Glen Alpine, one of Tahoe’s premier access points to the Desolation Wilderness, is a place of great beauty, majesty and solitude. No matter if you’re an out-of-state visitor, or a longtime local, Glen Alpine will quench your soul with babbling brooks, towering mountains, and a whisper of adventure that is yours to seek. From Emerald Bay Road/Hwy 89, head south on Fallen Leaf Road all the way around Fallen Leaf Lake until you reach the well marked trailhead. Along the way, there are many roads that split off, but stay straight, and you’ll hit the mark.
Regionally renowned for its’ exceptional access to the Desolation Wilderness area, Glen Alpine is popular among day-hikers, backpackers, and every other type of outdoor enthusiast imaginable. In particular, Glen Alpine can be used as a more moderate—if less direct—route up the rigorous and challenging Lake Tahoe icon—Mount Tallac. For this strenuous ascent, Glen Alpine offers the hiker a longer, but less steep climb.
For the casual day explorer, this trailhead also has two easily accessible waterfalls—one off the entrance road just before the trailhead, and another about a mile hike-in. Both of these features have wonderful low-water scrambling opportunities that afford the hiker an opportunity to climb in close-proximity to the cascades, creating a deeply intimate experience.
A short walk past the second waterfall, one comes to what was once the Glen Alpine Springs Resort. Established from a natural spring in 1884, the resort was one of the first of any in the Tahoe Basin, and in its’ heyday was highly sought out and frequented by wealthy tycoons and oligarchs. A mere shadow of its former self, the resort today is mostly in ruins, standing as a historical reminder that tourism in Tahoe was big business long before contemporary times. All that remains of the spring itself is a single pool that gently bubbles with the remnant of some forgotten geological energy.
Once past the ruins of the spring you can either veer off steeply towards Mt. Tallac, or continue the gentle but consistent grade upwards into the Deso. Wilderness where you’ll find soaring granite crags and dozens of pristine alpine lakes in which to swim and cool off in the hot summer months.
The road leading to Glen Alpine is closed during the colder snowy months. However, the road can still be accessed by foot if you are in the mood for a long, but worthwhile winter excursion. Also, permits are required, so plan and travel accordingly.