A Sierra Rec Magazine Adventure Guide –  Hiking to Marlette Lake

There are three main routes to get to Marlette Lake.

Marlette Lake – is Located on the East Side of Lake Tahoe adn sits at approx 7800′ in the Sierra Range betweeen Carson City and Lake Tahoe.
Marlette Lake is one of two natural lakes (the other is Incline Lake near the Tahoe Meadows) that were deepened via small dams in the late 1800s to increase their depth. Their water was them run along flumes to Tunnel Creek to send timber through the Carson Range to the Carson Valley and ultimately used to shore up the silver mines at Virginia City. Marlette Lake is now a government regulated fish hatchery (at the south end). Fishing is prohibited all but a couple weeks in the autumn.
The most common route is from Spooner Lake Recreational Area, as this is where the Flume trail bike trail begins, traveling by Marlette Lake before traveling through the North Lake Tahoe Region and down into Incline Village. This route is the longer route but is more gradual in ascent and well traveled.
For this adventure, however, we are exploring the less used route from Chimney Beach region up against the steep grade of the Sierra to Marlette Lake.


The parking area for this hike is located on the Mountain side of  NV28, the stretch between Incline Village and HWY 50. During the summer month’s this area isMarlette Lake from Chimney Beach Parking Map heavily trafficked with beachgoers parking along the road and hiking down to Chimney Beach. Parking is limited so arriving there early is recommended.  The Start of the Trail is behind the metal gate at the entrance of parking area. No Signage. (this is very common on this trail please be aware)

Trail Description:

This is a well-maintained trail that is accessible by hiking or mountain bike. There is nothing on the bottom that says no horses, but on top, it has a sign saying not recommended for horses. Mostly Deposed granite trail with some small boulders / Rocks embedded into the trail. This trail is a constant climb, if not steep climb most of the first 2 miles. This is a good butt workout even for the fit. This trail rewards you and the hard work with some spectacular views of Lake Tahoe during your hike.
Marlette Lake Trail
Lake Tahoe Views from marlette Lake Trail
In our opinion, the signage on this trail is severely lacking. And multiple different reviews online have misleading information. We hope the rest of this description helps clarify.

Finding Your way to Marlette Lake

If the workout alone was not enough this trail can get you a bit confused in two locations on how to best get to the lake.  Approximately two miles up this trail you will reach a split in the trail.  The main trail on most maps will take you to the right, and continue a gradual climb up and over the ridge over the next 1.7 miles then drop you into Marlette Lake on the South end with the same trail as the Spooner Summit group. At 1.7 miles there is indeed a little signage and you will be able to follow the trail down to the lake. It is approx .8 miles from here until you are at Lake Level and enjoying Marlette Lake.

The Left route at this split is found only on experienced trail hikes reviews. It will take you on a shorter .7 mile hike to the Northern Side of Marlette Lake and comes up right below the dam. At the split, this trail looks well used and just as good of a choice as the main route.  It even looks flatter for a bit after the split, but I believe it has a steeper ascent up to the lake at the end.  I see reviews of a steep climb towards the end of the trail  and also see that finding the trail on the way out is not easy to locate, speaking of  Looking left for descent route

” On your return you’ll need to be careful to get back on your track just below the dam. Keep looking left until you find a trail entrance a hundred feet or so of trail ascent.

I tell you this because I had seen this trail on a map before I left on this hike, but did not take it on the way in, expecting to find it on the way out to create a loop, and could not find the trail out and had to backtrack. But I have read enough solid reviews to tell you that this trail is here.

Why Visit Marlette Lake

Is the strenuous hike up to Marlette Lake worth it?  Absolutely. This high Alpine Lake is beautiful, the views of Snow Valley Peak and the Timber lined lake are incredible. Plus the swimming is quite enjoyable. This original Alpine Lake has been dammed to make it deeper, and until this report, I was unaware that the lake acts as a fish hatchery, which explains the amount of fish jumping in the lake we saw.  (Fishing is prohibited all but a couple weeks in the autumn.)

Marlette Lake and Snow Valley Peak Marlette Lake from south Edge Marlette Lake evening Shot


Marlette Lake is a great visit and tremendous workout.  By foot or bike, you will be greeted with great views, and the opportunity to see all types of wildlife, deer, bear, marmot, fish, birds and possibly Mountain Lion.  Choosing the Chimney Beach Route requires a little bit of endurance, extra water and snacks, and a bit more map skills to complete your hike safely.