Members Only: Mount Tallac full moon hike |

Members Only: Mount Tallac full moon hike

Nick Brown

Mount Tallac, one of the tallest peaks in the Tahoe Basin, looms over the South Shore beckoning to be climbed. With jagged peaks and a snow cross, this is a hike that can be enjoyed all year round.

The trail is popular and tends to get busy. Go in another direction and try this spectacular hike under a full moon.

I had personally never climbed Tallac, and to tackle 3,250 feet of elevation gain at night under a full moon was too intriguing to turn down. We pulled into the Mount Tallac trailhead parking lot, only to be greeted by a curious black bear and a towering peak looking down at us from 9,735 feet. The air was crisp from earlier rain and thunderstorms, making for a spectacular sunset and perfect trails.

After a quick PB&J, we double-checked our packs and headed out for our overnight adventure into the wild.

The trail starts out gradually, climbing up the ridgeline above Fallen Leaf Lake with a reflection of a full moon casting shadows on the eerie wilderness. Bats fly, birds chirp and creatures rattle in the bushes. I was armed with my camera so I wouldn’t miss any nocturnal encounters.

The moonlight was our guide. We only needed headlamps when we went through the woods.

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We passed Floating Island Lake and Cathedral Lake. If you don’t take the time to look around you can easily miss these lakes in the night.

Approaching the bowl of Mount Tallac, we began to climb the most difficult part of this hike. There are a few different routes to take, but we opted for the straight-up accent.

After loosing our footing several times with our 30-pound packs, we finally reached the top of the bowl and began to look for a spot to lay our tent for the night. We would hike to the peak in the morning.

Tahoe is a magical place under a full moon. As clouds dance over peaks and mountains, you realize how small you really are.

Awakened by other hikers passing our tent, we knew it was time to scurry up to top and reap what we sowed. We were greeted by an array of vibrant wildflowers glowing in the dawn. A turkey wandered out as we rounded the final corner of the ridge.

Other nocturnal hikers had the same idea – we saw about 20 people enjoying the sunrise on top of Mount Tallac, eating breakfast, making coffee and taking photos of their accomplished journey.

The view is amazing from top. Rotating 360 degrees, there are views of Pyramid Peak, Mount Price, Jacks Peak, Dicks Peak, Lake Aloha, Heather Lake, Gilmore Lake, Susie Lake and many others.

On our descent, we realized how lucky we were to be one of the moonlight hikers as we passed hoards of people sweating in the heat of the day.

Next time you sit and gaze at Mount Tallac, just picture yourself hiking in the moonlight, which should be motivation enough to grab a calendar to plan the arrival of the next full moon.

– Nick Brown is a South Lake Tahoe resident and freelance writer. He can be reached at