Mt. Tallac Trek
The majestic Mt. Tallac lies in the Desolation Wilderness of South Lake Tahoe, CA. This awe-inspiring peak soars high above the treeline at virtually 10,000 feet. Out of curiosity, I wondered how Mt. Tallac got its name. Surprisingly, this was not the original name of the mountain. According to the original Whitney Survey, this mountain was named Chrystal Peak. In 1877, the name was changed to daláʔak, pronounced Tallac, in tribute to the Washo Indians that were native to the Tahoe Basin.
The Mt. Tallac Trailhead is found on the southwest side of Lake Tahoe, just beyond Camp Richardson on Hwy. 89. Mt. Tallac Rd. will take you back to the parking lot of the trailhead. From the Mt. Tallac, here are the one-way distances to the summit and points of interest.
- 1.6 miles to Floating Island Lake
- 2.3 miles to Cathedral Lake
- 4.8 miles to Mt. Tallac Summit
During the trek, you will gain an elevation of 3,255 feet. Round trip, the trail distance is 9.5 miles. On average, the approximate travel time from base to summit is 6 hours. Be sure to take plenty of water with you, as a good portion of this trail is above the treeline with no shade to avert the heat during peak summer months.
Desolation Wilderness Registration
Self-registry at the trailhead for Mt. Tallac is mandatory. If you are planning an overnight trek into the Desolation Wilderness, permits are required and free of charge. You will find the registration forms and deposit box at this sign (pictured above).
Fallen Leaf Lake
Hike the steady glacial ridge high above the hirsute forest surrounding Fallen Leaf Lake. From this vantage point, you will already have a fantastic view of Heavenly and the Carson Range to the south.
The thick forest of pine trees provides shade for the first portion of the hike.
Alas, the first unobstructed view of the looming Mt. Tallac. Before you reach Floating Island Lake, there will be a chute trail near the Desolation Wilderness boundary sign. This spur trail climbs very steeply up the southeast face of the ridge. This alternate trail is designated for advanced or quite experienced hikers only.
Floating Island Lake
This crystal clear glacier lake lies in the shadow of Mt. Tallac. Shaded by trees, the east shoreline is a perfect place for a picnic lunch, dip in the lake or rest stop on the way to Mt. Tallac summit.
On the southwest end of the lake you will find the boggy floating island. Many hikers make Floating Island or Cathedral Lake their destination, verses climbing all the way to the peak.
The trail continues through the dense forest another 0.2 miles to Cathedral Lake. In all honesty, it seemed a lot longer. The steady incline will be sure to break you into a good sweat, just in case you haven’t already.
Cathedral Lake is roughly half of the size of Floating Island Lake. By now, you will be ready to jump straight into it’s crystal clear blue water.
After a short break at Cathedral Lake, you should be refreshed to continue your journey to the summit. The trail embarks up a natural stone face, boasting beautiful views of Lake Tahoe and beyond.
Here you see Cathedral Lake from above, with Heavenly Peak in the background.
The wildflowers in this portion of the hike were breathtaking. This was my favorite shot.
The trail climbs steeply through switchbacks and will emerge above the treeline.
At this cairn, the trail embarks to the right. You will see (pictured below) the well defined trail wedged in between Cathedral Peak and Mt. Tallac.
On the slow ascent to the saddle of the ridge, the shattered granite is hard to traverse. Take it slow and be sure of your footing. The rocks can be a bit shifty underfoot.
Only a foreboding of the summit view. Impeccable eastern view of Fallen Leaf Lake, South Lake Tahoe and Heavenly Peak in the distance.
Beware of Chippy, he will most certainly attempt to trick you into trading a granola bar for an acorn or two. His cuteness is enticing, but don’t fall for it.
Once you arrive at the ridge, you will discover incredible views of the Crystal Mountain Range that lies to the west. Pyramid Peak is the tallest, on the far left side.
Beyond the ridge, the splintered granite continues another 0.2 miles. This translates to 45 minutes (one-way) for most people.
Mt. Tallac Summit
The summit of Mt. Tallac offers panoramic views in every single direction.
- East View- Lake Tahoe, Carson Pass & Freel Peak, Fallen Leaf Lake
- South View- Echo Summit & Ralston Peak
- West View- Desolation Valley, Pyramid Peak & Crystal Range
- North View- Twin Peaks, Squaw Valley, Castle Peak
Micah Lyn is a Holistic Healthcare Practitioner HHP, Intuitive Healer and E-RYT 500 Certified Yoga Teacher registered with Yoga Alliance and KRI. She offers a variety of private yoga classes in Sedona AZ, yoga therapy and intuitive healing services at Pachamama Yoga ✨ Sedona Healing Center. Visit the YTT Programs & Workshops page to see upcoming Online & Hands-on Intensive Yoga Teacher Training, Virtual Online Yoga Workshops & Transformational Yoga Retreats featured worldwide.
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