However, the physical exertion is well worth the beautiful views of Emerald Bay and Lake Tahoe. Additionally, Granite Lake provides the perfect resting spot in your quest to the summit of Maggie’s Peaks. This lake is a little bowl of mountain water sweetly tucked beneath the looming Maggie’s Peak and makes for a great picnic, resting spot or final destination.
Take Highway 89 north about 8 miles to the Bayview Trailhead. It’s located across the highway from Inspiration Point. If you are coming up Highway 50 from Sacramento, you will stay straight at the stoplight (the “Y”) instead of making a right that takes you toward Stateline. The trailhead is on the left side of Highway 89.
The trailhead has a $5 parking fee. It also has the following amenities:
- Trail Map Display
- Desolation Wilderness Permits
If you prefer not to pay the $5, then you can park in the limited number of parking spots outside the trailhead along Highway 89. You can also head up Highway 89 further toward Eagle Falls trailhead and find limited parking spots along the highway.
- Bring proper clothing
- Fill out Desolation Wilderness Permit
- Bring plenty of water and snacks
- Bring camera
- Bring sunscreen if needed
- Bring bug spray if needed
- Bring a trail map if heading further into Desolation Wilderness
- Try to go on weekday if possible
Check out more of my Desolation Wilderness adventures.
The Bayview Trail provides two opportunities to enjoy the West shore of the Lake Tahoe Basin. The left trail (Cascade) takes you .75 miles to the 200 foot Cascade Falls and the right trail (Desolation) takes you up to Granite Lake, Maggie’s Peaks and further into Desolation Wilderness. For this article, we are focusing on the trail up to Maggie’s Peaks which means you select the path toward Desolation.
This trail quickly puts your stamina to the test. Within the first moments on the trail you quickly begin hiking uphill. The steep climb lasts for almost the entire hike to Granite Lake which is about 1 mile from the trailhead.
The first half mile is filled with switchbacks up the ridge and through pine and fir trees. Although the fresh air and pine scent are pleasing to the soul, the steepness crushes all enjoyment of both.
There is a much needed resting spot after the first half mile when you come out into an opening with giant boulders.
This portion of the trail provides the best views of Emerald Bay perhaps anywhere along Lake Tahoe. I suggest taking some time to enjoy these views and catch your breath.
Once you catch your second wind, it’s about another half mile of steepness to Granite Lake. Fortunately, the steepness on this portion of the hike isn’t as difficult compared to the first half mile. The trail passes a little creek that flows from Granite Lake and continues to weave you through the trees until you eventually reach Granite Lake. At this point, you have climbed nearly 900 feet in elevation.
Granite Lake is best visited in the summertime because it’s a great spot for cooling off after the challenging hike and it’s a great spot for sunbathing. If you go in the spring time, there are still patches of snow that will add to the overall splendor of this alpine lake. However, this also means there will be snow heading up to Maggie’s Peak which could make the hike even more difficult. Ideally, the best time to do this hike is after most of the snow has melted.
I went on a Thursday morning in spring and was treated to a snow covered peak that made the hike even more challenging because it was hard to stay on the trail heading up to the saddle of Maggie’s Peaks. From Granite Lake to the summit of South Maggie’s Peak is roughly another 1000 feet in elevation and just under another mile of hiking. Additionally, most of this portion of the trail is done in the open without much coverage.
You will continue with more switchbacks that really test your limits of zig zagging your way up a mountain. As the trail steepens even more, you begin to ascend up to the saddle. I lost the trail a few times during this ascension due to the snow. But, using the peaks as reference points, I was still able to head up to the ridge between both of Maggie’s Peaks. When I wasn’t stomping through the snow, I was dealing with loose rock and climbing larger rocks. It definitely added more strain to the hike. Some people still refer to this section as the saddle, and some as the ridge. Whatever you want to call it, this is the section of land that’s roughly 8,000 feet in elevation and spans between both of Maggie’s Peaks.
Once on the ridge, the views of Desolation Wilderness to the west are spectacular. In fact, they are a bit overwhelming at first. The views of Lake Tahoe to the east are almost as impressive. To the north is North Maggie’s Peak with Eagle Lake below it. To the south is South Maggie’s Peak and it’s the taller of the two peaks.
Heading toward South Maggie’s Peak is still roughly 700 feet more in elevation. There was also a great deal of snow up here; which is why I suggest waiting until the summertime to hike up to the peak. On the ridge prior to heading up to the summit of South Maggie’s Peak, are some giant rocks that provide shelter from the weather and remnants of grinding holes used by the Native American tribes that used to live in these lands. This is where I stopped to rest for a bit, recharge my batteries and get something to eat.
The final push to the Peak was tough. All the energy spent getting up to this point and then pushing through the snow made for a near-maximum effort. But, it was all worth it. The views of the western shore of Tahoe were breathtaking.
Now, I decided that I wasn’t going to go back down the same way I came up, especially since I had lost the trail due to snow. So, my brilliant idea was to slide and scurry my way down Maggie’s Peak toward Granite lake. I figured that I would eventually see the trail as I got closer to the lake. I must admit, despite the fact that this cut off a lot of time, it was definitely more risky and something I wouldn’t recommend to others unless they had previous experience.
The snow was packed solid most of the way down. It was like the ultimate sledding experience only without a sled. At one point, I did sink in the snow all the way up to my hips. This was both hilarious and slightly concerning. Thankfully, my hiking partner was with me in case I couldn’t wiggle free. Once I was free, I slid back down the mountain.
As I got closer to Granite Lake, I could see there was a drop off of at least a few hundred feet to the water. This is when I started making my way back toward the trail. It wasn’t hard to pick up the trail at this point since there was less snow. Once again, I don’t recommend that you take this course down.
Heading back along the lake, you get more of an appreciation for how nice it really is. My plan for tackling the last mile filled with switchbacks was to just cut straight across the switchbacks and down the hillside. So, I went off trail and straight down through the switchbacks which basically cut in half the time it took to head up in the first place.
If you aren’t accustomed to going off trail, then I don’t suggest it. Go at your own pace and be safe. Hiking isn’t meant to hurt yourself, it’s to enjoy the beautiful outdoors.
This entire hike took about 7 to 8 hours and was roughly 3.5 miles roundtrip from the trailhead to South Maggie’s Peak. That distance might not seem too far, but it’s all up a mountain and back down. You really feel the near 2,000 foot elevation gain. If you have never hiked in that high of elevation before, I suggest only going to Granite Lake and saving the rest of the hike up to Maggie’s Peak until you are more accustomed with hiking in higher elevation.
This is an intermediate to advanced hike due to the difficulty, elevation change and weather. I suggest only going to Granite Lake if you are a novice. Additionally, make sure you have a hiking partner on this one. The strenuous adventure is well worth the views of Lake Tahoe’s western shore. If you make it to the top of Maggie’s Peak, you will be rewarded with spectacular views of Lake Tahoe, Emerald Bay, Granite Lake, Cascade Lake and Desolation Wilderness.
Check out more of my Lake Tahoe adventures.