Last week, you saw part one of our hike up to Mount Tallac, from the trailhead to Cathedral Lake. Today, we’ll finish the ascension to the peak of Mount Tallac in the second half of the 5 mile one-way trail to nearly 9,700 feet above sea level.
There are no major lakes or landmarks for the remainder of the hike, save the peak of the mountain, but it does offer some great rising views of several lakes along the way. You get to see plenty of Fallen Leaf Lake, Tahoe, and on the other side, once you crest the ridge of the most difficult part of the hike, there are Gilmore and Aloha Lakes. And, of course, there is Mr. Marmot (and his friends!) at the peak.
Cathedral to Mount Tallac
After our quick stop at Cathedral Lake, the hike begins it’s real ascension to the near 9,800′ above sea level that is Mount Tallac. The trailhead was at 6,480′ and Cathedral Lake is somewhere in the neighborhood of 7,600′. So you’ve gone up 1,200′ of elevation in the span of 2.5 miles, with another 2,200′ of elevation to go over 2.5 miles until the peak. That’s a hundred story building’s worth of difference. 🙂
The hike can be strenuous and quite a bit of it is in full sun, on the side of the mountain, but if you are well protected (plenty of sunscreen) you should be OK. The air gets thin up here so be sure to take it easy, the last thing you want to do is get light headed and stumble on the gravel.
As you leave Cathedral Lake, there’s a section of trail that snakes through the woods before you open up to a gravely area that marks, what I consider, the hardest part of the hike. The photo above gives you a general idea of what this section looks and feels like. The footing can get a little loose at times, since it is gravel, but you should be fine as long as you are hiking carefully.
Here’s the view of Fallen Leaf and Lake Tahoe from here, the woods below are where you emerge after hiking up from Cathedral Lake:
Once you get to the crest of this ridge, the hiking gets progressively easier (until you reach the last 100′ or so). So if you’re going to push yourself through the gravel area, use this next section to rest a bit, by taking it a little easier, as you continue on. Depending on the time of year, this area will still have a lot of snow. It was mid-July when we went and we walked through sections of snow.
Here’s the final trail marker for Mount Tallac (to the right, to the left is the trail to Gilmore Lake – this is a great place to drop your packs if you’re day hiking, hide them behind some trees and they should be fine:
The hike from here goes from dirt to scrambling over large boulders until the summit. The views are spectacular so be sure to take plenty of photos. Here are a few of our favorites shots from up on high:
Tahoe and Fallen Leaf Lake
Gilmore, Susie, and Aloha Lakes
And of course, Mr. Marmot!
The descent is less interesting as we didn’t take quite as many pictures, mostly of the abundant wildflowers we’ve seen. Since we were staying near Stanford Sierra Camp we decided to hike towards Gilmore and Grass Lakes for our descent, stopping briefly at Gilmore for a break. It’s a pretty long hike back that, I believe, takes around 6 miles but doesn’t contain the steep elevation changes we enjoyed on our way up.
The hike essentially mirrors the return hike from Grass Lake, though we don’t pass it, we meet up with the hike at the split (for Grass Lake you turn left, Mt Tallac you turn right… we meet up with the trail there). From there it’s the familiar return past Glen Alpine Resort to the Lily Lake trailhead and then on to the cabin for a nice shower and beverages!