Marlette Lake via North Canyon

There are a few different ways to get to picturesque Marlette Lake, and the Marlette Lake Trail in North Canyon is the easiest option, though not the shortest.  It’ll take you past Spooner Lake, through groves of aspen, on a ridge overlooking North Canyon, and finally down into Marlette Lake where you can picnic and fish (catch and release).

  • top trails tahoeTrailhead:Lake Tahoe State Park parking area (Spooner Lake) on Highway 28 (fees) – Open in Google Maps.  OR Spooner Summit Trailhead on Highway 50 (limited parking, much lower fee) – Open in Google Maps.
  • Length: 9 miles round trip; 5 hours give or take.
  • Difficulty: Moderate with about a 1,200′ gain in elevation.
  • Usage: Hikers & horses, pets allowed.  $10 in the main parking area ($8 for Nevada residents); $1/person from Spooner Summit parking.
  • Best Time for Photography: The light on Marlette Lake is the best in the afternoon.  Around October you’ll be treated with bright yellow aspens scattered throughout the entire length of the trail and once at Marlette Lake.  Spring can also yield some good wildflowers in North Canyon.
  • Are Drones Allowed: No, lies within Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park.
  • Trail Info Current: April 29, 2015
  • Further Reading: Top Trails: Lake Tahoe: Must-Do Hikes for EveryoneLake Tahoe State Park Map
  • Go back to Lake Tahoe Hikes map

Plots created using digital topographic map data, not actual GPS logs. Distance and elevation profiles are approximate.

Fall aspens and the old homesite reflecting in the still, morning waters of Marlette Lake.

Fall aspens and the old homesite reflecting in the still, morning waters of Marlette Lake.

Marlette Lake via North Canyon Narrative

The Marlette Lake Trail that you’ll be on for most of the time roughly parallels North Canyon Road, used mostly by mountain bikers.  You can get to North Canyon Road in two ways; you can access it from the Spooner Lake parking area or from the Spooner Summit parking area (see Spooner Lake Loop for description).  Once on the Spooner Lake Loop, you’ll see a small sign pointing to Marlette Lake.

Spooner meadow

Trees casting shadows from the setting sun on the edge of Spooner Meadows.

Leaving the Spooner Lake Loop you’ll pass by Spencer’s Cabin, an old cabin built in the 1920’s and occupied by a cattleman.  Today it’s still used as a shelter for hikers in the summer and cross-country skiers in the winter.  Spooner Cabin is also on this road, this is a more modern cabin available for rent.

Fall aspen colors at Spooner Lake

Groves of aspen changing color in the fall along the North Canyon Trail, from Spooner Lake to Marlette Lake.

Upon reaching North Canyon Road, you’ll turn right and stay on the road for almost a half mile, passing through aspen groves along the way.  On the left side of the road you’ll see a kiosk welcoming you to black bear and mountain lion country, and a sign for the Marlette Lake Trail.  Head left here and start your climb up a series of switchbacks.

Marlette Lake Trail

The Marlette Lake Trail after starting the climb from North Canyon Road.

The rest of the trail to Marlette Lake is mostly singletrack along the ridge in North Canyon.  You’ll pass mixed forests of pine and aspens and cross a few creeks.  Along the way you’ll also see signs for some backcountry camping sites, available on a first-come first-serve basis.  The trail starts a moderate climb again approaching the saddle, and you’ll be greeted with your first views of Marlette Lake before beginning a descent down to the lake.

First view of Marlette Lake

First views of Marlette Lake from the Marlette Lake Trail through North Canyon.

Reaching the lake you can turn right and walk around the southeast side of the lake (it does continue to a network of trails in the Hobart Backcountry if you’re interested) or you can turn left, walk along the west side of the lake, and eventually run into the Flume Trail.

Fall aspens at Marlette Lake

The morning sun begins to light up the changing aspens on the east shore of Marlette Lake.

The trail can be exposed to the sun early and mid-day, but in the afternoon the sun starts to go behind the trees and the ridge line directly above the trail.  Keep an eye out for black bear and dear as the primary wildlife you may see.

North Canyon

Looking down into North Canyon from the Marlette Lake Trail.

Tips for the Marlette Lake Trail Hike

  • Snow can persist well into late spring/early summer, especially on the north side of the saddle on the descent to Marlette Lake.  If there are still snowdrifts here, you can backtrack 1/2 mile to North Canyon Road and follow that road into Marlette Lake.
  • You’ll want to bring sunblock and insect repellent.
  • There is a lot of potential for wildlife, especially near Spooner Lake and some of the small meadows you’ll pass in North Canyon, so you may want to have a lens with some reach.
  • You can also go up to Marlette Lake via North Canyon Road the entire way, but this road is very busy with mountain bikers in the warmer months.
Marlette Lake from North Canyon

The Marlette Lake Trail descends a few hundred feet back down to Marlette Lake.

Corrections, suggestions, or questions?  Please leave a comment below!

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