Lakes to explore beyond Lake Tahoe to the north, east

Martis Creek Lake. | Katherine Hill.

Sitting by an alpine lake surrounded by a thick pine forest or finding a lake amid a vast field of sage brush with mountain peaks in the distance is the perfect place to contemplate the meaning of life or enjoy a good laugh with friends or family.

Exploring lakes that aren’t Lake Tahoe, we look to the north and east of Big Blue (and a few more in Truckee). These lakes provide solace to dip your toes in cool water, catch a fish or sit by the shore and enjoy a picnic.

East Shore

Spooner & Marlette Lakes
Spooner Lake, situated along Lake Tahoe’s eastern edge, is a manmade reservoir and a popular recreation area that is part of the Lake Tahoe Nevada State Parks. Spooner Lake is a beautiful mountain lake. It provides a perfect place to picnic, hike, bike, watch birds or catch a fish. The Spooner Lake Trail is a 2.5-mile loop that skirts around Spooner Lake. From Spooner Lake trailhead, one can hike to nearby Marlette Lake, which is about a five-mile hike or ride (one way).

Marlette is at an elevation of 8,200 feet, where wildflowers and wildlife abound. Picnic, fish or relax by the water. The last time I hiked out here, I saw beavers swimming around. |,

Hobart Reservoir
Thirteen miles from Spooner Lake is Hobart Reservoir, situated on the eastern side of the Carson Range. It sits at an elevation of 7,650 ft. and is the perfect place for nature lovers and fishing enthusiasts.

To access Hobart Reservoir, you must drive down to Washoe Valley, park in the Ash Canyon parking area on the reservoir’s south end and hike in about half a mile.

Read Parts I & II on the lakes of Truckee & South Shore at

Looking for a longer hike? There is a 10 mile out-and-back hike that is considered moderate to strenuous depending on fitness level. The first few miles are uphill. The trail offers excellent views of Washoe Valley. The trailhead is at the end of Hobart Road in Lakeview Estates (at the south end of Washoe Valley). Park along the street before the “Horse Trailers Only” parking area. |

North Shore

Watson Lake
Watson Lake is a marshy lake that offers a quiet place to relax, sit for a picnic and enjoy the peace. Limited camping is also available.

Take in the beautiful views, wildflowers and wildlife, but please don’t feed the squirrels, which are rampant.

There are a few ways to get to the lake. From Highway 267, off Brockway Summit, hike in 3.9 miles roundtrip on the Tahoe Rim Trail. This hike can be accessed at the Brockway Trailhead, about 0.5 miles south of Brockway Summit.

Watson Lake can also be accessed from Northstar Ski Resort. Start at the top of the Tahoe Zephyr Chair Lift and follow the signs south to Triumph Road. Stay on Triumph Road for about 2 miles toward Watson Lake. When you hit the Fibreboard Freeway, take a right and then take the first left onto the Tahoe Rim Trail. Follow the Tahoe Rim Trail until you reach Watson Lake. This out and back hike is about 5.5 miles.

Want it easy? Take Highway 267 and turn onto the Fibreboard Freeway. Take the 16N50, which goes to the lake. The Fibreboard is paved but 16N50 is a dirt road okay for trucks and SUVs. Otherwise, park at the junction and walk about 0.75 miles to the lake. |

These lakes provide solace to dip your toes in cool water, catch a fish or sit by the shore and enjoy a picnic.


Sawmill Lake
Sawmill Lake is a private, 10-acre reservoir stocked with hundreds of rainbow trout in the heart of Northstar Ski Resort that is also a pretty hike. It offers catch-and-release fly fishing. Sawmill Lake is perfect for guided float tubing or walking along the shoreline. Fishing at Sawmill Lake is limited and requires reservations.

The hike, which is open to everyone, is a 2.1-mile roundtrip that starts from the Lodge at Big Springs at mid-mountain. |

Martis Creek Lake
Martis Creek Lake is lovely for fishing, nature gazing and general beauty in Truckee. Katherine Hill, Tahoe Guide publisher, and I took a walk there recently. The lake is lovely to sit by and take in the view. Enjoy a picnic, catch a fish or enjoy the campground. Bald Eagles hunting for fish are known to frequent the reservoir.

The area is also part of the Waddle Ranch Preserve, an area conserved by the Truckee Donner Land Trust and there are plenty of trails to explore. The higher you hike, the better the view.

Access Martis Creek Dam Road from Highway 267 where you can drive down to the lake or park at the lot before the gate to cross the dam and access the trails in Waddle Ranch. |,