Vacationing at Lake Tahoe, we think of outdoor activities (yes, there are casinos a mile down the road, but that is not on our list). Being in the middle of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, outdoors mostly means steep inclines. The lake shore is a bit above 6,200 ft above sea-level. Many of the mountains peaks are between 9,000 and 10,000. Traveling with family who have some mobility limitations, our challenge was to find outdoor spaces with accessibility. We found three locations near the south shore of Lake Tahoe: Lam Watah Nature Trail, Taylor Creek Rainbow Trail, and Vikingsholm on Emerald Bay.
Lam Watah Nature Trail begins from a parking lot just off of the main road, Route 50, a few blocks up from the Nevada casinos, and at the edge of the residential district. The walk has a paved route, as well as some sections of packed gravel/sand, which are still negotiable with wheeled mobility devices. It begins looking over a pond, fields (used to be the landing strips for light planes), and marshy wet-lands.
After about 1/4 of a mile, you pass into the shade of tall pines that line the fields. Large, random boulders, rolled down from the mountains and left piled up by the melting glaciers, stand above the path. Occasional benches provide resting places.
Though we are traveling in Fall, during an extended period of drought, we found a few wildflowers in bloom and seeds. Nature manages itself regardless of what we project or ignore.
Taylor Creek Rainbow Trail has a visitor’s center and parking about 3 miles north on Route 89, from the 89-50 split. The loop is about 2/3 of a mile long. The initial hundred feet are downhill, which means you have to go uphill at the end. Most of the path is either paved or a boardwalk through a meadow. Once down that incline, the path is mostly level.
You pass from pines to aspens and scrub brush, into an open meadow. Looking north, you cannot quiet see the lake, but the vistas of the mountains to the west are inspiring. The wind had changed directions, blowing the smoke from the King Fire (a couple of canyons west of Lake Tahoe) somewhere else. We had intense blue sky with wispy clouds. Tallac Mountain rose nearly to 10,000 feet a few miles away.
Taylor Creek runs out from these mountains and into the meadow. During wetter years, the creek is deep enough for native fish, including various trout and lake salmon. We saw some ducks and evidence of beavers.
A feature along the walk is the Stream Profile Chamber. A ramp leads into an inclosed area that is below the level of the creek. Glass walls allowed us to see the fish in pool of the creek. With the water low, and a beaver dam down stream, the pool had a few trout lounging about in the mid-day shadows. I had hoped to see some of the bright red salmon, as it is near autumn spawning season.
The interpretive signs along the creek are designed to give children information about how mountains wet-lands and forests interact. They are spaced out in just about the right location for short attention spans. Many of the books and gifts in the visitor’s center appeared to aimed at this age group too.
For those wanting to add a more vigorous trek, Lake of the Sky Trail and Tallac Historic Site (cabins and casino buildings from the early 20th century) offer another mile or two of walking down to the lake. This trail is not accessible for wheeled devices. The trail head is on the other side of the visitor’s center.
The gravel road path from the parking lots on Route 89 to the Emerald Bay lakeshore at Vikingsholm descends (and, again, ascends on the way out) several hundred feet around a granite cliff. This is a California State Park, which provide a shuttle bus for those needing assistance with access (scheduled in advance).
The walk, views, and photographs can be taken anytime from sunrise to sunset. The house tours ends at 3:30. We arrived, not anticipating that we would have time for the tour, at 3:31. We could still stroll around the house, while contemplating when we wanted to start walking back up hill. A bench overlooking the lake gave us time to also ponder over how some of the other visitors made the walk down, and would get back up. Not our problem.
If we had more time, in addition to touring the house, we would have enjoyed renting a kayak to paddle around Emerald Bay. But, that will be for another trip… along with hiking to the top of Tallac Mountain… Right?!