MT. TALLAC (9,735') CLASS 1
Location: 5 miles W of the South Lake Tahoe "Y (junction of U.S. 50 and Highway 89 north)"
Drive: Take Highway 89 to the turnoff signed, "Mt. Tallac Trailhead." This road junction is either 24 miles south from Tahoe City (junction of Highway 89 and Highway 28), or 4.1 miles north from the South Tahoe "Y (junction of U.S. 50 and Highway 89 north)." Take this road south (away from the Lake) and proceed on narrow, paved road "1306," following the signs. Fork left at 0.4 mile, then right at 0.6 mile. Come to the paved parking area and the end of the road at 1.1 miles. There are no restrooms, but there is a self-serve day use permit station with a large sign "Desolation Wilderness Trailhead."
Climb: Take the rubbly rock road south past the large signboard, and shortly turn right to follow a trail. After a short distance, pass the sign "Desolation Wilderness National Forest Lands Lake Tahoe Basin." Pass Floating Island Lake. In a short distance more, cross a small creek. Shortly thereafter, go right at a junction signed "Cathedral Lake." Remember to take the fork toward "Floating Island Lake" on the way back. The left fork, arrowed "Fallen Leaf Lake," goes to private land and Stanford Camp on the south shore of Fallen Leaf Lake. After 0.2 mile more, come to Cathedral Lake, a pleasant spot for a break. Continue following the trail, which begins climbing right (west) up the hill. Early in the season, the trail may be awash in water here, with rock ducks indicating the way. At the last switchback left before gaining the top of the first ridge here, a use trail heads straight up. This avoids the steep snow that may cover the regular trail, lingering as late as August in a heavy snow year. Attempting this snow traverse may be extremely dangerous without an ice axe. Both of these trails connect past the top of this first ridge. Continue on the regular trail up the south slopes of the peak to connect with the trail (Route B) from Gilmore Lake near the summit. Follow the trail right. A short scramble over rocks brings one to the highpoint.
Drive: Take Highway 89 to the signed turnoff for Fallen Leaf Lake, which is 25 miles south from Tahoe City (junction of Highway 89 and Highway 28), or 3.2 miles north from the South Tahoe "Y (junction of U.S. 50 and Highway 89 north)." Set odometer here. Go south (away from the Lake) on paved road to a fork at 2.0 miles. Go right, then at a fork in 4.5 miles, go left. Go left again at a paved fork at 4.9 miles with a sign, "Lily Lake Glen Alpine Falls Desolation Wilderness Trailhead." At 5.6 miles, come to a paved, trailhead parking lot with restrooms and a self-serve day use permit station. Park.
Climb: Take the main gravel road west, going through the gate, and pass by several private cabins. Go right at a fork after 0.5 mile. Pass the falls on their right, and in another 0.5 mile go left at another fork, following the sign "12N16" as opposed to "16B." Pass more private cabins, ignoring the private roads. After about another mile, come to a post "Susie Lake Gilmore Lake," and go straight. The road turns into a trail, and in about 4 miles from the start you'll hit the PCT. Follow the signs right to "Gilmore Lake." At an unsigned junction immediately past this, go right. The left trail goes to Half Moon Lake. At another junction shortly, go right and come to Gilmore Lake. The trail goes around the right (east) side of the lake. The trail climbs up the southwest slopes of the peak, which is visible from Gilmore Lake, and connects with Route A near the summit. Clamber over rocks to reach the highpoint.
WINTER SKI ASCENT: To approach
the Tallac couloir on its northeast side, take the plowed subdivision
road signed, "Spring Creek Road" 0.7 mile north of the
Mt. Tallac trailhead turnoff on Highway 89 (see Mt. Tallac, Route
A, Drive). There is also a new Sno-Park lot in this vicinity.
Try parking on Wiyot Road, although it doesn't make any big difference
where you park, as long as it's away from private homes. Make
your way southwest through the brushy slopes toward the couloir
and onto the snow. Go directly up the steep, multi-bowled, broad
couloir, and go left once the ridge is reached to arrive at the
summit. The north bowl, as well as the couloir, is really nice,
steep skiing when conditions are good.
Another way to go is to start on the closest roads in this previously mentioned subdivision and head northwest to the low moraine ridge that leads southwest. Go cross-country up through heavy brush, then intersect a dirt road that ascends left (southwest) to a depression in this low ridge. Climb steeply up the north ridge through dense timber, and traverse one way or another before a band of rock cliffs is encountered directly on this ridge. The sides of this ridge are extremely steep, and avalanches have occurred here. An ice axe or self-arrest poles may be highly advisable. If the snow is hard, with self-arrest dubious, turn back! Once on top of the ridge, the angle lessens, and one continues along the ridge to the north bowl, which can be climbed on either side to the summit.
TRIP STATS: Route A, 3,300 feet gain, 5 miles one way; Route B, 3,200 feet gain, 7 miles one way; winter ski ascent, both described routes are 3,300 feet gain, 2-3 miles one way.
Notes: Mt. Tallac is the
prominent peak seen to the southwest from the Lake Tahoe Basin
Visitor Center along Taylor Creek. Sometimes a snow cross is discernible
from here. Don't miss the stream profile chamber on a short loop
hike starting here. Mt. Tallac is also visible as the peak straight
ahead from portions of Lake Tahoe Boulevard (U.S. 50) on the California
The view from the top of Mt. Tallac is one of the great views of Lake Tahoe, and many persons hike up this peak in the summer. Good fall colors occur, in late September through mid-late October, about the base of this mountain.