When hiking in the Lake Tahoe area, the goal is usually to find a great view of Lake Tahoe. You can do that without a lot of effort at the Van Sickle Trail. It’s not the most spectacular trail I hiked on this trip, but the Van Sickle Trail Hike makes up for it with convenience. And the further you go, the better the views will get.
You’ll find the trailhead for Van Sickle Trail near the Nevada/California state line, behind the casinos in Stateline, Nevada. From South Lake Tahoe, California, head east (north) on US 50 towards Nevada. Shortly before the state line, turn right onto Heavenly Village Way, then continue straight to the end of the road, where you’ll cross the state line and find a parking lot.
The Van Sickle Trail Hike was the first trail I tackled after arriving in the Tahoe area. I wasn’t able to contact my Airbnb hosts for an early check-in, and I noticed this hike was nearby, so I decided to give it a try.
The Van Sickle Trail Hike will take you up to the Tahoe Rim Trail. If you want to go all the way, it’s a 4-mile hike, one way, to the trail junction. I wasn’t looking for that big of a commitment, so I opted for a destination that’s closer –a waterfall that can be reached after about 1.1 miles (one way).
The trail starts out in a forested area, but after a few minutes, you reach a short spur trail that takes you up a small hill topped with boulders. You can hop around on the rocks until you find a nice viewpoint. This destination alone would be a decent place to stop if you’re only looking for a very short hike.
Van Sickle Trail Hike
I continued on up the trail. As the trees grew thinner…
… the views began to open up. There are a few switchbacks, but the trail isn’t terribly steep.
Aside from the lake, the most notable feature on the horizon is Stateline, Nevada. The towering casinos begin abruptly at the Nevada line, making it very easy to see where California ends.
When you reach this footbridge, you’ve gone 1.1 miles, and you’ve reached the waterfall.
Okay, as waterfalls go, it’s not the best one I’ve ever seen. But, it makes for a nice turnaround point for anyone (like me) who just wanted some cardio and a few good views.
The worst part of the Van Sickle Trail Hike was the exposure to the sun. I had sunscreen, thank goodness, but I had neglected to bring a hat. In late June, under a cloudless sky, the sun’s intensity was brutal. When I finally got to my accommodation for the night, I had to take a cold shower, then lay under a fan for a while. After that, I went to Kmart (yes, Lake Tahoe still has one) and bought a hat with a very big brim. It made the rest of my hikes on this trip much more pleasant.
Here’s a look at the drive into Stateline, Nevada, and on over the mountains via the Kingsbury Grade.
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The Bottom Line
The Van Sickle Trail hike is great for anyone who is in South Lake Tahoe or Stateline, and wants a quick leg-stretching hike that provides some nice views of Lake Tahoe. The waterfall isn’t especially memorable, but the views of the lake are pretty good. If you chose to go further up the trail, I’m sure the views would get even better.