Springtime Lake Tahoe Hiking Trails You Can Enjoy Without Snowshoes

The snow fell so hard this past winter that hydrologists couldn’t even measure the snowpack because their tools weren’t large enough.

And I know you’re itching to get outside.  There’s just not quite enough safe snow for backcountry skiing, but there’s just enough snow to keep you off the trails in your hiking boots.

So what are you to do in the spring after winters like this?

Here are seven hiking trails in Lake Tahoe you can do right now, before waiting for all of the snow to melt.

North and east shore

These north and east shore Lake Tahoe hiking trails generally see a lot of sun early in the spring.  They’re also near lake level so they’ll have the least amount of snow.

Tunnel Creek

tunnel creek sunset

Dusk over Lake Tahoe from one of the switchbacks on Tunnel Creek Road.

The Tunnel Creek trail is one of my favorites because of the lake views.  It’s also a great trail for mountain biking.  You may encounter snow if you go all the way to Marlette Lake, but it’s enough of a hike even if you don’t go that far.

  • Trailhead: Tunnel Creek Station, Incline Village
  • Distance: 15 miles round trip to Marlette Lake, but there’s great views from the start
  • Difficulty: Moderate

>>Read more about the Tunnel Creek hike

Spooner Lake Loop

spooner lake

The Native American tribe ground mortars into these rocks at Spooner Lake for grain.

Spooner Lake was frozen over until early May!  It’s since thawed, as has the snow around the lake.  Bring some boots that you won’t mind getting muddy, because there will be mud in the spring!

Marlette Lake is also accessible from this trail but expect some snow through late spring.

  • Trailhead: Spooner Lake State Park
  • Distance: 2 miles, loop
  • Difficulty: Easy

>>Read more about the Spooner Lake Loop hike

Chimney Beach

Chimney Beach

Chimney Beach

One of the shortest trails with one of the neatest beaches.  Hike down from Highway 28 to the site of an old cabin (only the chimney remains) and spend the day.  Get there early because the amount of water that fell this year left just a sliver of beach!

  • Trailhead: Parking lot 0.25 miles south of Thunderbird Lodge
  • Distance: 0.7 miles round trip
  • Difficulty: Easy

>>Read more about the Chimney Beach hike

Skunk Harbor

skunk harbor

Skunk Harbor

Probably the best beach on the east shore of Lake Tahoe in my opinion.  The hike is a bit steeper and longer than Chimney, but the harbor is beautiful.  Walk around a nearly 100-year old summer home and sun yourself on the boulders (again, not much beach remains!).

  • Trailhead: Parking area 2.3 miles north of US50/NV28 junction
  • Distance: 3 miles round trip
  • Difficulty: Moderate

>>Read more about the Skunk Harbor hike

South and west shore

Lake Tahoe’s most impressive waterfalls are on the south end of the lake, near Desolation Wilderness.  They’re raging right now and generally low enough in elevation that you can get to them without trudging through snow.

With that said – they are RAGING right now, so please keep a safe distance.  That goes for your pets too!

Glen Alpine Falls

glen alpine falls

Madjeska Falls, also known as Upper Glen Alpine Falls. Named after a 19th-century Polish actress who gave “the performance of a lifetime” at nearby Glen Alpine Springs Resort.

There are a series of falls on Glen Alpine Creek, on the southwest side of Fallen Leaf Lake.  You can drive to the first one but you have to hike to the rest from there.

The first 50 yards or so of the trail are covered in water in the spring, so expect to get your boots a little soggy.  It’s dry from there.  You can possibly continue to the old Glen Alpine Springs Resort and many other cascades along the creek depending on snow cover.

  • Trailhead: End of Fallen Leaf Rd
  • Distance: 2 miles round trip to the historic site
  • Difficulty: Easy

>>Read more about the Glen Alpine Falls hike

Cascade Falls

cascade falls

The top of Cascade Falls with views of Cascade Lake and Lake Tahoe.

This is another short hiking trail that ends at an impressive waterfall.  And like Glen Alpine Falls, expect to get your boots a little wet in low spots along the trail.  The Bayview trailhead area is sometimes closed during the spring, so you’ll have to park along Emerald Bay Rd.

  • Trailhead: Bayview Campground across from Inspiration Point
  • Distance: 1.5 miles round trip
  • Difficulty: Easy

>>Read more about the Cascade Falls hike

Eagle Falls

emerald bay sunset

Emerald Bay sunset

Emerald Bay is one of the most photographed places in the world, and Eagle Falls contributes to that statistic.  Parking is tight, but absolutely worth the hassle.

The trail starts to get pretty steep after the falls under the bridge crossing, and is usually covered with snow through spring.  That trail continues up to Eagle Lake but I can’t recommend attempting that until the snow has melted.

  • Trailhead: Eagle Falls parking area
  • Distance: Approximately 1 mile to explore all falls
  • Difficulty: Easy until the climb to Eagle Lake

>>Read more about the Eagle Falls hike

Do you have any other favorite Lake Tahoe hiking trails to do before the snow melts?

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