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RECREATION INFORMATION

Taylor Creek Visitor Center is seasonally operated from May to October, though exact dates may vary by year. While parking lots and buildings are closed during the winter months, visitors may still access the grounds for recreational activities.

TAYLOR CREEK VISITOR CENTER IS CLOSED FOR THE WINTER.

TRAILS

Taylor Creek’s trails are all fairly flat and easy. Due to sandy soils, some are difficult for biking. For longer and more adventurous routes, Visitor Center staff can help guide you to nearby destinations, such as Desolation Wilderness or the Tahoe Rim Trail. (No pack or motorized use permitted at Taylor Creek.)

Rainbow Trail

0.5 miles, roundtrip

Paved/boardwalks through the Taylor Creek Marsh; interpretative. *No bikes.

Smokey's Trail

200 yards, roundtrip

Short interpretative trail for kids and families. *No bikes.

Lake of the Sky Trail

1 mile, roundtrip

Shaded, interpretative walk to Lake Tahoe and Kiva Beach

Lakeshore Trail

Approx. 1 mile, one way

Extends along the shore from Kiva Beach to Camp Richardson

South Lake Tahoe
Bike Path

9+ miles, one way, flat

The paved bike path winds through SLT neighborhoods to Baldwin Beach.

Tallac Historic Site Trail

0.5 miles, one way

Diagonal path through the forest; a short-cut to the Tallac Historic Site.

Forest Tree Trail

200 yards, roundtrip

Short interpretative walk of the Jeffrey pine life cycle. *No bikes.

BIKING

The Taylor Creek Visitor Center is bike-friendly and is accessible from the South Lake Tahoe Bike Path. Several outfitters rent bikes along Highway 89.

Bike use is not permitted on the Rainbow Trail.

BEACHES

Three public beaches are located nearby Taylor Creek. Visitors can walk or bike to all three from the Visitor Center.

Baldwin Beach

1.5 miles

Entry free for vehicles, pedestrians and bikers are free. Bathrooms and trash cans available, minimal shade. No dogs.

Kiva Beach

0.5 miles

Free beach with portable restrooms. Dogs are permitted on leash. Non-motorized watercraft use is allowed.

Visitors and their pets should not enter the Taylor Creek marsh, as this is a fragile and protected watershed area. No fires are permitted on any Lake Tahoe beaches.

Pope Beach

1.6 miles

Entry fee for vehicles, pedestrians and bikers may enter for free. Bathrooms, concessions, and watercraft rentals. No dogs.

Baldwin Beach fall foliage at Taylor Creek

DESOLATION WILDERNESS

Established in 1969, the Desolation Wilderness encompasses roughly 64,000 acres of mountainous terrain. Many backpacking routes traverse this region, with sections of the PCT and Tahoe Rim Trail being the most well-known. Before embarking on an overnight trip, it is important to understand wilderness regulations:

PERMIT INFO

All overnight trips must have a permit. Permits can be purchased online at Recreation.gov. A limited number of permits are available at the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit’s Supervisors Office (530-543-2600), or through the Eldorado National Forest. 

*At this time, NO PERMITS are available for purchase at the Taylor Creek Visitor Center. In addition, Visitor Center staff cannot print a pre-purchased permit on your behalf. 

CAMPFIRE PERMIT

NO CAMPFIRES are permitted in the Desolation Wilderness. However, portable propane stoves are allowed for cooking. To use a camp stove in wilderness, visitors must obtain a free, CA Campfire Permit

BEAR CANISTERS

All overnight backpackers must carry a bear canister. Canisters may be rented and returned to the Taylor Creek Visitor Center.

2023 Usage Fees: $5 for 1-3 days; $10 for 4-7 days; $15 for 7+ days

PICNICKING

Visitors may use the established picnic area, the Lake of the Sky Amphitheater, or the visitor center patio for picnicking. Large groups are best accommodated at the amphitheater.

WATER ACTIVITIES

Visitors can swim, kayak, stand up paddle board, or use other non-motorized watercraft at Kiva Beach. Learn more about water recreation and routes from Lake Tahoe Water Trail!

FISHING

Fishing is regulated by the CA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. A valid CA fishing license is required to take fish anywhere in the Taylor Creek region.

