Tahoe hiking: Eagle Lake offers great rewards near Emerald Bay
Getting to the trail
From South Lake Tahoe: Take Highway 50 west toward the “Y” before turning onto northbound Highway 89 (Emerald Bay Road). Travel approximately 9 miles, trailhead is on right — across the road from Emerald Bay. Parking available in adjacent lot or on side of road where permitted.
From Tahoe City: Tahoe Highway 89 south about 17 miles before hitting Emerald Bay. If you’re coming from Truckee on 89, take a right at the “Wye” in Tahoe City to continue on 89. If you’re coming from Kings Beach on Highway 28, take a left at the “Wye” to connect to 89.
Move over, Lake Tahoe: There are many local tiny lakes well worth a hike and a visit.
EMERALD BAY, Calif. — Most hikes that feature the reward of a secluded lake require significant effort. That is not the case with Eagle Lake, which makes it one of the most popular hikes throughout the Tahoe region.
Across Highway 89 from Emerald Bay near the West Shore, the lake at the edge of Desolation Wilderness lies less than a mile from the start of the Eagle Falls Trailhead. While at times rocky, the quick hike to Eagle Lake presents little elevation gain, a variety of scenery and a stunning alpine lake at the finish.
NO NEED TO CHASE EAGLE FALLS
Shortly into the hike, Eagle Falls comes into view rushing with water emblematic of a strong winter season. Sounds of the falls provide a nice soundtrack the rest of the way, but the first glimpse of them on the trail is the best.
MASTER THE STAIRS
Stone steps in a somewhat spiral staircase lead to the top of the falls, and ultimately a bridge that crosses them. Markers on the trail offer options for Eagle Lake and Eagle Loop — head in the direction of the lake.
WATCH YOUR STEP
After the bridge, the first — and most challenging — climb begins up a pathway of stone steps. While the trail offers plenty to look at, keep an eye on the immediate path ahead full of bigger, stationary rocks and smaller, looser rocks — the bigger, the better when it comes to stable footing.
EMERALD BAY WATCH
The hike proceeds through an open, granite area before linking up with the trail again around the half-mile mark. Straying from the path lined by rocks offers a distant view of Emerald Bay, and a strong spot for a photo opportunity.
Stone steps continue after the granite plateau as the trail runs alongside Eagle Falls. After a slight climb, follow the trail marker to Eagle Lake for the short final stretch — heading to Velma Lake means a trip deeper into Desolation Wilderness.
ENJOY THE REWARD
The hike ultimately leads down to Eagle Lake, bordered by the trees and peaks of Desolation Wilderness for a serene setting. The shoreline and surrounding terrain offer plenty of areas to rest or enjoy a snack — walk to the right for more seclusion and ideal swimming areas. Take in the origin for Eagle Falls, which start the foot of the lake.
LOOP BACK ON THE RETURN
After crossing the bridge on the way back, follow the marker in the direction of Eagle Loop toward the vista point. Flat areas and benches are prevalent at the vista, great to enjoy views of Emerald Bay and Lake Tahoe from its west shore — when coming back down, turn left at the marker for a quick jaunt back to the trailhead.
Trail varies with stretches of moderate elevation gain, including stone steps — and is narrow in some spots, with a mix of sunny and shady