Mt. Tallac – Lake Tahoe


Mountain Range


Hike Miles

Elevation Gain

Hike Days

Sierra Nevadas
9,738 ft

“”In every walk with nature one receives more than he seeks.” John Muir

Why This Mountain?

The first time Tami came to Lake Tahoe, she knew it was going to become a special place for her – there was an instant connection. TJ and Tami both trained in the Sierra Nevadas for their 52 Peaks snow mountaineering courses. TJ has hiked many miles in the Sierras. This is John Muir country and one of the most beautiful places on earth. The reasons for 52 Peaks to be in Lake Tahoe are endless. Mt. Tallac is the mountain that we both most wanted to do in the Tahoe area. It’s well known for it’s beautiful trails and views.

Mountain & Route Facts

Mount Tallac is a mountain peak southwest of Lake Tahoe, in El Dorado County, California. The peak lies within the Desolation Wilderness in the Eldorado National Forest. The elevation is 9,738′. The mountain is shown on maps of the Whitney Survey as Chrystal Peak. In 1877, the Wheeler Survey named the peak “Tallac”, after the Washo word “daláʔak”, meaning ‘big mountain’. An estimated 10,000 climb the peak each year via routes approaching the summit from Desolation Wilderness to the west, Fallen Leaf Lake to the East, and access roads from the north. Wilderness permits are required to hike Mount Tallac and are available at the trailhead.

There are several trail options to reach the summit. We took the the Mount Tallac (Cathedral Lake) trail which is an out and back trail, 10.4 miles round trip with 3,415′ of elevation gain. From mile 3 – 5, there were a number of small boulders and scree to walk up. The summit involves a small rock scramble to reach the top.

Historical and Cultural Information

Lake Tahoe (/ˈtɑːhoʊ/) is a large freshwater lake in the Sierra Nevada of the United States. At a surface elevation of 6,225 ft, it straddles the border between California and Nevada, west of Carson City. Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in North America. Its depth is 1,645 ft, making it the second deepest in the United States after Crater Lake (1,945 ft). Additionally, Lake Tahoe is the sixth largest lake by volume in the United States at 122,160,280 acre·ft, behind the five Great Lakes.

The lake was formed about 2 million years ago and is a part of the Lake Tahoe Basin with the modern lake being shaped during the ice ages. It is known for the clarity of its water and the panorama of surrounding mountains on all sides. The area surrounding the lake is also referred to as Lake Tahoe, or simply Tahoe. Lake Tahoe is a major tourist attraction in both Nevada and California. It is home to a number of ski resorts, summer outdoor recreation, and tourist attractions. The Nevada side also includes large casinos.

The area around Lake Tahoe was previously inhabited by the Washoe tribe of Native Americans. The English name for Lake Tahoe derives from the Washo word “dá’aw,” meaning “The Lake”. Lt. John C. Frémont was the first person of European descent to see Lake Tahoe, during Fremont’s second exploratory expedition on February 14, 1844.

Upon discovery of gold in the South Fork of the American River in 1848, thousands of gold seekers going west passed near the basin on their way to the gold fields. European civilization first made its mark in the Lake Tahoe basin with the 1858 discovery of the Comstock Lode, a silver deposit just 15 miles to the east in Virginia City, Nevada. From 1858 until about 1890, logging in the basin supplied large timbers to shore up the underground workings of the Comstock mines. The logging was so extensive that loggers cut down almost all of the native forest.

After a dispute that included gunshots exchanged between militia, in 1864, California and Nevada defined a partition that followed geographical coordinates: the state line runs east of the approximate center line of the lake; at 39 degrees north latitude, the state border runs southeasterly towards the Colorado River. Unbeknownst to the negotiators, this compromise split Lake Tahoe: two-thirds for California, one-third for Nevada.

Lake Tahoe is also the location of several 19th and 20th century palatial homes of historical significance. The Thunderbird Lodge built by George Whittel Jr once included nearly 27 miles (43 km) of the Nevada shoreline. Vikingsholm was the original settlement on Emerald Bay and included an island teahouse and a 38-room home. The Ehrman Mansion is a summer home built by a former Wells Fargo president in Sugar Pine Point and is now a state park.


Estimated Summit: Sept 24th, 2016

Book Club Read

Essential Muir: A Selection of John Muir’s Best Writings

Buy on Amazon!