Aside from the enormous deep blue lake that is the center of it all, the Lake Tahoe region is also blessed with copious quantities of beautiful wilderness, amazing hiking and mountain-biking trails, and jagged peaks reflected in granite-lined lakes. In other words, there are a ton of great places in which to explore and enjoy nature in these parts. But Tahoe is not a hidden gem. It’s on the world’s radar and you will not have the woods to yourself. If the people who hit the trails after you are going to enjoy it as much as you do, you need to do your best to leave it just like you found it — or, perhaps, even better.
Leave the flowers, the rocks and all the other nature you find in the woods where it can be enjoyed where it belongs. Pictured are views in Desolation Wilderness.
“If you are new to the mountains, understand that you will need
time to adjust to the thinner air, especially when you hike several
thousand feet higher to the top of the ridgelines
and peaks around the lake.”
Whether you are in Desolation Wilderness or bombing down one of your favorite mountain biking trails at Tahoe Cross Country, the ways in which to keep the environment spectacular while giving all of us an experience that is both safe and pleasurable are just plain common sense.
- Before you hit the trail, tell someone where you are going with a rough estimate of when you will be back. Bring your cell phone, but realize you might not get service. Bring a map and compass that you know how to use.
- If you pack it in, pack it out. This means litter, of course, but also toilet paper and your dog’s waste. If you want to win extra karma points, take out any garbage that others left — others who are not as cool as you are, obviously.
- Leave the flowers, the rocks and all the other nature you find in the woods where it can be enjoyed where it belongs.
- Do you see any orange, apple or banana trees in the Sierra? No. Then don’t throw your oranges, apples or bananas into the woods. The animals in the Sierra do not have the stomach for foods they don’t usually encounter and feeding animals turns them into beggars.
- Stay on the trail. The plants at high altitude are fragile and can be damaged if you walk on them. There are two exceptions to this rule: solid granite and snow can be walked on.
- While camping in the wilderness, use an old tent site instead of creating a new one. Keep your noise levels to a minimum. While some come to the wilderness to get wild, others are looking for peace and tranquility. Camp at a reasonable distance from other campers to maintain privacy.
- Be sure to evacuate your bowels at least 200 feet from any water sources and carry out all toilet paper. Also, don’t wash dishes in any body of water.
- Be sure to carry a first-aid kit.
- Don’t drink the water. Filter, boil or chemically treat all water sources. Even though it looks delicious, it may contain giardia or other nasties.
- What about Rex? If you bring a dog, please make sure it is either on a leash or under close voice control at all times. While you might think your dog’s aggressive barking is friendly, others might consider it a threat or a disturbance to their experience.
- While mountain biking, stay on the trail and ride only where bikes are permitted and wear a helmet. Avoid muddy trails until they have dried out. Keep your eyes open for other bikers, hikers and equestrians, and always be courteous and make sure they know you are coming.
- Wear closed-toed hiking boots or running shoes when hiking with wool or synthetic socks. Synthetic works well for pants and shirts, as well. It’s advisable, for longer hikes, to carry extra clothes to wear in layers when the weather changes. Temperatures can vary widely between the morning and the afternoon. While cotton shirts will work fine on a sunny afternoon, you will need extra protection when the sun goes down. Hypothermia is a real hazard in the mountains.
- Check the weather forecast. While Tahoe is known for amazing summer weather, we also get thunderstorms that can develop rapidly. Prepare to remove yourself quickly from mountaintops and ridges in the event of a lightning storm.
- Bring plenty of sunscreen, water and food on any venture into the back country. Be prepared for staying out longer than you expect.
- If you encounter a bear, coyote or other larger form of wildlife, breathe and calm down. Make yourself appear bigger by putting your arms up in the air and yell at the bear to go away. Don’t run. Don’t take a selfie of you and the bear. Don’t entice the bear with food or attempt to feed it.
- If you are new to the mountains, understand that you will need time to adjust to the thinner air, especially when you hike several thousand feet higher to the top of the ridgelines and peaks around the lake.
Take it easy. Be positive and be friendly. Tahoe folks love to talk about their beautiful place.
Have fun and enjoy this amazing place.
Tim Hauserman is a long-time local and author of several books on the outdoors, including “Tahoe Rim Trail: The Official Guide for Hikers, Mountain Bikers and Equestrians,” “Monsters in the Woods: Backpacking with Children” and “Cross-Country Skiing in the Sierra Nevada: The Best Resorts & Touring Centers in California & Nevada.”
Explore Tahoe’s back country