Sunday, April 28, 2013

Best Hikes In Tahoe - Angora Ridge Lookout

Angora Ridge Lookout (South Shore)
Category - Easy
View Rating: 10 out of 10 once you get to the lookout, 5 out of 10 on the way up
3.5 mile round trip to the Fire Lookout, 500 feet elevation gain
5.5 mile round trip to Upper Angora Lake, 800 feet elevation gain

Within the Lake Tahoe Basin are hundreds of fantastic hikes. Many are well-documented classics, like those around Emerald Bay or up on the Tahoe Rim Trail.
On this blog, I will periodically mention some hikes, but I'll often focus on those that are less well-known and not in all the guide books. These hikes will still have something substantial to recommend them, whether views or solitude or bird-watching or beach-picnicking.
With recent temperatures in the 60s combined with a low snow year, many great trails have already opened a month earlier than normal. One is Angora Ridge Road. Hiking up Angora Ridge is not like a charming, single-track, wilderness trek, but most of those are still buried in snow for another month or two.
Plug “Angora Ridge Road, South Lake Tahoe” into Google Maps, and you'll find your access between Fallen Leaf Road and Tahoe Mountain Road.
The beginning of this road is at a Forest Service Gate. Yes, when the gate is open, you can drive the one-lane, mostly-paved route, but why? Walking is the key to smelling the piney forest, hearing the birds, getting blood to your brain and heart.
What recommends this hike is that it is an easy access to a fantastic lunch spot at the old Angora Fire Lookout, and the views are spectacular. It is also a great hike for groups who would like to do a “Walk-and-Talk,” because it is a relatively wide thoroughfare compared to most single-track hikes. Instead of being spread out single file, only able to talk easily at a lunch spot, Angora Ridge Road is the perfect venue for a group of four or more who want to get some exercise instead of just sitting on someone's deck.
Mountain Biker going through one of the last snow patches on Angora Ridge Road

Yes, you will have to move aside for the occasional vehicle crawling up to Angora Lakes Resort, but if you avoid going on the weekends, the vehicle count is minor inconvenience.
The road climbs at a gentle-enough angle that even people who avoid hiking because they feel it is too much work may find it agreeable.

At first, the road sits in a cleft on Angora Ridge. After a mile, it begins to rise up enough that Mt. Tallac pokes up above the ridge on your right. 

Mt. Tallac appearing on your right as you walk up Angora Ridge

Then the road pops out on the top of the ridge at 7200 feet and all of Tahoe Valley appears below you on your left (including the 2007 Angora Fire burn area which came up to the top of the ridge you are walking on but did not cross over and go down the other side).

Steven's Peak at the end of Christmas Valley with the Angora Fire burn in the foreground:

To the east is the Country Club Golf Course on Highway 50:

The old fire lookout buildings will be on your right. Just a few feet from the fire lookout is a bench and an information plaque. From the bench area you will have jaw-dropping views of Fallen Leaf Lake 800 feet below you with Lake Tahoe in the distance:

Fallen Leaf on lower left, Tahoe in the background, snow on Mt Rose 30 miles to the north

 I know... a writer should know better than to use cliches like jaw-dropping, but my jaw drops every time I visit, so there you go.

 Mt. Tallac looming 2500 feet above you:

The 10,000-foot Crystal Range up Glen Alpine Valley:

Here's a close-up of Pyramid Peak:
Lots of spring corn snow for back-country skiers and boarders

Fallen Leaf Lake 800 feet below with Stanford Camp on the distant shore:

If you like, you can hike another mile to the family-run Angora LakesResort

Upper Angora Lakes/ Angora Lakes Resort

They have 9 cute little cabins on Upper Angora Lake (there are two lakes – hike on past the lower one) that are all booked months and even years in advance. Rumor has it that they are already booked solid for this coming season. They serve lunch sandwiches and lemonade starting in June, and you can sit at the upper lake and watch the kids jumping off the cliffs into the water at the far side of the lake.

Whether you go all the way up to Upper Angora Lake or stop at the Fire Lookout, Angora Ridge is one of the easiest hikes close to South Lake Tahoe, and it has great views.

UPDATE: 10-4-14

Signs that say "No Parking Any Time" have just appeared near the entrance to Angora Ridge Road. I have no idea why other than to suppose that the hike has gotten too popular and many cars are now parking at the side of the narrow road (could this blog be that influential?). Perhaps someone didn't get their vehicle far enough off the road and the authorities decided it was a public safety hazard if there wasn't enough clearance for fire trucks and such. Of course, I am disappointed. However, parking on public roads is legal where not marked as prohibited, so I recommend arriving a bit earlier and parking above the signs in the Angora Highlands neighborhood. From the Angora Ridge Road gate, go up toward the Angora Highlands houses on the narrow road (which is still called Tahoe Mountain Road). You will come to an area where the asphalt widens. This area is before the first houses and above the highest No Parking sign. You can park off to the side and not obstruck traffic or bother any of the homeowners. 
You could also park down by Fallen Leaf Lake Road if you like, although that would be farther from the gate. Consider the extra minute of walking as bonus exercise! When you get to the view up at the old fire lookout, you will think it was worth it.


  1. Ahhhhhh GREAT post!!! We stay in Tahoe Keys so those hikes are very close to us. Deinitly doing the Angora hike this year, with picnic:) Keep the Tahoe tips coming, you are our expert!
    PS When is new book title coming out???

    1. Glad you enjoyed the hiking post! There will be more in the future. As for the next book, stay tuned for an announcement in the next few weeks...