Lake Tahoe, CA: Pope-Baldwin to Inspiration Point

This paved 11.4-mile out-and-back travels Lake Tahoe's mountainous southwest shoreline to an overlook with views across Emerald Bay.
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This paved 11.4-mile out-and-back travels Lake Tahoe's mountainous southwest shoreline to an overlook with views across Emerald Bay.

With several scenic detour options, Pope-Baldwin Bike Path tours the lakeside between Pope Beach, the first of Tahoe’s southwestern sands, and Baldwin Beach. Sierra Nevada Mountains line the western landscape, while the alpine azure of Lake Tahoe teases your eyes to the east. From Camp Richardson, follow the trail west. For an optional side trip, turn left at mile 0.5 onto Fallen Leaf Road where Tahoe’s tallest mountain, Mount Tallac, looms behind the lapping waves of Fallen Leaf Lake. The route continues along the bike path to Baldwin Beach Road (second side trip). Turn right onto the paved access road to Baldwin Beach—a birding and picnicking haven. Retrace your steps back to the Pope-Baldwin path. Continue straight for about a mile, then turn right on CA 89. From here, the route to Inspiration Point climbs 400 feet of elevation along the highway shoulder. Rewarding overlooks of Tahoe make three arduous switchbacks worth the workout. At mile 4.3, pass Emerald Bay Campground. For another optional side trip, turn right into Emerald Bay State Park, a designated underwater park and summertime favorite of scuba divers. Cascade Lake and Tahoe come into view as you climb the narrow road. At mile 6.4, take in the forested lakeshore panorama at Inspiration Point before turning back the way you came.
Mapped by Kari Bodnarchuk

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 18.4

Waypoints

WPT001

Location: 38.9337997, -120.0410233

From Camp Richardson (across the street from Mountain Sports Bike Rental), follow Pope-Baldwin Bike Path north through marshland and open forest with aspen and dogwood. Pass Tallac Historic Site on right (stop here to see the Baldwin estate, a house museum with historical information on Tahoe).

WPT002

Location: 38.9338226, -120.0496445

Continue straight @ 4-way on bike path bordered by open forest. Occasional views of spectacular mountains can be seen to the north. In 1.75 miles, the trail veers away from the road and cuts through forest (keep an eye out for bears and fox). Optional side trip: Turn left onto Fallen Leaf Road to reach Fallen Leaf Lake to the south.

WPT003

Location: 38.934166, -120.0650177

Turn right @ 4-way junction onto Baldwin Beach Road and follow 0.6 mile to the narrow, sandy Baldwin Beach. Take a break, go beach combing, or look for stellar jays, which are prevalent here.

WPT004

Location: 38.9417, -120.0631866

Baldwin Beach has picnic tables and miles of sandy beach to explore. Keep an eye out for golden mantled brown squirrels, ground squirrels, black bears, woodpeckers, and flickers (bird with orange and black striped wings). Retrace route back to bike path and turn right.

WPT005

Location: 38.9337273, -120.0770264

Turn right onto CA 89 and follow road north for a steady climb through forest to two viewpoints overlooking Lake Tahoe.

WPT006

Location: 38.9474487, -120.0774994

The first of two overlooks that offer stunning views of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding high Sierra Mountains. Continue north up CA 89 and after a short descent, climb up three steep and heart-pounding switchbacks to the ridge.

WPT007

Location: 38.9512329, -120.0856857

Pass Emerald Bay State Park Campground on the right as you climb toward Inspiration Point, heading southwest on CA 89.

WPT008

Location: 38.9494019, -120.0909195

Switchbacks lead up to the narrow ridge overlooking Cascade Lake on the left and Lake Tahoe on the right. Caution: Take care on this narrow road with small shoulders.

WPT009

Location: 38.9462509, -120.0982513

The reward: Inspiration Point offers stunning views of Emerald Bay on the southwest side of Lake Tahoe and sweeping mountain vistas to the north. This is a great spot to rest before the descent. To extend your trip, continue north on CA 89 for 0.1 mile to see Eagle Falls on the right. Retrace route to trailhead.

First Optional Detour: Fallen Leaf Lake

Location: 38.9338341, -120.0495911

Mount Tallac rises in the background.

Switchbacks near Inspiration Point

Location: 38.9510002, -120.0883789

Junction

Location: 38.9337082, -120.0768967

Turn right off Pope-Baldwin and merge onto CA-89.

Inspiration Point

Location: 38.946228, -120.098053

Descending from Inspiration Point

Location: 38.9465256, -120.0967484