If you are looking for cheap ways to enjoy the beautiful terrain in and around the Lake Tahoe Basin, hiking will be your best bet. There are relatively few locations on the Nevada side of the lake that require paid parking, whereas if you generally hike anywhere in California around Lake Tahoe, you are likely to be assessed a fee ranging from $5 – $20 to park your vehicle.
Personally I choose to purchase the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass which will run you $80, but comes with great benefits. This $80 pass gains you free entry to Yosemite which can run you $20 with a proposed price increase to $30 in near the future. Not only does this pass allow you to park at any Federal recreation site, but this pass will also save you money on overnight camping fees and amenity fees at all Federal sites. As I have said in my previous blogs, when analyzing whether an annual pass is worth it or not, plan out your hikes and camping trips before purchasing your pass and purchase the pass as close to the date of your first hike as possible. At $80, only hiking a place that costs $5 to park would take you 16 trips to that place before your pass has paid for itself, so make sure to research where you will be hiking or camping. Personally I purchase the pass because I do not want to deal with finding the pay station and depositing my money, plus I hike most weekends all summer and early fall.
Some of my favorite hikes to undertake in the Tahoe area are Angora Lake, Marlette Lake via the flume trail, and anywhere on the Pacific Crest Trail. All of my favorite hikes involve ending up close to a body of water, as there is no better way to rest on a hike than taking a dip in the clean lakes around Tahoe. The Marlette Lake hike via the flume trail is a great hike for looking out over Lake Tahoe from 7500’ up on the east side of the lake. The hike begins in Incline Village and is 14 miles round trip, but well worth every step taken. Being 7500’ up on the east side of the Lake you get a great overhead view of Sand Harbor and can even see the entrance to Emerald Bay on clear days. Angora Lake is a beautiful lake that does not tend to get the crowds that you find around Lake Tahoe. The hike is a mild 3 miles round trip and is on a very well paved path as there are also lake cabins that may be rented by the lake and thus the hiking trail doubles as a road. The Pacific Crest Trail runs down the west side of the lake and takes you by Squaw Valley ski area, directly through the Desolation Wilderness, and down through the Carson Pass. This hike can be easy or difficult depending on the section of the trail you decide to hike, but no matter what section you hike, you are going to see all sorts of beautiful landscapes.
Any one of these hikes as well as many others that can be found in the Lake Tahoe area are some of the best hikes I have been on in the continental United States. Lake Tahoe does not contain all the poisonous plants and animals that most other regions have to deal with and so while hiking you can spend your time looking at the landscape as opposed to worrying about running into poison oak. My biggest piece of advice before hiking is to make sure you do some research on the area before starting out on your hike; as you want to be sure to know the area you will be hiking very well. Websites such as everytrail.com and summitpost.org provide great details on many different hiking trails all throughout the United States. Not only do these sites describe the hikes in great detail, but they all give great suggestions on what to bring and what to watch out for while hiking. Happy exploring!!!