Take a hike: Direct route to Marlette Lake leads to serene waters perched above Lake Tahoe’s East Shore | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Take a hike: Direct route to Marlette Lake leads to serene waters perched above Lake Tahoe’s East Shore

Anthony Gentile
Marlette Lake sits perched above Lake Tahoe’s East Shore, an expansive, serene body water accessible via a direct three-mile hike from Highway 28.
Anthony Gentile / Tahoe Daily Tribune |

Getting to the trail

From South Lake Tahoe: Take Highway 50 east toward Nevada, turn onto Highway 28 toward Incline Village. Head north for approximately 5.5 miles before turning right to reach parking lot, located on County Road 291. Limited parking available in lot, with additional parking on side of the road nearby.

Marlette Lake sits serenely at 7,823 feet on Lake Tahoe’s East Shore, an expansive body of water that features hues of green and blue. The most direct way to reach Marlette presents a steep challenge on singletrack — a three-mile route from just off Highway 28 with heart-pumping elevation gain throughout.


The hike to Marlette Lake begins on the former logging road adjacent to the parking lot, and starts with sudden, steep elevation gain that sets the tone for a mostly direct climb. After a quarter-mile, the trail turns away from Lake Tahoe and becomes steeper — allowing views of Tahoe’s East Shore to quickly emerge through the trees.


About a half-mile in, it’s clear this hike is a good workout. The uncovered, bush-lined singletrack makes a rolling path directly east for a mile, with elevation gain sure to make the legs burn.


A handful of switchbacks offer slight reprieve after a mile-and-a-quarter on the trail, before the hike heads north and puts Lake Tahoe on the left. Mountain bikers frequent the trail and will come from above, so give a look and listen — and expect bikes to come in groups of two or more.


More climbing leads to a fork in the trail at the two-mile mark — head left around the bush to stay on track for Marlette. The trail narrows and heads slightly downhill, through bushes and under branches, before reaching a clearing a quarter-mile after the fork.


The final climb of the hike winds up through a rocky hillside shortly after the clearing. There’s a path on the left that goes through rocks and isn’t fully marked — veer left at the top of the hillside to pick the trail back up and begin the final stretch to the lake.


Initial views of Marlette Lake come from above two-and-a-half miles into the hike — and getting down to the lake is the last part of the adventure. The trail forces a left to begin the descent, which heads almost directly down a hillside until arrival at the lake.


After almost three miles, the hike merges with the Flume Trail and ends at the shore of Marlette Lake. Take in the dam as it collides with clear and greenish-hued water, then take a walk around the east shore of the lake.


Walking alongside Marlette Lake presents plenty of opportunities for pictures of its deep teal and green water surrounded by low-lying peaks dotted with trees. There aren’t too many areas to sit and enjoy a snack, but the shoreline comes closer while heading south on the mostly shaded dirt road.


Marlette Lake has served as a trout fishery since the late 1800s, and four species currently live in its depths — tui chub, brook, rainbow and Lahontan cutthroat — for catch-and-release fishing July 15 to Sept. 30. For more swimming-friendly terrain, continue around to the shores on the east side where a former brick fireplace sits alone.

When ready to head back, take the dirt road north to the dam and find the trail up the adjacent hillside. After a steep climb up the hillside, the downhill hike lends to a quick return trip — just be aware of mountain bikers now coming in the same direction.


Above hike was six miles round-trip, can be completed in two hours — not including time at the lake. Trail is mostly well-maintained singletrack with mix of sunny and shaded areas, with steep elevation gain throughout. Marlette Lake is also accessible from Spooner Lake and via the Flume Trail.

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