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U.S. Forest Service

Pacific Southwest Region Viewing Area


Tallac Historic Site Trail near Kiva Beach. Tallac Historic Site Trail near Kiva Beach. Photo by Cheryl Beyer.

View across Taylor Marsh to Mt. Tallac. View across Taylor Marsh to Mt. Tallac. Photo by Cheryl Beyer.

Taylor Creek Visitor Center

Forest: Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit

Description: The Taylor Creek Visitor Center offers a wide range of maps, brochures, wilderness permits, and interpretive programs. It is the hub for the start of four fascinating self-guided trails.

The Taylor Creek Visitor Center at Lake Tahoe is open from Memorial Day weekend through October 31. Several trails begin at the Visitor Center and meander through forest, marsh, streamside, and beach habitats:

The Rainbow Trail begins at the Visitor Center and is an easy 1/2-mile walk that is paved and wheelchair accessible. For people experiencing visual impairment, there is an audio tape presentation of the Rainbow Trail available. The trail meanders through forested glades with views of Taylor Marsh and Taylor Creek. The Stream Profile Chamber, an underground viewing chamber where trout and other aquatic life can be viewed through a window, is also accessed from the Rainbow Trail.

The Lake of the Sky Trail starts behind the Visitor Center. It is an easy 3/8-mile walk to the south shore of Lake Tahoe. This trail goes through Jeffrey Pine forest with views across Taylor Marsh of Mt. Tallac and other Sierran peaks. The terminus of this trail at Baldwin and Kiva Beach connects to the Tallac Historic Site Trail, an easy 3/4-mile stroll that skirts Kiva Beach. This historic promenade rambles under aspen past the remains of Lucky Baldwin's Tallac House, gambling casino, and Tallac Hotel. The trail then enters the grounds of the Baldwin-McGonagle, Pope and Valhalla summer homes. You can continue on to the Camp Richardson Resort where public facilities are available.

Along the Forest Tree Trail, you will discover the Jeffrey Pine, the most dominant tree in the Lake Tahoe Basin. The life cycle of this pine, from germination to decomposition, is interpreted along this enjoyable trail. This trail is an easy 1/4-mile walk.

Safe campfire construction is the theme on Smokey's Trail, which begins just outside the Visitor Center, and is an easy 1/8-mile long. Children who walk the trail and can remember the procedures for a safe campfire will receive a reward from the Visitor Center.

Along all these trails, in the spring and summer, your eyes are treated to the abundant wildflowers making their annual appearance in the area. The bright red snow plant, Sarcodes sanguinea, is one of the first flowers to appear in the spring. It is a myco-heterotroph, which is a non-green plant that receives nutrients from a green plant indirectly through a network of thin fungal threads called hyphae.

Monkeyflower (Mimulus mephiticus) a spring-blooming "belly-flower", is so small you may need to be on your belly to examine it! Porterella (Porterella carnosula) also comes up in the spring. It again is small, but can sometimes occur in such large numbers as to form extensive patches of blue that look like a reflection of the sky.

Sarcodes sanguinea Snow plant (Sarcodes sanguinea). Photo by Cheryl Beyer.

Mimulus mephiticusMimulus mephiticus). Photo by Cheryl Beyer.

Porterella carnosula Porterella (Porterella carnosula). Photo by Cheryl Beyer.

The inflorescence of pussypaws (Cistanthe umbellate) looks like the furry paws of kittens radiating out from the leafy central rosettes. Pussypaws regulates internal temperatures by raising its flower umbels during midday heat, then lowering them down once the ground has cooled. Later in the summer, ranger buttons (Sphenosciadium capitellatum) a member of the carrot family, forms its characteristic button-like heads of little white flowers in showy umbels.

Lake Tahoe also boasts of a plant found nowhere else in the world, Tahoe yellow cress (Rorippa subumbellata) a member of the mustard family. This plant historically has occurred on the beaches surrounding the lake. Lake level and trampling keep populations small. It is currently a candidate plant species for federal listing. You may be lucky and see Tahoe yellow cress blooming along the beach in summer or early fall. A thread-waisted wasp is seen in the photo below enjoying a taste of nectar from a Tahoe yellow cress flower.

Cistanthe umbellate Pussypaws (Cistanthe umbellate). Photo by Cheryl Beyer.

Sphenosciadium capitellatum Ranger buttons (Sphenosciadium capitellatum). Photo by Cheryl Beyer.

Thread-waisted wasp getting nectar from Tahoe yellow cress. Thread-waisted wasp getting nectar from Tahoe yellow cress (Rorippa subumbellata). Photo by Cheryl Beyer.

Safety First: The weather at the Visitor Center can be warm in the mid-summer. Wearing a hat and sunscreen and carrying water is recommended.

Directions: The Taylor Creek Visitor Center is located on located three miles north of South Lake Tahoe, California, on the lake side of Highway 89. It is past the Tallac Historic Site and the turn off for Fallen Leaf. The phone number is (530) 543-2674.

Ownership and Management: U.S. Forest Service, Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.

Closest Town: South Lake Tahoe, California.