There are several big draws to this moderate hiking trail located near Tahoma on Tahoe’s North Shore. For one thing, a staircase of Instagram-worthy stone steps offers a steep ascent to flowing waterfalls before a fork in the road leads to a (cold) alpine lake. (At the fork, veer right to reach the lake.) The Eagle Lake Trail is most accessible from May to September, with warm summer days the best—but busiest—times to visit, when a chilly dip in the lake won’t feel too cold to handle. But early-morning visits are best for avoiding crowds. Despite its moderate rating, it is a decent hike for families with children. Hikers will need a wilderness pass, which is obtainable at the trailhead for $5.
The payoffs come fast on this hike, which is great for young, impatient hikers. After about five minutes of climbing the stairs, you’re at the waterfall. Then it’s another half-mile or so uphill to the lake. On the way back down, choose to follow your footsteps the way you came or cross the high bridge and walk down to Emerald Bay.
Visit a Castle
Not far from Eagle Lake Trail is Vikingsholm Trail. The 1.7-mile heavily trafficked out-and-back trail is easy to moderate, featuring a downhill trek that ends lakeside with picnic tables and the secluded Vikingsholm Castle, which you can tour before heading out the way you came.