This is a 1.8 mile round trip hike from the Eagle Falls trailhead to Eagle Lake.
Destination Distance From Downtown
2 of 5 diamonds
This is a 0.9 mile one-way hike with only 400 feet of elevation gain. The trail is clearly defined for the duration of the hike. The moderate elevation gain at altitude accounts for the extent of this hike's difficulty.
Time To Complete
This is a one to two hour hike depending on ability level and leisure time.
Eagle Lake is accessible during all seaons, with varying degrees of difficulty during winter months.
On Leash Only
There is typically a $5 parking fee at the trailhead. Day hike permits are free while overnight permits cost $5 for the first night.
Eagle Lake offers the feel of an authentic backcountry alpine lake while still being accessible for hikers of most ability levels. Cupped in a sheer granite cirque that erupts from its calm shoreline, Eagle Lake serves up a little bit of everything for the first-time Tahoe visitor. Although a short hike, this jaunt can easily turn into a longer sightseeing adventure that offers jaw-dropping vistas of Lake Tahoe, surrounding peaks, towering trees, and gushing waterfalls around every turn. Eagle Lake is one Tahoe hike where the camera should never be left behind.
What Makes It Great
Starting from the Emerald Bay/Eagle Falls trailhead, hikers are greeted with stunning vistas of iconic Emerald Bay, one of the most photographed destinations in the world. After climbing a short distance up the well-marked path, hikers are greeted by the cascading waters of roaring Eagle Falls. The footbridge across the falls makes a perfect photo opportunity and also serves as a good turning back point for those not ready for the full hike to Eagle Lake.
After Eagle Falls, hikers will continue up the rocky trail past the entrance to Desolation Wilderness. From here the trail climbs through shaded Jeffrey Pine and alder opening to a massive granite slab yielding views of Lake Tahoe. In total, a short 0.9 mile one-way hike with 400 feet of elevation gain brings you to picturesque Eagle Lake. Ambitious hikers have the opportunity to continue on the marked trail and make the grueling climb out of this basin to explore the Velma Lakes area of Desolation Wilderness.
Who is Going to Love It
First timers to the Tahoe area will love the hike to Eagle Lake. The combination of stunning Emerald Bay vistas, gazing upon roaring Eagle Falls, and feeling like you are at a true backcountry alpine lake make this hike a must-do on any Tahoe visitors’ list. It should be noted, however, that hikers are still entering a wilderness area and must be prepared. Proper footwear, water, and food are an essential part of any wilderness hike, and Eagle Lake is no exception. Being well-prepared will help you enjoy this magnificent destination to the fullest.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Eagle Lakes lies just within the boundary of Desolation Wilderness and day hikers are required to fill out a free day hike permit available at the trailhead. These permits act partly as a safety precaution so emergency personnel know who is in the backcountry in case of emergency. As a reminder, campfires are never allowed in Desolation Wilderness. For more information, visit the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.
From South Lake Tahoe and the intersection of Highways 50 and 89, follow Highway 89 north toward Emerald Bay for 8.3 miles. After rounding most of Emerald Bay, observe the well-marked Eagle Falls trailhead sign, indicating parking on the left side of the highway. A parking fee is required during the summer and the popularity of this trailhead would suggest that visitors arrive early during peak summer months.