 

As a Lake Tahoe tributary, fishing in Taylor Creek is prohibited from October 1 to June 30 to protect spawning trout. From July 1 through September 30, fishing is allowed however it is prohibited from the Rainbow Trail and bike path.

WILDLIFE VIEWING

Taylor Creek is an excellent place to observe Lake Tahoe’s wildlife. Thanks to habitat diversity, a variety of species call the Taylor Creek area home. Mornings are often the best time to spot wildlife, as human activity greatly increases throughout the day. Check below for some examples of flora and fauna within the Taylor Creek ecosystem!

FAUNA

The Sierra Nevada Mountains are home to a variety of animals, some of which you might have the opportunity to see at the Taylor Creek Visitor Center. Below are some of the most commonly seen, or discussed, animals at Taylor Creek.

MAMMALS

Walking along the Rainbow Trail, the impact from beavers is readily visible; tree stumps and gnawed logs are found at every turn. Our local colony has constructed a few large dams and is always on the move. However, despite how busy they are, they are seldom seen by visitors. Beavers prefer to work during the hours when many of us are going to bed or waking up in the morning.

Lake Tahoe’s black bear population has received national recognition for their “friendly” behaviors with humans. While it’s exciting to see these creatures, it’s important for their safety and survival that everyone follows proper guidelines when visiting bear country:

 

  • Never leave food visible in your car
  • Never leave food in your tent or take food into your tent at night
  • Never leave a cooler or other food unattended, whether it’s on the beach or at your campsite
  • Never leave garbage out at night or unattended
  • Always use bear lockers, when available
  • Always be aware of your surroundings
  • Do not walk towards a bear to get a better view
  • Do not walk towards a bear to get a better picture
  • Do not run away, do not climb a tree
  • Hike with a partner and make yourself known while walking in dense vegetation 

 

Black bears are frequently seen on Taylor Creek trails. If you see one, please report it to on-site staff with a description of the bear.

Taylor Creek has a number of squirrel and chipmunk species, however you are most likely to encounter gray squirrels, golden-mantled ground squirrels or lodgepole chipmunks. They are important to the Tahoe ecosystem, helping to spread seeds, and are prey for larger animals. Although not typically thought of as dangerous animals, rodents are high transmitters of diseases, including hantavirus and plague.

 

In 2021, a Taylor Creek lodgepole chipmunk tested positive for bubonic plague. While human infections are rare and treatable today, you can help mitigate problems: never feed squirrels or chipmunks! Do not let them near your belongings and avoid leaving food behind for them to eat.

Omnivorous and adaptable, coyotes are certainly present in the vicinity of Taylor Creek. Following their snouts to food, they can be heard communicating with each other at night and may make appearances on site unexpectedly. While not much of a safety concern to humans, off leash dogs could have problems and so it is important to monitor and leash your pets at all times.

BIRDS

Skilled fishermen, bald eagles are typically seen from the Kiva Beach area during the summer and fall months. They may perch along the creek and near the lake, looking for a meal, or soar over the shoreline. Please do not walk into the marsh or let your dog into this area, as it disturbs eagles and other hunters.

Ospreys are identified by their white underbellies, and “m-shaped” bodies while in flight. Though smaller than eagles, ospreys are arguably better suited to the fishing lifestyle. Their feet consist of tiny barbs, and they have a rotating talon to further subdue prey. Like bald eagles, ospreys may be seen from the mouth of Taylor Creek and along the Lake Tahoe shore.

Cousin to crows and ravens, Steller’s jays are just as intelligent when it comes to finding an easy meal. They hang close to the visitor center where crumbs and wrappers wait to be picked up. Steller’s jays are forest-dwelling birds, distinguished by their bright blue bodies and black mohawks.

FISH

Native to Lake Tahoe, this species is not likely to be found within the lake today. Before human expansion, Lahontan cutthroat trout were bountiful and also big–30 pounds big. However due to the introduction of non-native and invasive species, overfishing and changes to their habitat, LCT dramatically declined. Through a successful reintroduction program, a new population of LCT currently lives in Fallen Leaf Lake today.

