Spring has sprung, ski resorts are closing and to Lake Tahoe residents and visitors that means it’s time to take a hike! I am thrilled for this time of year when the snow melts from the high Sierra’s granting more and more access to backcountry terrain for summer exploring on foot to begin. As a resident of North Lake Tahoe one of my favorite hikes nearby is Tunnel Creek, a favorite amongst locals for its convenient access, great work out and of course, the unparalleled views!
Tunnel Creek offers unbelievable views as you ascend trails hovering above some of the most spectacular and scenic shores of Lake Tahoe above Highway 28, Hidden Beach and Sand Harbor State Park off in the distance. Not only does the trail offer spectacular views, but it’s also a fantastic workout! To access the trailhead simply park across the street from the old Bonanza parking lot on Highway 28 just as you leave Incline Village traveling towards South Lake Tahoe (if you reach Hidden Beach trail head on Highway 28 you have gone too far). Today there is the new Tunnel Creek Station which includes Flume Trail Bikes and the Tunnel Creek Cafe making the entrance to the hike easier to spot. Park along the shoulder of the highway, there is no public parking allowed in the lot nor along Tunnel Creek Road itself for hikers. The Tunnel Creek Trail also connects with the world famous Flume Trail, which eventually connects with the Tahoe Rim Trail, making this trail a multipurpose access point to many Lake Tahoe adventures!
To begin the hike, cross Highway 28, walk towards the Tunnel Creek Station along Tunnel Creek Road and climb the short paved road/driveway. After a few hundred yards you will reach a flat, sandy trail that stretches for about a 1/4 mi above Highway 28 until you reach the official trailhead shown on the right. From here it is a fairly steep uphill climb for about a mile along a dirt path under shaded pine trees. The next mile+ of the trail is the most enjoyable of the hike offering a windy, sandy trail along the East shore with unobstructed views of the Lake Tahoe and the beautiful shores below. The mostly flat and clear trail also make it perfect for trail running if you want an extra workout. Towards the end of this portion of the trail it enters a shaded, wooded area which leads away from the Lake and continues on to the Flume Trail and is where most hikers turn around.
I most enjoy hiking the Tunnel Creek Trail early in the morning or later in the afternoon, during spring and fall. During these times the trail is less crowded, especially with mountain bikers. Since this trail is connected to the Flume Trail, it can become heavily congested with mountain bikers racing down the trail so be sure to be on alert. Also, much of the trail is exposed so be sure to wear sunscreen and bring additional coverings to avoid sunburns. The Tunnel Creek Trail is also an excellent location to catch sunset views over the ridges across the Lake during evening hikes.
If you enjoy hiking in Lake Tahoe, share your favorite hiking trail in the comments below and whether or not you have hiked the Tunnel Creek trail!
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