Pacific Crest Trail at Lake Tahoe California

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Pacific Crest Trail

On the way to Mexico or Canada, the world-famous Pacific Crest trail passes through the Lake Tahoe vicinity, providing visitors opportunity to explore this area known as the 'crown jewel of the PCT'.

  • Experience the Pacific Crest Trail, a world-famous trail that represents the best of western natural environment.
  • While hiking the Tahoe area's Pacific Crest Trail, savor the beauty sections known as the 'Crown Jewel of the PCT'.
  • Explore the Desolation or Granite Chief Wilderness areas during a day hike or overnight backpacking trip.


Zigzagging several mountain ranges between Mexico and Canada for nearly 3,000 miles, the spectacular and world-famous Pacific Crest Trail passes through California, Oregon, and Washington.  The section of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) from Lake Tahoe to Mt. Whitney is often known as the 'crown jewel of the PCT'.  While visiting the Tahoe area, consider hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, either as a day hike or overnight backpacking trip.  Horseback rides are also an option.


Traversing the Sierra Nevada mountains.  The Pacific Crest Trail, California passes through the Tahoe area on the west side of Lake Tahoe.  After intersecting Route 50 near South Lake Tahoe, the Pacific Crest Trail continues north past Sugar Pine Point State Park and Alpine Meadows. 

Local and visitors alike enjoy hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in the rugged alpine terrain of the Desolation Wilderness area.  West of Lake Tahoe, The trail traverses 17 miles of the wilderness, located west of Lake Tahoe and north of Highway 50 on the southern end of the lake.  The PCT also passes through the Granite Chief Wilderness in the north near Truckee and Tahoe City.


Desolation Wilderness
A designated wilderness area, Desolation Wilderness is a spectacular area of subalpine and alpine forests, jagged granite peaks, and glacially formed valleys and lakes.  While hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in this area, enjoy panoramic views from Dick's Pass (9, 380 feet), the highest pass between Tahoe and Canada.  Popular access points to the Pacific Crest Trail are Wrights, Echo, Eagle Falls, and Fallen Leaf.  Lake Aloha is a popular destination for area backpackers.

Pacific Crest to Twin Peaks
Accessible from the northern Lake Tahoe area, Pacific Crest Trail to Twin Peaks is a popular hike or overnight backpacking trip.  14.5 miles one-way, this trail is rated difficult and provides spectacular views of the Granite Chief Wilderness.   Massive basalt cliffs line the walls of Powderhorn and Little Powderhorn canyons, while Twin Peaks spur trail offers views of Lake Tahoe, Mount Rose, Tinker Knob, the many high peaks of Desolation Wilderness.

Fees and Permits

Those who hike the Pacific Crest Trail in the Desolation Wilderness need to obtain a permit for both day and overnight hikes.  Permits are available for all entry points from either the Eldorado National Forest or the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.  There is no fee or quota associated for a day hike.  Permits for overnight trips, cost $5 per person and are quota-based.