Five Alpine Lake Hikes to Cool You Off This Summer

Five Alpine Lake Hikes to Cool You Off This Summer

By: Meg Pfent Comments: 0

Five Alpine Lake Hikes to Cool You Off This Summer


With temps rising and sunny skies in the forecast, now is the perfect time to plan a hike to an alpine lake. Sitting at high altitudes, the cool waters of these lakes are a perfect place to take a refreshing dip on a hot summer afternoon. 89 is home to tons of alpine lakes, offering adventurers endless opportunities to swim at elevation. Check out five of our favorite alpine lakes on 89 below!


Shirley Lake

Trek up the mountain at Palisades Tahoe to Shirley Lake and enjoy a 4-mile out and back trail. This hike features varying singletrack terrain that, at times, requires a bit of scrambling. In the late spring/early summer, the creek that the trail follows pours downhill from the snowmelt. 

About two miles into your hike, head off the main trail to your right to find Shirley Lake. Here you can cool off in the alpine waters nestled at the bottom of Palisade Tahoe’s Solitude chairlift. When you’re done enjoying Shirley Lake, return the way you came, or add on the trek to High Camp and take the tram down for free! Be sure to check the Palisades Tahoe website for information on the tram’s schedule.

Access: Parking can be found in the village of Palisades Tahoe. From here, follow Shirley Cannon Rd. for about 0.4 miles to the trailhead. 

Area: Olympic Valley

Length: 4 miles 

Elevation Gain: 1,339 ft. 

Trail Type: Out & back 

Dogs Allowed: Yes 


Spooner Lake to Marlette Lake

The trail to Marlette Lake is a well-maintained dirt road that takes you through valleys filled with wildflowers, aspen groves, and creeks. Because Marlette sits 5 miles from the trailhead in the Spooner Backcountry, this pristine alpine lake can only be visited by hiking, biking, or horseback riding in. Marlette Lake is a great place to stop and have lunch, swim, and just enjoy your surroundings. When you’re done cooling off in the alpine waters, return the way you came. 

Access: The trail is located on Highway 28, just half a mile north of the intersection of Highway 28 and Highway 50. There is a decent-sized parking area which costs $10. 

Area: Glenbrook, NV

Length: 10.2 Miles

Elevation Gain: 1,755 ft.

Trail Type: Out & back 

Dogs Allowed: Yes

Granite Lake

A lung-burner with rewarding views along the way makes this a must-do hike in South Lake Tahoe. From the start, the trail immediately ascends at a steady pace. During your hike, be on the lookout for the Emerald Bay Viewpoint, which makes a nice resting spot on your way to Granite Lake. 

x=Once you reach Granite Lake, stretch out on a boulder and take a dip in the cool water. Return the way you came or continue the ascent for another mile to Maggie’s Peaks for sweeping views of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding area.

Access: From Tahoe City, take CA89 south for 19 miles until you reach the Bayview Campground. Drive to the end of the campground, where you can find a parking spot near the trailhead.

Area: South Lake Tahoe 

Length: 2 miles 

Elevation Gain: 810 ft. 

Trail Type: Out & back 

Dogs Allowed: Yes 

Echo Lake to Lake Aloha

The hike to Lake Aloha from Echo Lake shows off some of the best of Desolation Wilderness. Featuring sweeping mountain views, pristine alpine lakes, and enchanting forests, you're guaranteed to leave this trail mesmerized.

If you're hiking this trail in the summer, you have two options. You can either hike the whole way to Lake Aloha or get a little help from the boat taxi, which cuts out about 5 miles total from your trek. However, the hike is fairly flat, with only two sections of significant elevation gain, so we recommend hiking the entire thing if you’re up for it! 

Access: From Tahoe City, take CA89 S for 31 miles past Meyers. Continue straight on Hwy 50 for 3.8 miles and make a right on Echo Drive. Continue on Echo Drive for 0.9 miles and then make a left on the forest rd. Make a quick right onto Echo Lakes Rd. and follow this until you reach a small parking area by Echo Lake.

Area: Echo Lake 

Length: 12.5 miles 

Elevation Gain: 1,879 ft. 

Trail Type: Out & back 

Dogs Allowed: Yes 

Tip: Add on the loop portion of the trail to find Lake of the Woods. It’s worth it!

Floating Island & Cathedral Lake

The hike to Cathedral Lake is a lake-lovers paradise. From the trailhead, the route parallels Fallen Leaf Lake, climbing gently as it proceeds through the forested slopes of Tallac’s lower half. Enjoy the sights of the alpine waters below, as you climb towards Mount Tallac. Eventually, you will reach Floating Island Lake, which is named for the grassy island in the middle of the alpine pool.

When you’re done taking in the views of Floating Island Lake, continue onwards to Cathedral Lake. From the shoreline of Cathedral Lake, you will be granted sweeping views of Lake Tahoe, Fallen Leaf Lake, and the encompassing mountains. After taking a swim in the lake and enjoying the views, retrace your steps along the route back to the trailhead.

Access: From Tahoe City, take CA89 south for 23 miles until you reach Mt. Tallac Rd. Turn right on Mt. Tallac Rd. and follow the road for about 1 mile until you reach the trailhead.

Area: South Lake Tahoe

Length: 5.5 miles 

Elevation Gain: 1,197 ft. 

Trail Type: Out & back 

Dogs Allowed: Yes 

Have you checked out any of these alpine lakes? Let us know your favorite one in the comments!


Comments (0)

Posted on 2022-07-09 02:00:02
Thank you! I wanted a few nice hikes to take!
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