A hike on Lake Tahoe’s Glen Alpine Trail turned up surprising history and beauty when our group of four was looking for a day hike along the southern portion of Lake Tahoe.
Our introduction to Glen Alpine Trail was driving along a narrow, winding road – barely wide enough for one car to pass – through the tall pines and along the shores of Fallen Leaf Lake. I had never heard of Fallen Leaf Lake, but the shoreline was expansive and the deep blue water contrasted nicely with the green hills.
We hiked in late July under blue skies, mild temperatures; though the trail had other hikers we had enough space to ourselves. The area is popular with backpackers.
Glen Alpine Trail highlights
- Waterfall and Mountain Views
- We walked from the parking lot and followed what started as a boring path up a hill and the scenery immediately unveiled a gushing waterfall with spectacular views of mountains to the south and to the west. Water races over boulders, creating picturesque waterfalls along the trail.
This was picture spot 1.
- After walking past closed up residential structures that gave a feeling of mystery, we came across signs displaying pictures of a resort at Glen Alpine around 1890 to 1900. I was shocked.
A set of old buildings was off the trail. It was the site of a turn-of-the-century resort where families would come and stay all summer. The main lodge served dinner using linen napkins and tablecloths. The food was served on fine china.
This was picture spot 2.
I couldn’t help but wonder how strenuous the trip must have been by horse and wagon through the mountain passes.
We stood at Soda Spring which was a freshwater spring covered with a pergola. The spring was tapped at the time the resort was established and a new pergola covered it today. Water bubbled over an area about 30 feet in diameter.
- Grass Lake
- We continued another mile to Grass Lake. The signs marking the turn off are easy to miss so pay attention.
Grass Lake is a small mountain lake, or large pond, with lush green grasses waving through waves created by the stream. Water formed to one side while the stream continued rushing around, through boulders, and down the hill passing from one waterfall to another.
Grass Lake’s water is clean; the temperature was cool enough to be refreshing without being too cold in late July.
This was picture spot 3.
Glen Alpine Trailhead Conditions
The hike is considered moderate to strenuous; the first two miles are relatively easy with only one major incline lasting about 75 yards. Sturdy running shoes are doable; hiking boots are always preferred. There are no mountain drop-offs to Grass Lake.
Elevation range: 6,560 feet to 9,735 feet if going to locations beyond Grass Lake.
Time of hiking: we spent over an hour enjoying the walk from the trailhead to Grass Lake. It’s possible to run this portion of the trail or walk much faster.
Distances to destinations: Glen Alpine Trailhead to: Grass Lake 2 miles; 4 miles to Susie; 5 miles to Heather; 6 miles to Aloha and 6 miles to Tallac (a strenuous hike).
Driving to the Glen Alpine Trailhead
From South Lake Tahoe, drive Highway 89 north about three miles to Fallen Leaf Road. The turnoff is immediately past Camp Richardson and the stables.
Fallen Leaf Road is narrow. I was driving a Mazda 3 and I had to stop on several occasions and wait for cars coming from the opposite direction to pass. Be patient.
Drive until you reach the Fallen Leaf Lake Marina and a resort, then continue on the road to the trailhead which is across from Lily Lake.
The Glen Alpine Trail is highly recommended.