Updated: Oct 12, 2022
We finally conquered another hike that has been "on our list" for 8 or 9 years. Sometimes, hikes that are in your own backyard get put on the back burner because they seem so accessible that you could do them anytime. And then you blink and nearly a decade has flown by and you still haven't done it. So today, we did it.
After church this morning, we quickly packed up our gear and set out for Emerald Bay on the southwest corner of Lake Tahoe. We stopped outside of South Lake Tahoe to grab a couple of quick sandwiches at Sierra Subs to tide us over. This wouldn't be a long hike, but we knew it would be a steep one, so having ample fuel to keep us going will be ideal.
As we rounded out the south shore of Lake Tahoe, we could see dark rain clouds in the vicinity. I was a little concerned that we'd be chased out by lightning on such a long-awaited hike.
Upon arrival at the trailhead parking lot around 2:00 p.m., we were surprisingly met by two women collecting parking fees. Although we were not prepared for it, luckily, we had cash on us to gain access. Because we arrived a bit later in the day, we were able to easily find a parking spot close to the trailhead.
When we got out of the car, we cringed, thinking we heard some thunder in the distance, remembering that we've played this game before. After some brief consideration, we were convinced it was an airplane and so we quickly strapped on our packs, I handed poles to my husband, "Two lightning rods for you," grabbed my own, and we started up the trail towards Desolation Wilderness.
The trail was a lovely soft dirt surface – a stark contrast to the relentless and unforgiving rocky trail we climbed to Mt. Tallac last weekend – but it started sharply climbing immediately, which is always a blow to your heart and lungs no matter how in shape you think you are.
We weren't on the trail very long at all when my husband announced, "Raindrop."
"Super," I thought. Hopefully, that doesn't turn into anything and we can continue on, although, we did have our 99-cent emergency ponchos in our packs that proved effective before.
Nonetheless, we forged ahead. Honestly, even though it was hard work, and there were some raindrops, the views as we climbed just got better and better.
Here's Emerald Bay from a different perspective than we usually see it.
Finally... This section of the trail was a welcomed reprieve from the constant climbing.
Shortly after this relatively level stretch, we reached Granite Lake and agreed we'd stop there on our way back down from the peaks. At this point, the trail takes a sharp incline with some rocky step-ups and switchbacks. So, off we climbed.
Looking back at Granite Lake from the ascending trail through the trees.
Numerous hikers descended the trail as we made our way up. A friendly duo offered to take our photo at this switchback with Tahoe and part of Emerald Bay in the background.
Climbing higher and another amazing expanse of Desolation.
A fantastic view of Eagle Lake, which is situated above Emerald Bay and Eagle Falls. We hiked to Eagle Lake for the first time this past spring.
Another view of Emerald Bay between the trees.
We continued the steep-climb-that-got-steeper to the top, which also got a bit rockier than the rest of the trail, but as I kept reminding my husband, "At least it's not as rocky as Tallac." That has become my new benchmark.
Just before we reached the top, it started raining a little bit more. Still just a moderate sprinkle, but I actually sought shelter beneath a pine tree branch for a few minutes.
After a little over 2 miles and about an hour and a half of climbing up 1,755 ft, we made it to the top of one of the peaks. Then, we discovered and were delighted to be greeted by a lovely little rainbow! Our reward for hiking in the sprinkles!
From this vantage point, you can see Lake Tahoe, Emerald Bay, Cascade Lake, and Fallen Leaf Lake off to the far right.
A rainbow over the south shore of Lake Tahoe and Cascade Lake from one of Maggie's Peaks. And lots of scattered rain in the distance.
Lake Tahoe, Emerald Bay, Granite Lake, and Cascade Lake.
I found me a rock cliff to stand on!
Here's a panoramic view from the top of Maggie's Peaks. At the very end, you can see Mt. Tallac, which is the peak we hiked to last weekend.
We spent a little while at the top, exploring around the different peaks and overlooks and then we decided it was time to head back down. Plus, after sweating so much on the strenuous climb up there, I was now starting to get chilly, so I wanted to get moving again.
Another incredible view of Eagle Lake from a different overlook on the way down.
Now, on the other side of the trail, a view of reflective Granite Lake from above, tucked amongst the trees.
After descending quite a bit, we reached Granite Lake once again and hiked down to its shoreline. The water was glassy!
The hike down went rather quickly, but I was glad I brought my poles again. The trail was fairly busy on our ascent; however, we saw, maybe, one other hiker coming up as we were going down, as well as one group of three hikers we passed as they stopped to photo some off-trail leaves turning yellow. Happily, we made it out before dark and were back on the road in no time.
Overall, the trek up was challenging, as promised, but it was a short enough distance that the steepness didn't wear on me too much, and I was thrilled that the trail wasn't very rocky until close to the top. The panoramic views were simply incredible, and the fact that we got to the top in time to see a pretty rainbow was icing on the cake!