In the 1940s, Kokanee salmon were purposefully introduced into the Lake Tahoe ecosystem. A non-anadromous fish, this species spends its whole life in freshwater. Since their introduction, Kokanee salmon have primarily spawned in Taylor Creek, loving the pebbly creek bottom. Each fall, more than 20,000 salmon return to the stream to mate and die. The Kokanee have become a big attraction at Taylor Creek, prompting an annual Fish Festival which brings domestic and international travelers to the site.

REPTILES

Few reptiles live here due to the harsh conditions of alpine life. Most commonly seen reptiles are small snakes, such as rubber boas and western garter snakes. Western fence lizards can also be seen darting through the understory, or sunning on some rocks.

AMPHIBIANS

Bullfrogs are an invasive species to Lake Tahoe and can be readily seen within the creek and marsh. Typically, their green heads poke just above the water, with their brown bodies underneath. Bullfrogs are a nuisance here, as they compete with native amphibians, such as the endangered Sierra Nevada Yellow-Legged Frog, for resources.

FLORA

Depending on which habitat you’re standing in (meadow, marsh, forest), the plant community around you will alter. Taylor Creek has an array of vegetative biodiversity, with various species of grasses and sedges, wildflowers, willows and trees. Below are some of the most commonly noticed members of the surrounding plant community. This is just a small sampling–stop by to learn and see more!

TREES

Most likely, the tree you’re looking at is a Jeffrey pine. This species is the most common tree within the Tahoe Basin and is found in all stages of its life cycle at Taylor Creek. They are distinguished by their large, squat pine cones, needles, and smell–yes, smell. For those who have not yet whiffed the bark of a Jeffrey pine, you’re in for a treat! Many say the aroma is similar to vanilla or butterscotch. 

 

Jeffrey pines have large cones and needles that come in long bundles of three. For professional and amateur dendrologists (tree researchers), knowing these two facts greatly helps identify pine species.

A deciduous tree, the quaking aspen grows in clonal colonies in riparian habitats. Their light-colored bark is fragile, and frequently becomes the canvas for graffiti “artists” and bear claws. Take a walk on the Rainbow Trail to see these trees up close and learn about some of their struggles for existence in the Tahoe Basin.

Incense cedars are long-lived trees (approx. 500 years) and are well-adapted to California’s fire and drought conditions. Their leaves are often described as “scale-like” and are similar in appearance to sequoia or juniper trees. Cedars have been used for many purposes, from medicines and building materials to garden decoration. A few young incense cedars can be found right outside the visitor center doors.

This species’ population has increased since the devastation of clear-cut logging in the 19th century. An adaptable shade grower, white firs can outcompete others for prime Tahoe real estate. They are distinguished by their lower hanging branches, grayish bark and needles, which are not bundled.

SHRUBS

After Jeffrey pines, the most noticeable plant at Taylor Creek is sagebrush, growing densely throughout the forest. Sagebrush is light green in color, woody, and can grow up to 9ft. tall. While the leaves of this plant have a strong and delightful smell, it is toxic for human ingestion.

Growing comfortably next to sagebrush, rubber rabbitbrush is in the same family (Aster). While it does not grow as tall, rubber rabbitbrush blooms vibrant yellow flowers in late summer/early fall and was traditionally used to make dye by Native Americans. Its stems are not as rigid, and its shape is more fanned.

PERENNIALS

In late spring and early summer, the mule’s ears’ bright yellow flower is prevalent within the forest understory. Unsurprisingly, it’s part of the sunflower family. The subalpine elevation of Lake Tahoe reaches this species’ maximum growth threshold. The common name comes from the shape and texture of its’ leaves, which reminded people of a mule’s ear.

A shocking sight to see for those unfamiliar with it, snow plant is a deep red, cylindrical-shaped plant that typically grows near tree roots and trunks. While interesting to see above ground, it’s even more fascinating below: snow plant is actually a parasite, feeding off the ever-important mycorrhizal fungi network that has a mutually beneficial relationship with trees.

This plant is well-established in the Taylor Creek marsh and is easily identifiable during the growing season. Its corn-like stalks can reach 3ft. in height, with a white flower that blooms in summer (which resembles a lily, hence the inventive name). While pretty to admire, this plant is also highly toxic and is known to cause birth defects in animals that consume it.