This bear was about 250, 300 pounds. “The mosquitoes are bigger,” said Tom Hedtke, camping with his family, who was the first to see it.
The Tahoe Basin’s lakes, streams and wilderness have been recharged by the season’s rain and snow, and everything is coming to life, including the bears and a few mosquitoes.
Tahoe will be packed over the Fourth of July weekend but you can have first shot at all the spots just by getting an earlier start than the I’m-on-vacation-don’t-wake-me-up-early crowd.
For hiking, climbing to mountain peaks, kayaking, fishing, camping and exploring, here is Tahoe’s top 10:
1. Gilmore Lake/Mount Tallac: One of the greatest views in North America is from the top of 9,735-foot Mount Tallac. You tower over Lake Tahoe and the Desolation Wilderness; in all, more than 5,000 square miles of paradise. To get it, you climb 3,175 feet in 5.8 miles, one way. The first climb is 1,700 feet to Gilmore Lake at 8,290 feet, nestled at the foot of Tallac’s backside. This is where you hit snow right now. Location: Glen Alpine Trailhead for Mount Tallac on left fork beyond head of Fallen Leaf Lake. Contact: Tahoe Basin Taylor Creek Visitor Center, (530) 543-2674, Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, www.fs.usda.gov.
2. Sand Harbor kayaking: Paddle a kayak on a pristine morning out of Sand Harbor and you will be imprinted for life that you have visited one of the prettiest places on Earth. It is located in a gorgeous cove on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe. With 60 feet of water clarity, it can feel like you are paddling on air, with giant boulders sprinkled on the lake bottom. Parking fills by midmorning. Location: Sand Harbor, 3 miles south of Incline on Highway 28 on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe. Contact:http://parks.nv.gov/parks/sand-harbor/
3. Emerald Bay boat-in camp: This is Tahoe’s prettiest campground. Sites are set in pine forest along the north shore of Emerald Bay. You wake up at the launch point to kayak (or boat) through the center of Emerald Bay and to Fannette Island to climb to the summit at the Tea Garden. Mount Tallac looms above. Insider’s note: Sites available by reservation atwww.recreation.gov; after launching, park your car in the overflow area at adjacent D.L. Bliss State Park. Location: north shore of Emerald Bay. Contact: Tahoe Basin Taylor Creek Visitor Center, (530) 543-2674, Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, www.fs.usda.gov/ltbmu; Emerald Bay State Park, (530) 525-7232; D.L. Bliss State Park, (530) 525-7277,www.parks.ca.gov.
4. Emerald Bay view/Cascade Falls: Every tourist who visits Tahoe heads to Emerald Bay for the panorama along the road at lower Eagle Falls. You can do better. Instead of parking along Highway 89, park at the back of the nearby Bayview Campground. The trailhead provides an easy 1-mile hike to the brink of Cascade Falls, a gorgeous 200-foot cascade. For more, return to 89, cross the road and take the trail/road down to the Vikingsholm Castle, swimming or kayak rentals, or hike along shore of Emerald Bay. Location: Bayview Campground, Emerald Bay. Contact: Visitor Center, (530) 543-2674, Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, www.fs.usda.gov/ltbmu.
5. PCT/Echo Lakes to Aloha Lake: This is one of the best day hikes in America. From Echo Lakes, you take the boat taxi to the head of Upper Echo Lake to the Pacific Crest Trail. From there, it’s a steady climb to the ridge for a spectacular view over Echo Lakes, then onward to rock-bound Aloha Lake. Several cut-offs are available to other lakes. 7-mile round trip. Location: Off U.S. 50 near Echo Summit off Johnson Pass Road. Contact: Echo Lake Chalet, (530) 659-7207www.echochalet.com.
6. Tahoe’s giant trout: If you hang around Tahoe much, you eventually will hear about Gene St. Denis, who operates Blue Ribbon Charters, and time and time again, catches some of the lake’s biggest mackinaw and brown trout. He has the record for Tahoe’s two-fish trout limit, 28- and 18-pounders in a two-hour span, and brown trout over 15 pounds. Location: Cave Rock, Nevada State Park, near South Lake Tahoe. Contact: Barbara & Gene St. Denis, (530) 544-6552,www.blueribbonfishing.com.
