Snowshoeing the Angora Fire Lookout & Angora Lakes, South Lake Tahoe
- Trailhead: End of Tahoe Mountain Road, off of Lake Tahoe Blvd – Open in Google Maps.
- Length: 2.1 miles to the lookout; another 1.5 miles down to the lakes (one-way distances).
- Difficulty: Moderate. 600′ elevation gain in the 2 miles to the lookout.
- Usage: Snowshoeing, ski touring, dogs, snowmobiles. Free.
- Best Time for Photography: The best light off of Mt Tallac will be in the morning.
- Trail Info Current: January 29, 2017
Angora Lookout & Angora Lakes Trail Narrative
The trail up to the Angora Fire Lookout & Angora Lakes is one of the most popular hiking trails near South Lake Tahoe in the summer. Visitors make the short trek up to the lookout to take in views of Fallen Leaf Lake and Mt. Tallac, and often continue to Angora Lakes to jump off the cliffs. Thankfully, in the winter, the trail is much less traveled.
I must caution you though – snowmobiles do use this trail also. You may be blessed with the sweet smell of gasoline and the whine of small engines, which is what we all escape to nature for. I know, I know, everyone is entitled to usage.
Finding the trailhead is pretty easy. Take Lake Tahoe Blvd west past the Y. In about 2.5 miles you’ll turn right on Tahoe Mountain Rd (just before the Fire Station sign). Turn right on Glenmore at the T, followed by an immediate left on Dundee Circle at the next T. Take the road to the end where you’ll find signs indicating the road isn’t maintained in the winter. Park along the roadside where there’s room. Note of caution: do not park here during snow removal operations!
You’ll start by walking about 500′ downhill and see a road off to your left, bounded by trees to the right and a meadow to the left. This is Angora Ridge Rd, and is what you’ll be hiking on for the rest of your trip.
The trail, despite seeing infrequent use, does see enough use that the trail is mostly going to be packed snow. A lot of skiers & snowboarders come in here to makes some tracks down the Angora burn area from the top of the ridge. If by chance you’re the first one on it after a heavy snow, look for orange blazes painted on the trees (depending on the snowfall they may be at your feet!).
The trail is fairly flat-ish in the first .75 miles. Most of the elevation gain up to the lookout occurs in the last 1.25 miles. It’s a steady, gradual climb so it’s nothing difficult.
You’ll finally start to see the area burned by the 2007 Angora fire off to your left as you crest the ridge just prior to 2 miles in, and the lookout buildings aren’t much further. These were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1935 but are no longer in use thanks to technological advances in fire spotting. Fallen Leaf Lake and Mt. Tallac are off to your right, Washoe Meadows is off to your left, and the expanse of Desolation Wilderness lies in front of you.
You can stop here and turn around, or continue for views of Angora Lakes. There are three lakes and the shores are dotted with vacation cabins, which are only occupied in the summer.
You’ll continue along the ridge then descend slightly before climbing back up to the lakes, which are at an elevation of 7,400′ (the lookout is 7,290′). Enjoy the solitude at these lakes and the scenery around you – it’s truly breathtaking in the winter. Okay, and summer too.
New photos of Angora Lakes coming this week (ran out of day during my last trip!).