Lake Tahoe Wildflower Hikes

Wildflowers Sierra Nevada

Lake Tahoe has so many highlights even some of the most spectacular beauty can get lost between the gorgeous mountains and glory of North America’s largest alpine lake, like some of the smallest beauties: the wildflowers. Lake Tahoe has wildflower hikes in every region, from lakeside strolls to upper elevation climbs, our list covers the range. Bring your camera and your plant identification app, and be ready to take in the rainbow of flowers as you hike. Wildflowers begin to bloom towards the end of May at lake level and continue to paint the mountainsides at higher elevations through early August. If you’re going for flowers, consider the timing of your trip and choose higher or lower elevation treks accordingly.

Here are few favorite wildflower walkabouts…

Big Meadow

At the Big Meadow Trailhead, head south and across the highway towards Big Meadow.  Approximately 1 ½ miles into a steeper walk, you will find a large meadow covered in wildflowers. To stretch your legs some more, continue hiking to Round Lake (6.5 miles) and then up to Dardanelles Lake (8 miles).

View of Mt Tallac with Wild Flowers in the Meadow - Kristin Rust / LTVA
View of Mt Tallac with Wild Flowers in the Meadow – Kristin Rust / LTVA

Directions: From Meyers, follow Highway 89 south towards Luther Pass.  As the road climbs and just before the Luther Pass sign, turn left into Big Meadow Parking Area.

Galena Waterfall and Mount Rose

This hike has it all: a waterfall, vistas, and wildflowers.  As you head to Galena Falls, the wildflowers take over within the first mile.  Follow the trail and the flowers for another 1 ½ miles until you reach the Falls. Loop back on a maintenance road (5 miles) or peak seekers can summit Mount Rose (10 miles).

Directions: From US 50, take Nevada State Route 28 through Incline Village. Turn right on Country Club Drive, go two miles, and make a right on Nevada State Route 431/Mount Rose Highway.  Drive 4 miles to the top of the mountain and a big meadow.  Parking is on the left side.

Winnemucca Lake and Meiss Meadows

Wildflower hunting is a spectator sport at Winnemucca Lake (4 miles).  The rich volcanic soil feeds blankets of alpine blooms.  Smaller children will delight in a stroll to Frog Lake in the first mile, and ambitious hikers can make the climb beyond Winnemucca Lake to Round Top Lake and Fourth of July Lake (8 miles).

For a quieter retreat, use the Meiss Lake trailhead on the north side of Carson Pass. There are many pockets of wildflowers between Meiss Meadows and Showers Lake (10 miles). Stop at the Meiss family cabin where there can be a colorful wildflower display.

Wild Flowers on the shoreline of Lake Tahoe - Rachid Dahnoun / LTVA
Wild Flowers on the shoreline of Lake Tahoe – Rachid Dahnoun / LTVA

Directions: Carson Pass stretches across California Highway 88, approximately 30 miles southwest of South Lake Tahoe.  From South Lake Tahoe, go south on California Highway 89 to the “T” at Highway 88.  Take Highway 88 West. Both trailheads are located at Carson Pass and have a user fee.

Lake Forest Beach

On the north shore, Lake Forest Beach attracts buttercups, lupines, and photographers. This small spot along the shore is one of the best places to snap a photo of Lake Tahoe with summer blossoms.

Directions: In Tahoe City, follow directions to Skylandia State Park, and take Bristlecone Street all the way to the end. Park on the road.=

Always remember to look, but don’t take. Keeping the wildflowers in their habitat preserves the beauty for future generations, and helps pollinator species like bumblebees and butterflies!

All hikes described are between 6,000 and 10,000 feet above sea level.  Make sure you have a map, water, and plenty of snacks.  Assess the weather forecast before hiking and bring layers.  If not specified, mileage described is round-trip, in and back, but loops and other routes may be available.

Stay on the trail and happy hiking!

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Flower at Lake Tahoe
A wild mountain rose sprinkled with rain.
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