7. Ellis Peak lookout: This climb is short compared with other peaks, but steep at times, a 1,500-foot climb over the span of 3 miles to the top at 8,740 feet. Your view looms over Homewood and Lake Tahoe on one side, Desolation Wilderness on the other. Awesome trek. The road up Blackwood Canyon was opened June 15, and still has a few snow patches; same with the trail, but melt-off is rapid this week. Location: Off Highway 89 south of Tahoe City, up Blackwood Canyon Road (turnoff at Kaspian Campground). Contact: visitor center, (530) 543-2674, Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit,www.fs.usda.gov/ltbmu.
8. Martis Peak Lookout: As summer takes hold, the snow melts, the gates open and you can drive on a Forest Service Road to 8,656-foot Martis Peak Lookout Station. Few seem to know about it. The view across North Lake Tahoe is amazing on one side, and below to the Martis Valley near Truckee on the other. The gate on the road could open this weekend; until the snow melts, it is a 7.6-mile hike, one way, from the trailhead near Brockway Summit off Highway 267. Location: Off Highway 267 on Martis Peak Road in North Tahoe. Contact: Tahoe Tahoe Basin National Forest, (530) 543-2694,www.fs.usda.gov/ltbmu.
9. Angora Lakes rowboat: Upper Angora Lake is a small, pristine lake nestled at 7,470 feet, backed by a high granite wall. It’s a romantic destination where you can rent a rowboat and oar around for an hour, then get a lemonade (famous among locals) at the lakeside stand. Do it once, you never forget it. Location: in national forest on Angora Ridge Road, from turnoff at Fallen Leaf Lake near South Lake Tahoe. Contact: Tahoe Basin National Forest, (530) 543-2600, www.fs.fed.us/r5/ltbmu.
10. Rubicon Trail: If you could do just one easy walk at Tahoe, get up at dawn, drive to back of D.L. Bliss State Park and walk the Rubicon Trail (this is not the famed and treacherous Jeep Road to Hell Hole Reservoir). This trail provides an easy walk, cut into an open slope, that provides spectacular views across Lake Tahoe and beyond to the Tahoe Rim. Gets really crowded by late morning. At dawn, it’s all yours. Location: At D.L. Bliss State Park near Emerald Bay. Contact: D.L. Bliss State Park, (530) 525-7277, www.parks.ca.gov
If you want to go
Cost: Parking, access free at most Forest Service trailheads; $5 parking at Eagle Falls Day-Use Area; $10 per vehicle entrance fee at D.L. Bliss and Emerald Bay State Park; free day-use at Desolation and Granite Chief wilderness areas, $5 per person ($20 annual pass) for Desolation Wilderness Overnight Permit; $14 per person, one-way, for boat taxi from Echo Lake Marina to head of Echo Lake and PCT Trailhead to Desolation and Aloha Lake.
Trail rules: Hikers, mountain bikes, dogs, horses are permitted on national forest; no mountain bikes past wilderness boundaries; no dogs, mountain bikes permitted on state park trails.
Boat inspections: All boats must pass inspections for invasive mussels and aquatic plants; kayaks free; 7-day pass, boats 17 feet and under, $33. Tahoe Resource Conservation District, (888) 824-6267, http://tahoeboatinspections.com.
Maps/guidebooks: Tahoe National Forest, $10, Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, $10, Eldorado National Forest, $10, at http://nationalforeststore.com; Lake Tahoe (recreation map), $10.95, at www.tomharrisonmaps.com; 25 Tahoe campgrounds detailed in Moon California Camping, $16.99, 50 hikes in region detailed in Moon California Hiking, $17.35, at www.amazon.com.
To see the original article and all pictures in the San Francisco Chronicle, go HERE.
MORE BY TOM STIENSTRA