Panoramic views from Monkey Rock

Monkey Rock looks over Incline Village, Nev., on the East Shore of Lake Tahoe. | Kathryn Reed

A monkey in Tahoe? Yes, with just a small amount of doubt, it might have been a gorilla. Monkey Rock, the stone-faced creature has one of the best views of Lake Tahoe from the Spooner back country. He was a little rough to touch, but docile. I think he was male. I didn’t look. It was just a feeling I got.

If Monkey Rock isn’t enough to entice you, the views will. The scenery is stunning from the get-go.

I’m not sure how long he has been watching over Tahoe from Incline Village, Nev. Years, though. How did he get there? Well, legend has it the granite rock always had a look about it that resembled a gorilla. The eye and mouth are distinct. Then some guy took a chisel or the like to the rock to make the nostrils and ears. While normally I’m a staunch advocate of not defacing what Mother Nature has created, this goes down as one of those exceptions.

Read more about the Flume Trail

The rock is captivating.

It’s a relatively easy 2.5-mile roundtrip trek from the East Shore Trail parking area next to Tunnel Creek in Incline. Much of the route is an old road; it’s wide enough for social distancing. What people will need to learn when hiking is to go single file when passing. This will keep all of us safe.

The Trail
Easy | 2.5 miles roundtrip
East Shore

While this section is the end of the famous Flume Trail, few cyclists were coming down.

It’s possible to make a bit of a loop out of a section of the trail. Instead of going up the first route on the left, go straight a little longer. It will be easier to come down this straight mostly single-track route than going up it. And if your knees are an issue, go up and down the wider, less steep route. That route is up a bit farther; from the start it’s the second left.

At the next trail intersection, go up to the left at an angle toward the rocks. Monkey Rock is on the north side. A handful of user-created trails go to the rock. The best photo ops are from farther away. I was able to essentially lean against this guy with my body dwarfing his.

If Monkey Rock isn’t enough to entice you, the views will. The scenery is stunning from the get-go. At first, the route parallels the Tahoe East Shore Trail, only this one is higher so the sprawling blue waters of Lake Tahoe are even more impressive. The curvy shoreline of the East Shore is evident. Plenty of snow in late May still topped the mountains across the lake. The rocks around Monkey Rock are a bit higher than his perch. It’s a panoramic view of most of the lake, with pools of emerald near the shore in places.

The trail is part of Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park and there is a $2 per person fee to enter. Dogs on leashes are welcome. The elevation gain was 445 feet from 6,337 feet to 6,766 feet.