Best Lake Tahoe Wildflower Hikes

Hiking trail to Round Top Lake bedecked with wildflowers.
Hiking trail to Round Top Lake bedecked with wildflowers.

By Terra Breeden

It’s true. Tahoe locals are devoted to winter – give us powder or give us death!

However, when summer rolls around, the mountains open to adventure of all kinds. Want to skydive over the Lake? Yeah, we’ve got that. How about kayaking in crystal water? Check. But one of my favorite things to do in the summer is get away from the Lake and escape the crowds.

Take it from a local; Tahoe’s beaches are teeming with dad-bods and sticky toddlers – you can do better.

Luckily, you’ll find adventure AND solitude in the mountains surrounding Lake Tahoe as fantastic hiking opportunities abound. And in the summer, “the hills are alive” with a colorful display of wildflowers that will have you yodeling from a peak like Julie Andrews.

Here are the best Lake Tahoe wildflower hikes for planning your next adventure:

Astonishing wildflower varieties in Lake Tahoe
Astonishing wildflower varieties in Lake Tahoe

When to go:

The wildflower bloom is a short season; only lasting from mid-July through August. But there’s an incredible variety of wildflower species in Lake Tahoe, and it’s a season you don’t want to miss. From iconic, Instagram-worthy wildflowers, like purple lupine and golden mule’s ear; to the lesser known but equally beautiful varieties, such as alpine lilies and pennyroyal; Tahoe’s plants explode with color in unison.

Where to go:

Many Lake Tahoe trails offer wildflower viewing, and you don’t have to be a hardcore hiker to enjoy the show. Some trails are short and lead to lush meadows and pristine beaches, while others climb ridgelines, each hard-earned mile revealing another colorful vista. Whether you’re into a relaxing stroll or a sweaty trek, these are some of the best hikes around Lake Tahoe to experience wildflowers:

Carson Pass to Winnemucca, Round Top and Fourth of July Lakes

The trail to Winnemucca  Lake bedecked in a bouquet hand-crafted by the Lord Almighty
The trail to Winnemucca Lake bedecked in a bouquet hand-crafted by the Lord Almighty

Unlike much of Tahoe’s granite wilderness, the volcanic soil in this area creates fertile grounds for wildflowers to take center stage, and the trail is great for families and backpackers alike! Start at Carson Pass trailhead off of Highway 88 and ascend along a gentle ridgeline to Lake Winnemucca (2.5 miles) where an array of wildflowers blanket the landscape like a patchwork quilt, hand-stitched by the Lord Almighty.

Photographers rejoice because with 10,000-foot Round Top Peak as a backdrop, it’s hard to get a bad shot. Badass hikers can take the trail farther to Round Top Lake or Fourth of July Lake (10 miles roundtrip) for an unforgettable wildflower walk, and a serious workout.

Meiss Meadow

Wildflowers as far as the eye can see in Meiss Meadows
Wildflowers as far as the eye can see in Meiss Meadows

Just opposite of the Carson Pass trailhead is the Meiss Meadow trailhead. More secluded and less popular than its sister trail, Meiss Meadows provides a ton of opportunities for wildflower spotting, but without the crowds.

A short ascent reveals a vibrant alpine meadow bedecked in blooms. Boasting a multitude of wildflower varieties, this area is truly a garden of the gods. Ambitious hikers can take the trail all the way to Showers Lake (10 miles roundtrip) for spectacular vistas and waist-high wildflowers. Time to frolic, my friend!

Lake Forest Beach

Lupines take center stage at Lake Forest Beach
Lupines take center stage at Lake Forest Beach

This is one of the few places in the Tahoe Basin where you can bask among wildflowers while you play on the beach. You heard me right – Flowers, sunshine, and sand, so bring a cooler full of beer and a floatie!

Lake Forest Beach in Tahoe City is a small strip of sand that erupts with purple lupines in early summer. This jaw-dropping beach is undoubtedly one of the best spots to capture the lake fringed by violet blooms, and reaching Lake Forest couldn’t be easier. In Tahoe City, take Bristlecone Street and park along the road. Stroll down a short path to the beach and behold the glory of Mother Nature.

Big Meadow

Calvin the Corgi enjoys wildflower hikes too.
Calvin the Corgi enjoys wildflower hikes too.

This hike provides ample opportunity for wildflower spotting and is relatively easy. Reminiscent of the Swiss Alps, Big Meadow boasts blankets of wildflowers, has a small creek bubbling in its center and snow-capped mountains in the background. So get ready for a photo shoot!

The trail begins with a steep ascent but quickly levels out for an easy amble. Reaching Big Meadow is a short 1.5 mile hike, and the reward is one of unmatched beauty. Continue on the trail to Round Lake (6.5 miles roundtrip) or Dardanelles (eight miles roundtrip) for a great day hike.


Like this article? Check out “Five Types of Crying You’ll do in Nature.”

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