[dropcap1]P[/dropcap1]arents of young children visiting Lake Tahoe have a dilemma. They like the concept of introducing their little ones to the joys of hiking into the great forests and ridges that surround Lake Tahoe, but they are concerned that their kids diminutive legs and lack of staying power will not get them to a magnificent viewpoint that the parents would enjoy.
Fear not ye parents, a number of short hikes in the area are not only easily hikeable by kids, but take you to pristine mountain settings with awesome views of our favorite patch of Big Blue.
These hikes are all on the North Shore, require less then 3 miles round-trip of hiking and provide panoramic, Oh-My-God-look-at-that views of Lake Tahoe. As an added bonus, these hikes are a bit off the beaten track and don’t attract the choking hordes of onlookers you will find in Emerald Bay.
This eroded volcano sits just above Highway 89 at the edge of Blackwood Canyon on Tahoe’s West Shore. Eagle Rock just might provide the best view-to-effort ratio you will find anywhere in the region.
In about 15 minutes, you can wind your way around the back of the rock and up to the edge, where the views are stunningly beautiful. Be careful to keep the younger and more clumsy ones back from the edge, but the hike itself is doable by just about anyone. What is especially impressive about this view is that while it stands high above the shore, it is just a few hundred yards as the osprey flies from the edge of the lake.
Trailhead | About 4.5 miles south of Tahoe City on Highway 89 look for the large, volcanic rock on the right. If you reach Blackwood Creek, you’ve gone too far. Find parking at the trailhead. It’s right across the highway from the bike trail, so Eagle Rock can make a perfect addition to your ride along the West Shore.
Just above downtown Tahoe City, the Tahoe Rim Trail climbs north through a forest of pine, fir and cedar trees. Around every turn is another vista of Tahoe City and the lake just beyond. In about a mile, the trail arrives at the edge of the Truckee River Canyon where flat rocks provide a great stopping spot to enjoy both the lake and the Truckee River. Turn around here or continue as far as you want with more lake and canyon views along the route. In addition to the water views, this hike provides enormous specimens of sugar pine, Jeffrey pine and incense cedar for you to ponder.
Take Fairway Drive, located next to the Chevron station on the edge of Tahoe City, drive for 0.2 miles to the trailhead with parking on the right.
On this hike, the Tahoe Rim Trail ascends through a recently thinned forest of firs with filtered views of the lake. In about a mile, the trail reaches a junction. Here a left turn leads to a flat pile of rocks where the views include much of the lake in one direction, and the Truckee and Donner region in the other.
Years ago, I camped at this spot while circumnavigating the Tahoe Rim Trail. I was treated to a steady stream of visitors finding their way to the rock to watch the sunset. After the sun went down, they traipsed their way back to their homes, while I bedded down for the night and gazed at the stars, and waited for the next spectacular light show in the morning.
Trailhead | From Kings Beach, head to about half-mile from the top Brockway Summit on Highway 267 and look for the Tahoe Rim Trail trailhead with parking areas along the highway. Follow a dirt road on the uphill side 100 yards to the trail.
From the Tahoe Meadows TRT trailhead, the path saunters across lush Tahoe Meadows to a crossing of Ophir Creek, then climbs gently through open forest to Chickadee Ridge where amazing views of Tahoe await. It’s called Chickadee Ridge because hordes of chickadees hang out here waiting for folks to feed them.
Trailhead | The Tahoe Rim Trail Tahoe Meadows trailhead is on Highway 431 (Mount Rose Highway) 7.7 miles from the Intersection of 431 and Highway 28 in Incline Village. If you would like to shorten the hike distance, skip the walk through the meadow, and park just where the forest reaches the meadow on the right side. A trail follows the tree line and quickly meets the TRT.
Tim Hauserman is the author of “Monsters in the Woods: Backpacking with Children.”