Growing up in the Bay Area, excursions to Tahoe have been a mainstay of my childhood, teenagerhood, and now adulthood (scary). Tahoe is one of those places that has something for everyone and it has it year round, from skiing and snowboarding, to ice skating, boating, spa days, hiking, paddle boarding, balloon rides, etc etc etc. It truly is a wonderful place for people of all ages and is only a 3-4 hour drive from the Bay Area, so naturally, I try to get up there regularly.
On this most recent trip, besides beach side lounging, swimming, and barbecuing, I wanted to try out a new hike. There are thousands of hikes in Tahoe and pretty much all of them have incredible scenery. This time around, I was with my parents and a close friend, so we wanted a hike that wasn't overly long or too strenuous, but had views. I've always loved Emerald Bay with its glassy waters and unique elongated shape, but have always felt the "viewpoint" doesn't do it justice. With that in mind, I did a little research and found dozens of hikes generating in that area. One hike that seemed to be about the right length and have the variety we were looking for was the Maggies Peaks hike, beginning at the Bayview trailhead/campsite, conveniently located right across the street from the Emerald Bay Viewpoint.
This trail ventures into Desolation Wilderness, so technically, even if you're day hiking you're supposed to fill out a permit at the main map in the campsite, but we sort of missed that part and just trekked on without filling one out (sorry rangers). The trail begins in a wooded area with switchbacks up the slope - I was actually surprised how quickly we got winded (perhaps altitude or the heat or I'm just out of shape...) The path continued along this way for some time before it opened up to an area with large granite boulders and super bright green shrubs (see above) - I noticed the green color because due to California's drought, the pine trees and overall vegetation in Tahoe was seeming SUPER dry. From these boulders we had our first true vista of Emerald Bay, and yea, it was way better than the Viewpoint. Sadly, it was sort of a hazy smokey day due to all the fires in the surrounding areas, but I can imagine on a clear day much more of the lake would be visible and it could be pretty epic...
The trail continues up for another mile or so, meandering upwards through the trees and rocks until you come upon Granite Lake, a cute little lake ringed with trees and some boulders. In the summer heat, it's the perfect place to take a little dip or in my case, make your mom serve as a scale figure.
From here you can continue on a pretty steep last stretch to the "saddle," climbing through rocks and low shrubbery and along granite walls. At the saddle the ground levels out and is covered in large boulders and gnarled trees (see below). Over one edge you can see a valley and mountain pretty much completely of granite with some small lakes and over the other edge you can see the lake. This is the perfect place to have lunch under a shady tree.
From the Saddle, you can either call it a day and head back down the trail or you can summit either one of Maggies Peaks. Fair warning, however, from here there is no true defined trail so you are sort of on your own. Perhaps on a clearer day I would have summitted one of the peaks, but on this particular day I was thinking about taking a dip in the lake and having a glass of wine. On the descent, there are some really lovely views of the smaller lakes in the area (Granite Lake, Cascade Lake, etc) and the Big Lake aka Lake Tahoe (see below).
I was a little shocked when we got back down to that first "wow" viewpoint of Emerald Bay to see the number of boats. I know it's summer and all, but haven't people gone back to school at this point? Anyway, you can see my late morning shot and my early afternoon shot to see what I'm talking about below.
Within the same area, there are lots of offshoot trails and other hikes you can do. Some good ones include Cascade Lake, Eagle Falls, Eagle Lake, etc. Lower down closer to the lake the DL Bliss hikes are also great options with some easier ones for young kids. Happy Hiking!