Below are some of my favorite hikes in the Sierras that I feel obliged to share because they are amazing in so many ways. Before embarking on any of these adventures, take a picture of the map and for safety reasons and let friends and family know where you are planning on hiking. Be sure to wear shoes with good ankle support, take plenty of water and snacks, and most importantly, leave the area cleaner than you found it.
The close proximity of this hike to Sacramento allowed me to visit it four times this past summer. It's stunning to say the least, has an easy to follow trail, and its incline allows for a great workout. The hike is located off Highway 50 just 5.5 miles past Strawberry Lodge, if you're headed east from Sacramento. A parking lot will be visible from the freeway on the left. This hike is easy to navigate as it follows the stream from the waterfall and is marked with many cairns (stacked rocks). The most liberally flowing part of the falls provides a great place to stop for lunch with incredible views. Experienced hikers may choose to continue up to the crest of the falls where they will then reach Avalanche Lake. For this hike I'd recommend shoes with good ankle support as it's steep with loose rocks and gravel. This hike is also much more enjoyable during the early summer months when the snow is freshly melted and the waterfall is in its raging prime. However, I have chosen to list it because the falls are still flowing fully into late summer/early fall.
Maggie's peaks surely provide some of the most impressive views in Lake Tahoe. The hike is located across from Inspiration Point on Emerald Bay Road. Enter through the Bayview campground and drive to the very end where parking is allowed specifically for hikers at the base of the trail. The map provided at the entrance isn't very clear, but knowing where to start is the key. The sign at the base of the trail will direct hikers to the left for "Cascade Falls" and to the right for "Desolation." Go to the right towards Desolation wilderness. This hike is challenging on the way up as it reaches an altitude of 8,699 feet. The hike passes through Granite Lake, a beautiful location to stop and have a break. At the ridge, we headed for the south peak (Maggie's peak also has the north peak) signaled by an arrow made from loose rocks directing hikers to the barely visible trail towards the top. The top is breathtaking where a panoramic view of Granite Lake, Cascade Lake, Fallen Leaf Lake, and Lake Tahoe awaits. The way down is a total cakewalk and quite enjoyable. The astonishing views of so much water and mountains provided by Mother Nature would be amazing on any given day, but I would recommend trying to go on a clear day as it was beyond perfect for us.
Donner Abandoned Train Tunnels
This is hands down one of the most unique hikes I have ever been on. If you're from California and remember anything from fourth grade history class, you may recall this is the region where the Donner Party spent a horrific winter in which pioneers had to resort to cannibalism for survival. This very specific region of the Donner Pass is home to the railroad tunnels built by Chinese laborers just a few decades later. These tunnels were built by hand and with the use of dynamites in harsh conditions and rough terrain causing many casualties. Brushing up on your history (or even visiting the railroad museum in Sacramento) beforehand will make the hike that much more interesting. If you're coming from 80 East, take exit 174 towards Soda Springs then make a right onto Donner Pass Road. Just after McGlashan Point there will be an area on the right to park with a clear view of Donner Lake. From here the tunnels will be visible and the way up to them is rather short. After the ascent up, the tunnels provide an easy, flat hike. The tunnels were much cooler than the outside temperature that day so if it's not too hot, a jacket would be useful. Parts of the tunnels are also very dark with large puddles so I would recommend everyone bring a flashlight and shoes you don't mind getting wet. The art inside the tunnels is tasteful and truly intriguing. There are also many openings throughout the tunnels to weave in and out of that boast exceptional views of the Sierras and Donner lake.
Eagle falls is a great, easy hike with instant rewards of amazing, picturesque views of waterfalls and Emerald Bay. This is another Tahoe hike with a fall that continues to flow generously late into the year. Pictured above is the Vikingsholm lookout on the left and with the lower falls visible on the right. Although there are many parking lots, the hardest part of this hike will most likely be parking due to its popularity. I recommend getting there as early as possible. I normally try and get the most out of this hike by doing the upper falls, checking out the lower and then heading to the Vikingsholm parking lot for the view of Emerald Bay and walking down to the lake for a more level view of the island.