No Monkey Business: One of My Favorite Lake Tahoe Trails

Today was one of those beautiful Tahoe days where being outdoors was a given. I decided to hike one of my favorite trails that I was first introduced to in x-country running in high school. We fondly referred to it as the “death hill,” for there was one area in particular where our coaches used to make us do hill repeats, over, and over, and over. I can’t run it the same way I used to in high school, but even a hike up it will still make you suck some serious wind. So, why would you do this for fun you ask? Because the views are amazing and you might just find a monkey in the woods.


Monkey Rock enjoying the view of Lake Tahoe.

Tunnel Creek Trail

Getting there: Park by the Tunnel Creek Café, located on the East end of Incline Village. Walk behind the Café and follow the paved road behind it that goes up and heads South. The paved road ends in a few hundred yards and gives way to a Forest Service gate. You will see a pretty casual sign for the trail head, and there’s usually a small trashcan there along with doggie poop bags.

From there, you are on a trail that will be flat … for a little bit. After a mile or so, you will come to a post where you are supposed to self-pay. It’s $1 for hikers and $2 for mountain bikers, so make sure to bring small bills.. Walk around the Forest Service gate and after a few hundred yards, you will pass the single track trail on the left that is the “death hill.” If you take the single track, it will meet back up with the main trail in a few more hundred yards, it is basically a really steep shortcut. If that’s your thing, go for it. At the top of the single track, go to the left and up to some rocks and you might just stumble upon Monkey Rock.

If you don’t take the shortcut, you will continue to go up until you reach a couple of wooden posts on the left side of the trail (a little over a quarter of a mile or so from the pay station). This is also where the single track meets up with the main trail. Follow the trail up and to the left. There you will find Mr. Monkey.

Over the years, an ear and some nostrils have been carved in him. Rumor has it that an Incline Village local was going through a really tough divorce and his outlet was hiking up to Monkey Rock. I guess he wanted to make a friend in the monkey by giving him a more distinct face. Who knows.

If you want to continue on the main trail, you can continue to go for miles and miles. Although the trail starts at lake level, by the time you get to about 2.5 miles the road was covered with snow and ice on this day, and I decided to turn around. In the summer, you can take the trail all the way to Twin Lakes or Marlette Lake, which is one of my absolute favorite spots around Tahoe. Maybe after things have thawed a bit…


View of Lake Tahoe from 1.5 miles up Tunnel Creek Trail.

That’s one of my favorite trails to enjoy, whether it is for hiking, running, or mountain biking. What is one of your favorite trails to get out on? Leave a comment or share on Twitter.


We found a snow cover trail about 2.5 miles up and decided to turn back down.

8 Comments on “No Monkey Business: One of My Favorite Lake Tahoe Trails

  1. Pingback: Snow and Sweet Potato Egg Nests | Sucking Wind

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  3. Emily your post was a godsend when my son said, “Hey let’s hike over to see the Monkey Rock today.” I don’t think we would have found him otherwise…your directions were absolutely on point, including the death hike shortcut we took!! 😀 Thank you!! Look forward to going back and checking more of your posts!! Just wanted to thank you for an incredible day, with an incredible view and fab pics with Mr. Monkey Rock!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Josette, I am so happy to hear that! It is a wonderful spot with great views. That makes me so excited you were able to spend the day with your son doing something special. 🙂 Take care!


  4. Pingback: Monkey Rock and Hidden Beach

  5. Thanks so much for the info on this great hike!!! It was a super fun adventure with my family. I will recommend to other!!!!!


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