Tahoe and Vicinity September 1, 2023

The Lakes of Lake Tahoe — Part I

Lake Tahoe is so spectacular that it captures everyone’s attention, leaving little thought about other lakes that are close by. In our Sierra Nevada mountains, a small, charming lake is the rule, not the exception. A glance at a map of the Tahoe area reveals a surprising number of not quite hidden, easily visited lakes.

Fallen Leaf Lake

Fallen Leaf Lake was formed by glacial activity. Experts say that 2 glaciers moved down Glen Alpine Valley, finally stopping 1 mile short of Lake Tahoe. If a terminal moraine had not formed halting the glaciers’ forward momentum, Lake Tahoe would have 2 bays — Emerald and Fallen Leaf.  We can still see nature’s stop sign. The terminal moraine is visible at the northeastern edge of the north end of Fallen Leaf Lake.

The 2 mile long Fallen Leaf Lake offers boat rentals, trails for strolls, or more strenuous hikes, a waterfall, a campground, and the opportunity to take a dip in its deep, welcoming water.  After hikes or swims or boating, the Fallen Leaf Store by the marina offers food, along with good views to replenish body and soul.

Angora Lakes

About 1,200 feet above Lake Tahoe, Angora Lakes consist of 2 natural alpine lakes. The lakes were named for the Angora goats that often grazed in the area.

Nathan Gilmore, developer of 1880s Glen Alpine Springs Resort, and Secretary of the Pacific Coast chapter of the Angora Goat Breeders Association, often brought his herd to the lakes for grazing. For Mr. Gilmore and his goats, plenty of food meant plenty of mohair.

The more modern Angora Lakes Resort, built in the 1920s, is at the upper lake. There is a snack bar serving sandwiches, as well as world famous lemonade, and ice cream — along with great views. Rowboat, kayaks and paddle boards are available to rent.

For visitor’s entertainment, a cliff face at the upper lake serves as a jumping platform for the brave. The highest ledge is about 60 feet above the water, and during the summer season many jumpers try it out.

The road to the Angora Lakes lower fee based parking lot is open from May 1 to October 1. The lot usually fills up early, and parking along Angora Ridge road is restricted. From the parking lot, it’s about a mile hike to the lakes.

Spooner Lake

Part of the Nevada State Park system, this little lake is conveniently located at the junction of highways 50 and 28. Parking is fee based.  A new visitor center, along with a new amphitheater, provides information as well as programs. The park gives access to over 60 miles of trails for non-motorized use.

The 2-mile trail around Spooner Lake is mostly flat, and easy enough for almost all. The popular 5 mile trail to Marlette Lake can be accessed at the north end of Spooner Lake.

Marlette Lake is not a natural alpine lake, but was created as part of a water system to supply, literally, millions of gallons Sierra water to Virginia City and the Comstock Lode — but that’s another story for another blog.