Photograph Black Bears at Taylor Creek, South Lake Tahoe

Rate this Adventure 30 ft gain  - Out-and-Back Trail

Added by Tsalani Lassiter

Watch black bears fish for salmon in beautiful Lake Tahoe, CA

Lake Tahoe is a tourist attraction filled with spectacular views and a plethora of wildlife. However, one species in particular has made a lasting impression on both locals and tourists - black bears. The area around Lake Tahoe is prime bear habitat and cities in the vicinity are seeing a rising bear population. Studies estimate there are up to 15,000 bears in the Lake Tahoe surrounding area. With such a dense population of black bears, your chances of spotting one are quite high. 

Unlike the rest of the bear population, Lake Tahoe’s black bears do not hibernate due to the abundance of available resources. Thus you are likely to encounter a bear any time of the year. However, during a select few weeks in the fall season, nearly all the surrounding areas’ bear population congregate at Taylor Creek to feast on the salmon spawning in the creek. During this time period, your bear spotting prospects grow exponentially. These bears are most active during the month of October and into the first half of November. The most consistent viewing windows are during dawn and dusk. Black bears can usually be seen around sunrise and sunset, give or take an hour or so. 

* Note: Bears are wild animals and can be seen anywhere and during any time of day. It is also worth not that bears are also creatures of habit, meaning the same bears will usually frequent the same areas at the same time of day. Always be bear aware.

  • Viewing Area - The Boardwalk and The Hike

You have three parking options: the visitor’s center, the sno-park parking lot, or along Highway 89 right at the Taylor Creek bridge. The last option will get you closest to the viewing area. 

There are two optimum viewing areas along the Rainbow Trail Boardwalk, which is on the east side of Highway 89. If you are lucky enough to snag a parking spot along Highway 89 at the Taylor Creek Bridge you will be within just steps of the boardwalk. Follow the paved trail to the boardwalk and begin the trail. The first viewing area is the beaver dam about 100 yards from the highway. To arrive at the second viewing area, you will have to continue along the trail, where you will come to a second dam which forms a massive pond. 

The hike follows the creek and begins along highway 89 directly across from the Taylor Creek Bridge. This hike is extremely easy, as all you will need to do is simply follow the path. You will begin in a very small meadow area with a few Aspen trees. The narrow path runs about ten to twenty feet away from the creek. There will be small outshoots to your right where you can rejoin the creek and possibly spot bears. Follow the creek as long as you like and remember, bears are wild, carry bear spray, make noise, and be safe.

  • What you need -

If you are out there to spot some black bears, be sure to bring your camera equipment, including a tripod, batteries, memory cards, and zoom lenses (such as a 70-200, 100-400). Remember, you will be out before sunrise and/or after sunset, so a quality flashlight or headlamp to help you along the trail. You should consider wearing layers, as it is below freezing in the early morning hours and the temperature drops rapidly after sunset.

* Whenever you are in bear territory, whether you are strolling in town or hiking on a trail, it is paramount that you carry bear spray on your body at all times. Other protections such as a bell or a whistle may come in handy. 

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