5 Easy Hikes in North Lake Tahoe

Looking to get outdoors but don’t have the time or training for a 10+ mile technical hike? Look no further! Below I have listed five easy hikes in the North Tahoe area. These are perfect options if you want to get a little exercise but are short on time or if you are heading out with a less experienced hiker.

1. Picnic Rock

My mom and me at the top of Picnic Rock

In search of an easy to moderate trail with great views of Lake Tahoe? Picnic Rock is your answer! This hike is perfect for anyone with a moderate fitness level and is one of my top recommendations for visitors to the North Lake Tahoe area.

Once on the trail, sweeping switchbacks with long traverses guide you gently uphill, away from the highway and the bustle of passing cars. From the start, most of the hike is in the woodlands, providing ample shade and tree-filtered views of the lake. As you climb higher, the trees get denser and the sound of passing vehicles fades.

When you reach the top, you are rewarded with panoramic views of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding Sierra’s. The rock formations are easy to climb upon and are a perfect place for a photo-op or a picnic of course! After enjoying the views at the top, retrace your steps back to the trailhead.

For more information, check out my full trail review of Picnic Rock here.

Area: Tahoe North Shore

Length: 3.2 Miles

Elevation Gain: 740 ft.

Difficulty:  Easy to moderate depending on your fitness level

Trail Type: Out and Back

Features: Lake views & unique rock formations

Water on Trail: No

Dogs Allowed? Yes

2. Skunk Harbor

Sunk Harbor is a perfect hike for those who want to sit on the shores of Lake Tahoe without the crowds. Just a few miles past the very popular Sand Harbor, Skunk Harbor offers a small but often secluded venue for experiencing the beauty of the Lake.

The hike begins on the lake side of highway 28. The wide two-track trail descends immediately, making for a fairly easy 1.5 walk down to the water. Once arriving at the lake, claim a spot on the small beach area or up on the rocks. Just remember that at the end of your visit, you have to make the 1.5 mile trek back up the trail!

Parking is limited by the trailhead, so come early if you plan to hike this trail on the weekend.

Area: Tahoe East Shore

Length: 3 Miles

Elevation Gain: 567 ft.

Difficulty:  Easy

Trail Type: Out and Back

Features: Lake Tahoe

Water on Trail: Yes

Dogs Allowed? Yes

3. Monkey Rock

Monkey Rock is one of my go-to hikes when we have guests in town. The views of Lake Tahoe are breathtaking and can be seen from almost anywhere on the trail. Like the other trails on this list, this hike can be completed by most people and the effort is well worth the views of the lake.

If you’re wondering why the trail is called “Monkey Rock”, it’s because there really is a rock at the top of the hike that looks like a monkey! When you get to the top of the trail and you are facing the lake, look to your right and you will see a large rock formation that looks just like the head of a monkey.

To access this trail, park in the paid parking off the side of Tahoe Blvd. After you park, head up the road behind the Tunnel Creek Cafe (pro tip: grab a beer here after you finish the hike). The official start of the trail is just a short walk up the road. You’ll know you’re in the right place because the views of Tahoe will be spectacular.

Area: Incline Village

Length: 2.6 Miles

Elevation Gain: 498 ft.

Difficulty:  Easy

Trail Type: Out and Back

Features: Views of Lake Tahoe, unique rock formation

Water on Trail: No

Dogs Allowed? Yes

4. Johnson Canyon Overlook

Located in Tahoe Donner, Johnson Canyon Overlook offers a gentle hike leading to excellent views of Donner Lake and Johnson Canyon. This is a casual hike that most people with a moderate level of fitness can do. One thing I love about this area is that many additional trails connect to the main out and back, so you can add onto your hike if you’re feeling adventurous. This trail is also accessible in the winter months and makes for a great beginner snowshoe trek as well.

Access to the trailhead is on Glacier Way Road off of Skislope Way. There is a decent size parking lot, but be aware that it gets busy on the weekends, even in the winter, so I recommend an early start if you are planning to head out on a Saturday or Sunday.

Area: Tahoe Donner

Length: 3.9 Miles

Elevation Gain: 410 ft.

Difficulty:  Easy

Trail Type: Out and Back

Features: Views of Donner Lake

Water on Trail: No

Dogs Allowed? Yes

5. Sagehen Creek

Sagehen creek trail in truckee, ca

Sagehen Creek Trail is a 6 mile heavily trafficked loop trail located near Truckee that is good for all skill levels. Despite the longer distance compared to other hikes on this list, Sagehen is pretty flat, so still very approachable for beginner hikers.

My favorite time of year to do this trail is in the fall when the leaves start to change. This trail has a variety of types of trees and wildflowers, so the colors are beautiful in October. The trail follows a creek for much of the hike and ends at Stampede reservoir, giving you (or the dogs) plenty of opportunities to cool off along the way. I always bring a tennis ball and let my dogs play fetch in the reservoir at the end of the trail.

The trailhead for Sagehen can be accessed from a small dirt parking area off of 89. Due to the size of the lot and popularity of the hike, I would recommend going early if you are hoping to do this hike on a Saturday or Sunday.

Area: Truckee

Length: 3.9 Miles

Elevation Gain: 410 ft.

Difficulty:  Easy

Trail Type: Out and Back

Features: Creek, lake, fall colors in October

Water on Trail: Yes

Dogs Allowed? Yes

Happy hiking! 🙂

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