OverviewHerlan Peak (8,840) Nevada, in the Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park, is the largest escarpment immediately adjacent to Lake Tahoe. It is best known for the Flume Trail that traverses it’s western flank. This popular, and relatively flat mountain bike (and hiking) route features spectacular views of Tahoe. Located on the northeastern corner of the lake, the peak rises 2,600 above the lake. The best views are from an overlook about a quarter mile west of the peak where it seems you are looking straight down on the picturesque peninsula of Sand Harbor. Aside from some boldering, there isn’t much technical climbing on the peak. I’m guessing the west flank is a sandy class 3 scramble from Highway 28.
On the 4th of July this peak is a good place to sit and watch the numerous fireworks displays at the lake. Many of the Incline Village fireworks explode right in front of you at eye level. The sound from the South Shore displays takes more than a minute to arrive at the peak.
Water is not plentiful on the Tahoe Rim Trail ridgeline, so be sure to plan ahead. The closest potential water source to Herlan Peak is at Twin Lakes, but these shallow lakes are often dry or contain rather unattractive looking water. In late summer, streams marked on a map can also be dry.
Bears are a potential problem, but bear canisters are not required.
Getting ThereThere are primarily four routes leading to Herlan Peak. Although the peak itself is not particularly noteworthy, any of these routes feature some of the most outstanding alpine scenery in the Lake Tahoe area. Tunnel Creek Road from the west, The Flume Trail route and the Tahoe Rim trail route from the south, and the Tahoe Rim Trail from the North.
Tunnel Creek Road The quickest, most direct route up Herlan Peak is to take the Tunnel Creek Road route which makes the 2,600 foot climb in about 5.5 miles. It starts at lake level on Highway 28 near the Ponderosa Ranch which is the now-closed filming location for the classic/buffoonish 50’s and 60’s TV series Bonanza. After 3 miles of ascending on a dirt jeep road, turn right (south) at the pass on to the Tahoe Rim Trail. Hike past some shallow seasonal lakes and start ascending the northeast side of Herlan Peak. About 2 miles from the pass a short steep side trail to the right (west) takes you to Herlan’s summit. Take a quarter mile descent to the west for the best views.
The Flume Trail Every mountain bike gear-head in the US has heard of the Flume Ride. This great ride begins at the Spooner Lake day use area in the Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park. There are signs leading you to the Flume Trail from this parking area via the North Canyon Road. The first 2.8 miles of the dirt road starts out at 7,000 feet on a gentle climb through beautiful aspen groves, then gets steeper in the last half mile before reaching the pass at 8,175. A 1-mile descent leads to Marlette Lake (7,823) a man-made reservoir that features beautiful colors in the spring and fall. A mile and a half of riding on the dirt road along the western shore leads to the beginning of the Flume Trail.
The Flume Trail follows the bed of an old wooden flume that carried water north from Marlette Lake to Tunnel Creek, where the water was sent eastward via a tunnel under the mountain to an aqueduct supplying a reservoir near Virginia City. The 4.5-mile trail traverses the steep western slope of Herlan Peak about 1,500 feet above Lake Tahoe. The trail is flat, sandy in places and mostly 10 to 20 feet wide. The views are great and the steep dropoffs to the west add some nerve-racking excitement. The flume trail ends on the Tunnel Creek dirt road about half a mile from the Tahoe Rim trail. Follow the Tunnel Creek Road route to the summit. Total length is about 12.5 miles.
Tahoe Rim Trail from Spooner Lake A slightly shorter (but also very scenic) alternative to the Flume Trail Route from the Spooner Lake area is to take the Tahoe Rim Trail the entire distance (9 miles, net climb1,600 feet). Park at the TRT trailhead on Highway 50 about 1 mile east of the junction with Highway 28. The TRT route generally parallels the Flume Trail route about 1,000 feet higher on the ridgeline dividing the Tahoe Basin from the Great Basin. At 5.5 miles a short side trail to the east climbs to Snow Valley Peak (9,214). 3.6 miles further a short side trail heads up Marlette Peak (8,780). Two miles beyond this junction is the short side trail heading west to the Herlan’s summit. Bikes are not permitted on the first 5.5 miles of this route.
Tahoe Rim Trail from Tahoe Meadows This 12 mile route requires the least ascending to reach Herlan Peak, but is not flat by any means. It starts at the Tahoe Meadows trailhead (8,740) on Highway 431 (Mt. Rose Highway) just over 7 miles east from it’s junction with Highway 28. Heading south on the TRT, this route roughly follows the very scenic ridgeline dividing the Tahoe Basin from the Great Basin for 9.2 miles before meeting Tunnel Creek Road. Continue across the road and ascend for about 2 miles where a short steep side trail to the right (west) takes you to Herlan’s summit.
Red TapeCamping (A bit confusing. Please clarify if you have better information) The Nevada State Park website indicates that there is “primitive walk-in camping allowed in the park” but that there is “no camping at or in the Marlette Lake Basin” Strictly speaking this includes only areas south and primarily west of the peak. Even though much of the northern half of the TRT route between Spooner Lake and Tahoe Meadows is in the Toiyabe National Forest where dispersed camping is permitted, the Tahoe Rim Trail Guide says that camping along the TRT on this stretch is restricted to two campgrounds: the Marlette Campground on the TRT near Marlette Peak, and the North Canyon Campground on the North Canyon Road, about 2 miles south of Marlette Lake.
Bikes are allowed only on even days on the nine miles of the TRT from Tahoe Meadows to Tunnel Creek Road. No bikes are allowed on the 5.5 mile section of the TRT between Highway 50 and Snow Valley Peak.
Permits are not required for any of the trailheads. A campfire permit is required if planning to make a campfire in the Toyabe National Forest
There is a $6.00 parking fee at the day use area at Spooner Lake.