If the best hikes are the ones that have a reward at the end, then the hike from Fallen Leaf Lake to Angora Lakes in South Lake Tahoe is a real winner. At the end of this steep, roughly one-hour hike, you come to not only two gorgeous and pristine alpine lakes, but also a shop that sells ice cream, sandwiches, treats, and the best fresh-squeezed lemonade in Lake Tahoe, if not the world!
Nestled in a glacial valley at 7,450 feet, Angora Lakes is surrounded by granite cliffs that lead up to Echo Summit. The north side of the lake is lined with a long, sandy beach, perfect for soaking up the sun and swimming. You can also rent paddleboards, kayaks, and rowboats to take to the other side where the kids will have fun jumping from granite rocks into the water. There are even two and four-bedroom Cape Cod-style cabins to rent along the lake as part of the almost century-old Angora Lakes Resort. The minimum stay, however, is one week, and they book up at least a year in advance. Visiting for the day is much easier and can be done on a whim.
How to Get There
While you can drive to Angora Lakes via Angora Creek Rd. and park for a fee in a lot that’s about half-a-mile from the lake, the 1.6-mile hike along the Clark Trail from Fallen Leaf Lake will make you appreciate the lake and the lemonade awaiting you at the top even more. To get to the trail, turn off Rte. 89 onto Fallen Leaf Lake Rd. and drive 2-1/2 miles to a small firehouse and an even smaller chapel. This road, lined on both sides by vacation homes, is narrow – practically one lane at points – so drive carefully. The firehouse and chapel are about half-a-mile past Fallen Leaf Lake’s marina and general store on the right, and there’s a small area to park. The trail head, which is not well marked, is to the right of the chapel as you’re facing it. Be sure to take a peek inside the chapel before you start; it’s lovely.
The Clark Trail is suitable for older kids, but is steep and moderately strenuous along the entire 1.6-mile ascent. Part of what makes it challenging is that for at least half the trail, you’re hiking on loose shale. You’ll want to wear hiking boots or at least sturdy sneakers. This is not a flip-flop suitable hike, but you might want to pack them, along with towels and lunch, in your backpack. As you trek almost 600 feet in elevation, the trail winds in and out of shaded forest, offering several stunning views of Fallen Leaf Lake along the way. After about 45 minutes, you’ll come to the Angora Lakes parking lot (which fills up early for those who are driving!), and it’s another half a mile or so to the swimming area.
After a fun and relaxing time at the lake (don’t forget the lemonade!), you can head back down the Clark Trail. If you prefer a less strenuous route, you can instead return via the fire trail along Angora Creek Rd. You’ll find the fire trail by the Angora Lookout Point near the parking lot you passed coming up. Along this route, you’ll have views of the valley and see remnants of the Angora fire that devastated the area in the summer of 2007. This trail takes you closer to the Fallen Leaf Lake marina, so you’ll have to walk from there to your car by the firehouse.