotta go.

Advisory: Although the trail is wide and easy to follow in most places, the surrounding area is a bit featureless. Combine this with the plethora of small trails that branch off the main trail then disappear, and we would want a map, a compass and more than true beginner trail hiking experience.

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