Best Lake Tahoe Hikes with Kids

Hiking is a wonderful all-family activity. When kids are very young and can fit in a backpack, any hike is fair game as long as you pack food and don’t overestimate your endurance to carry the extra pounds. When kids start walking, selecting kid-friendly hikes is essential, although it’s amazing how far motivated school-age kids can go.

Lake Tahoe Hikes with Kids

A view over Lake Tahoe from the Rubicon Trail

Lake Tahoe is one of my all-time favorite summer hiking destinations with kids. During a stay at the Resort at Squaw Creek (scroll down for more), I chatted with the marketing and PR manager about his recommendations for kid-friendly hikes in the area. He put together a great list of options, below.

Top Family-Friendly Lake Tahoe Hikes

Rubicon Trail in DL Bliss State Park

The Rubicon Trail hugs one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in all of Lake Tahoe. Park at Calawee Cove Beach in DL Bliss State Park (a fantastic sandy beach) and hike down a moderately graded trail with incredible views of the water and mountain scenery. You can walk all the way to Emerald Bay from here — too long for young kids, but a timed jaunt down the trail and back to the beach will be fun for all. Note that there are very steep drops on this trail; it has safety ropes, but this is not a good place for toddlers.

Recommended for ages 5 and up.

Tahoe Meadows Whole Access Trail on Mt. Rose Highway

The Tahoe Meadows Whole Access Trail is a wheelchair-accessible trail that provides a fine opportunity to experience a part of verdant, subalpine Tahoe Meadows. Not only will those who use wheelchairs enjoy this loop, but families with small children will appreciate the wide, gently graded, 1.3-mile long path as well. The trail loops around Tahoe Meadows’ northeast finger, exposing hikers to a lush meadowland environment full of plants, wildflowers, and trickling streams and bordered by a light forest of lodgepole pines. Slide Mountain and Mt. Rose make for a picturesque backdrop to the scenery-rich fields.

Snow usually clears out of Tahoe Meadows by the end of June, allowing vivid wildflower displays from mid-July through August. Without the flowers, the hiking season continues until the first significant snowfall, usually in early November.

Recommended for all ages.

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Eagle Lake

The Eagle Lake Trail is one of the most popular at Lake Tahoe. It has everything: stunning lake vistas, waterfalls, a river, a bridge, a climb, spectacular forest and mountain views, and a gem of a lake at the end of the trail. Because this trail does have a vertical climb to it, it’s not well suited for younger children. During summer, you will definitely find other people on the trail. Pack a lunch; there’s room to spread out and this is a wonderful place to relax for a few hours or a day.

Recommended for ages 5 and up.

Spooner Lake Loop

A scenic 2-mile loop around Spooner Lake offers a relatively level trail with enough diversity to keep kids entertained. The west and south shore portions of the trail take hikers through pines and aspens, a shady relief during warm summer days. Fishermen often dot the edges of the lake, sometimes floating in inflatable boats. Several places along the shore are suitable for a picnic or rest stop, and at the beginning (or end) of the hike is a nice picnic area with tables, grills and restrooms. You’ll encounter many mountain bikers heading up the nearby Marlette Lake Trail to tackle the famous Flume Trail, but they won’t be riding the loop trail.

Recommended for ages 4 and up.

Taylor Creek Rainbow Trail and Stream Profile Chamber

This leisurely 1-mile loop meanders through meadow and marsh areas, with pines and aspens along the route. A portion of the trail runs adjacent to Taylor Creek and offers the unique stream profile chamber, which offers an “underwater” view of the river through a glass window, replete with trout and Kokanee salmon. Kids love it! Note, it’s open only during summer.

Other fun and educational spots are offered along the trail as well. Bald eagles sometimes frequent the area; during autumn, the Kokanee salmon return to the river to spawn, turning the clear waters to a sea of red. It’s a sight to behold. With the aspens in the area, this is a great place to enjoy fall color too. After your hike, head to nearby Kiva Beach or the historic Valhalla area for a picnic on the shore.

Recommended for all ages.

Shirley Canyon

In Shirley Canyon, you don’t need to go too far up the trail to feel like you are a world away from the Squaw Valley ski area. There are wonderful swimming holes for older kids and big boulders to climb. Note that some steep sections higher up aren’t kid-appropriate, but farther down, the creek (when it’s flowing) is perfect for a family excursion. Be aware that young kids need constant supervision here.

Recommended for ages 4 and up.

Angora Lakes

Hikers can reach Angora Lakes via a short trail, just half a mile. This is one of the region’s best swimming lakes, and the drive into this area is scenic as well.

Recommended for all ages.

Where to Stay at Lake Tahoe with Kids

The Resort at Squaw Creek makes a great home base for families visiting this area in summertime. Although Squaw Valley is a 15-minute drive from the lake, the setting is spectacular, and the resort’s condo-style rooms have kitchenette facilities and comfortable living space.

The highlight for kids is the pool, with a waterslide that keeps them entertained for hours; babies and toddlers have their own kiddie pool and sandbox. Hiking, golf, tennis, horseback riding and biking are all accessible without getting in your car. There are a few onsite dining options and a spa, plus the kids’ club is available for ages 4 to 12. This property is a great choice for families who want a complete resort experience. Want help booking a stay? Call us!

Relevant Links:

Browse all family-friendly activities and accommodations in Lake Tahoe on Ciao Bambino

An insider’s guide to Lake Tahoe ski resorts with kids

Lake Tahoe summer vacation at the Resort at Squaw Creek

Heading to Lake Tahoe with kids this summer? Don’t forget to visit Northstar!

Editor’s Note: Photo by Ray Bouknight.

3 Comments

  1. All great tips. I love the squaw hike and the waterfalls on the way to Shirley Lake. Actually just did it less than two weeks ago. I run a summer day camp here in Tahoe for families on vacation and one of the things the kids have been loving is Stand Up Paddle Boarding. It looks like a big surf board and is very easy to learn. I would definitely recommend trying it out.

  2. Our favorite hike is the stateline lookout on the Nevada California border between Kings Beach and Incline Village. It is a steep hike for kids (our 3/4 year old could do it no problem), but pretty short and paved, so you can take a stroller up. They also allow dogs. The view of the lake from the top are amazing!

  3. Tahoe Meadows Trail seems best family spot. I’m so happy to find a place where my disabled niece can also enjoy with all family members.

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