Falling for Marlette Lake, a can’t miss hike, ride at Lake Tahoe
Whether hiking it or biking it, getting to Marlette Lake is a must-do activity, especially in autumn.
The vibrant fall colors and beautiful lake at the end are worth every step, or pedal.
My wife and I got up early last weekend and went for it.
Marlette Lake is located on Lake Tahoe’s East Shore near Glenbrook, Nev. There are two trails that access the lake, from Spooner Lake State Park off U.S. Highway 50 and Nevada State Route 28, and the other is from near Incline Village on the Chimney Beach Loop Trail.
The Spooner route is longer, about 10 miles, with a moderate slope, the Chimney Beach route is about 8.5 miles, but with a more aggressive approach.
We paid $10 to park at Spooner Lake. There is free parking near the state park, but we wanted to save every step, thinking that a few hundred extra yards after 10-plus miles would be equal to death. (We ended up being right.)
We arrived early Sunday morning and were first on the trail. The first mile before actually reaching the official Marlette Lake trailhead was lined with bright yellow, but frost-covered, aspens.
Bikers and hikers share the first, and last, mile but then the paths are separated for most of the way. Bikes must use the road while hikers have the trail to themselves.
The path to Marlette is well-traveled. Don’t plan on keeping your feet or footwear clean on this hike.
The hike in is a steady climb for about 5 miles through aspens and pines. A couple of miles in the trail winds through an aspen grove that was rich with fall, bright yellows mixed with greens.
At about 4.5 miles the trail reaches a crest and starts heading downhill to the lake which becomes visible shortly after starting the descent.
We hiked a little way around the lake and stopped to eat our PB&Js on a rock in a sunny clearing. The hike to the lake took us about two to two and a half hours.
As we made our way back, we started seeing hikers and bikers — lots of hikers and bikers.
The trail was really easy and we flew back down until the last couple of miles, where we both started to feel the physical strain, my wife because it was the longest hike she has ever done — right there with the North Dome hike in Yosemite National Park — and me because I’m still recovering (hopefully) from a completely torn Achilles, but I won’t whine about that here.
The hike on the way out was better after the sun was high enough to melt the frost and bring to life the glowing yellows and greens.
Our total trip was 10.5 miles with 1,800 feet of elevation gain and it took 4 hours, 48 minutes, an average pace of 26 minutes per mile.
The fall colors are waning so if you can’t make it out there this weekend or next, there’s always next season. But regardless of fall colors, the hike stands on its own anytime.