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Tiny Angora Lakes in California's High Sierra region are a delight to the senses. These beautiful twin alpine lakes surrounded by rocky cliffs grace a glacial basin south of Lake Tahoe that is visited by thousands every year. That's a lot of visitors for lakes that cannot be reached by car. In truth, there isn't much hiking involved: the parking area is less than a mile from the lakes and not a particularly difficult hike. But the scenic lakes are well worth some effort to reach. The Upper Angora Lake-the larger at 5 acres-offers a shallow swimming beach and fishing for stocked brown trout.
A concessionaire operates the Angora Lakes Resort, a collection of nine rustic housekeeping cabins, a snack concession, and a small store where visitors can purchase sandwiches and hand-squeezed lemonade. The resort cabins are so popular that they must be reserved at least a year in advance, and vacancies will dictate when one can take advantage of their rustic charm. And for many visitors, getting there is half of the fun.
The Angora Lakes are under the jurisdiction of the US Forest Service. The resort and concession are operated under a lease arrangement. Restrictions do not allow for any motorized boats or camping within the watershed. Snowmobiles are prohibited at the lakes. The parking area and the concessions are only open from about the first of May until the first of October, but the lakes can be reached on foot year round. Brown trout was first stocked in the lakes in the mid-1930s, but records don't show stocking in later years. Some fishermen report that largemouth bass and bluegills are also present, but there are no true records to show their presence. As any outside boats would have to be hand-carried from the parking area to the lakes, fishing on the Lower Angora Lake is limited to the rocky shoreline. Those who carry their angling equipment to the Upper Angora Lake can take advantage of row boat or kayak rentals from the resort operation.
Angora Lakes are the origin of short Angora Creek, a small tributary to the upper Truckee River. Perched 7450 feet above sea level, the lakes are a favorite hiking destination for those in the South Tahoe area. As hikes go, the usual route to Angora Lakes isn't particularly strenuous as it follows a paved one-lane road. The pathway runs along Angora Ridge for some distance and brings hikers past the Angora Lookout, a former Forest Service fire lookout point that was decommissioned in the 1970s. Because the lookout can actually be reached by car, it is one of the few vantage points that are accessible to the disabled. From here, one can overlook not only Angora Lakes, but Fallen Leaf Lake to Lake Tahoe beyond and the forested wilderness between. The trek to Angora Lakes is popular in all seasons as the tree-lined route offers shade in summer, a riot of golden leaves when the aspens change color in fall, and a gentle, snow-covered pathway for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in winter.
Angora Lakes are only about eight miles by road from South Tahoe, but many hikers begin their trek from the Fallen Leaf Lake campground only four miles away. The trail is a favorite among mountain bikers who enjoy a relatively easy climb along the ridge. The route and Angora Lakes have been the site two years in a row of an unsanctioned triathlon, with a group of local recreational athletes riding their bikes from the Lake Tahoe beach, running up the path to Upper Angora Lake, swimming across the lake, then reversing the course to complete the impromptu race. This Angora Lakes triathlon will likely never become a sanctioned official event, but it is gaining in popularity among athletes in the Lake Tahoe area.
Angora Lakes are the starting point for two more strenuous hikes that are popular with climbers. Both Angora Peak and Echo Peak can be reached from the lakes. Ridges in the area are favorites among back-country skiers and snowboarders, and the area is replete with many back-country trails. For those inclined toward more conventional ski resorts, there are plenty of those in the South Tahoe area.
The City of South Tahoe sits at the south end of beautiful Lake Tahoe, next to the Nevada state line. Although the Nevada portion of the metroplex is technically called Stateline, the area flows together as one city. South Tahoe views itself as a mountain bike-friendly town and has lots of trails for both cycling and hiking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Many venues for snowboarding, downhill skiing, sledding and other winter sports exist in the area, along with ski schools and spas. Besides ski resorts in the mountains and boating on Lake Tahoe, the city offers a lovely public beach, all usual amenities to please tourists, and the exciting entertainment options provided by the many casinos on the Nevada side of the state line. Competition among the casinos means that top acts regularly appear here, and hotel rooms are in good supply. The Lake Tahoe Marathon happens each September, and the annual Valhalla Arts, Music and Theatre Festival is well attended and gets better each year. South Tahoe is home to many artists and craftsmen who maintain galleries and shops in the area. South Tahoe then is a good base from which to visit Angora Lakes for the day.
There is no real estate available on the Angora Lakes. The only lodgings are the small resort and its cabins. There are a few cabins for rent on Angora Ridge Road on the way to the lakes. Many use Fallen Leaf Campground as their vacation base. Fallen Leaf Campground also rents yurts, and primitive camping exists in the surrounding El Dorado National Forest. Lodgings are plentiful near South Tahoe, with many small motels, bed & breakfasts and guest lodges available. No trip to the Lake Tahoe area would be complete without a trip to swim in the cool waters of Upper Angora Lake. Won't you come to see these beautiful little lakes? The spectacular sight is worth the walk.
*Statistics listed are for Upper Angora Lake. There are no statistics available for Lower Angora Lake.
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