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General Information: The Tallac trailhead, located on Lake Tahoe's South Shore is one of the primary gateways to Mt. Tallac and Desolation Wilderness beyond. On the way to Tallac, and within the ability of just about all adults and most children, are two pleasant small lakes that offer beauty and serenity. Just 1.5 miles from the trailhead is Floating Island Lake which takes its name from the large grass island that actually floats around the small lake. We've even seen people on the island with long sticks pushing themselves around as on a natural raft! On the way, you will enjoy panoramic views of Lake Tahoe and Fallen Leaf Lake. Another 0.6 miles beyond Floating Island is Cathedral Lake. Although not noteworthy in itself, the trail just above Catherdral offers wide views of Lake Tahoe. For the well conditioned, it's only another 2.6 miles to the top of Mt. Tallac (and another 2135 vertical feet too!) For more information on climbing Mt. Tallac, see Mt. Tallac on our Peak Climbs 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's 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.

Trail Description: The trail is mostly a wide path which winds steadily up through pine and fir forest. The hiking 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 hiker. 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'll begin 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 where you'll undoubtedly be visited by the resident pair of Mallards looking for a handout. 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. During the summer, Indian Painbrush, Shooting Stars, and many other wildflowers adorn the trail. 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!

Environmental Concerns: The old backpacking sayings, PACK IT IN, PACK IT OUT and TAKE ONLY PICTURES, LEAVE ONLY FOOTPRINTS, apply doubly to this high use area. It doesn't take much litter to ruin the feeling of being away from civilization. We often bring a bag and do a little grounds keeping while we're out here. Also, be sure to stay 100 yards away from both streams and lakes when taking care of your personal business.

Advisory: Mt. Tallac should not be tempted casually by novice hikers. Visit our Tips Page for more information on hiking and backpacking in the Tahoe wilderness.

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