Family playground at Taylor Creek

Courtesy U.S. Forest Service

A trip to Taylor Creek makes for a fun introduction to Lake Tahoe for families with young children, but it’s also an enjoyable place to spend a few hours no matter how much time you have spent at the lake. While Taylor Creek is best known as the place to view the Kokanee salmon run in the fall (and the bears and raccoons that come to the creek to enjoy a salmon dinner), the summer is a good time to head to Taylor Creek, as well. The creek is gushing with snowmelt and the hiking trails are warm and snow free — unlike many of the trails at higher elevation.

The creek is gushing with snowmelt and the hiking trails are warm and snow free.

The place to begin any trip to this area is the Taylor Creek Visitor Center. Here you will find rangers who are happy to answer questions about Lake Tahoe, as well as a variety of nature and historical books and maps of the Tahoe region. The visitor center also provides opportunities for children in July and August to spend time with naturalists, including the junior ranger program and “Kids in the Creek,” which gives children the chance to get up close with squiggly creatures, such as tadpoles and snakes that hang out at the water’s edge.

Four trails fan out from the visitor center; all are nearly flat and easy.

Wild Tahoe Weekend!
June 24 & 25 | 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
Nature walks, wildlife talks & more | Taylor Creek Visitor Center


Courtesy U.S. Forest Service

Rainbow Trail
This half-mile trail takes you on boardwalk and path along the banks of Taylor Creek. You will find panels along the route providing interesting tidbits on the creek and Lake Tahoe. The trail is also home to the Stream Profile Chamber where visitors walk underground to a wall of glass that allows them to see the mountain stream from the bottom to the top. Be sure and come back to the chamber in the fall to catch the salmon run when you will see thousands of the bright red fish up close in the chamber.

Lake of the Sky Trail
This half-mile walk to the lake’s edge also brings you to Baldwin and Kiva beaches. Along the way, enjoy views of Taylor Marsh and Mount Tallac. Look for the cross of snow on the slopes of Tallac.

From the water’s edge, you can walk just above the sandy beach on a three-quarter-mile trail past the remains of Lucky Baldwin’s Tallac House and the Tallac Hotel. It also leads through the grounds of several historical homes, including Valhalla, which has been converted into a center for public events. Just a bit further is Camp Richardson Resort, where a host of amenities, including ice cream and the popular Beacon Bar and Grill, can be found. Return to the visitor center via the beach and Lake of the Sky Trail or a connector trail directly from the Tallac Historic Site to the visitor center.

Forest Tree Trail
This short trail focuses on providing information on Tahoe’s most ubiquitous tree. Be sure to stick your nose right into the bark to experience the butterscotch or vanilla smell of a Jeffrey pine.

Courtesy U.S. Forest Service

Smokey’s Trail
This short trail is designed to impart a lesson in campfire safety to children. After walking the trail and seeing Smokey’s instructions, kids can win a prize at the visitor center by successfully passing a campfire safety test.

In addition to the trails at Taylor Creek, a variety of evening programs are presented at the Lake of the Sky Amphitheater in July and August. This summer’s highlights include John C. Fremont and Mark Twain performances, Winged Flight at night, beavers in Taylor Creek and local historian David Antonucci sharing fascinating facts about Lake Tahoe.

Taylor Creek Visitor Center is located 1 mile north of Camp Richardson off State Route 89 in South Lake Tahoe. Parking and entrance to the grounds is free. The visitor center and Tallac Historic sites are operated by a public/private partnership between the U.S. Forest Service and the Tahoe Heritage Foundation, which supports preservation, restoration and education projects in the Tahoe Basin.

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Tim Hauserman
Tim wrote the official guidebook to the Tahoe Rim Trail, as well as “Monsters in the Woods: Backpacking with Children” and the children’s book “Gertrude’s Tahoe Adventures in Time.” Most of the year he writes on a variety of topics, but you will find him in the winter teaching cross-country skiing and running the Strider Gliders program at Tahoe Cross Country Ski Area. He has lived in Tahoe since he was a wee lad and loves to be outdoors road and mountain biking, hiking, paddleboarding, kayaking and cross-country skiing.