A monkey in Tahoe? Yes, with just a small amount of doubt. It might actually have been a gorilla.

The stone-faced creature has one of the best views of Lake Tahoe from the Spooner Backcountry. He was a little rough to touch, but docile. I think he was a he. I didn’t look. It was just a feeling I got.

I’m not sure how long he has been watching over Tahoe from Incline Village. Years, though. How did he get there? Well, legend has it the granite rock always had a look about it that resembled a gorilla. The eye and mouth are distinct. Then some guy took a chisel or the like to the rock to make the nostrils and ears. While normally I’m a staunch advocate of not defacing what Mother Nature has created, this goes down as one of those exceptions.

The rock is captivating.

Monkey Rock looks over the Incline Village area of Lake Tahoe. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

It’s a relatively easy 2.5-mile round trip trek from the Tunnel Creek parking area in Incline. With much of the route being an old road, it’s wide enough for social distancing. What people will need to learn when hiking/walking is to go single file when passing. This will keep all of us safe.

While this section is the end of the famous Flume Trail, few cyclists were coming down.

It’s possible to make a bit of a loop out of a section of the trail. Instead of going up the first route on the left, go straight a little longer. It will be easier to come down this straight mostly single-track route than going up it. And if knees are an issue, go up and down the wider, less steep route. That route is up a bit farther; from the start it’s the second left.

At the next trail intersection, go up to the left at an angle toward the rocks. Monkey Rock is on the north side. A handful of user created trails go right to the rock. The best photo ops are from farther away. I was able to essentially lean against this guy, with my body dwarfing his.

If Monkey Rock isn’t enough to entice you, the views will. The scenery is stunning from the get-go. At first the route parallels the East Shore Bike Trail, only this one is higher so the sprawling blue waters of Lake Tahoe are even more impressive. The curvy shoreline of the East Shore is evident. Plenty of snow in late May still topped the mountains across the lake. The rocks around Monkey Rock are a bit higher than his perch. It’s a panoramic view of most of the lake, with pools of emerald near the shore in places.

Looking southwest across Lake Tahoe from the rocks surrounding Monkey Rock. (Image: Kathryn Reed)


  • From South Lake Tahoe, take Highway 50 east to the top of Spooner Summit. Turn left on Highway 28. In Incline Village, park at Tunnel Creek on the right. Walk up Tunnel Creek Road.
  • It costs $2 (cash) per person to enter Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park. It’s an honor system. Do the correct thing.
  • Parking (for now) is free at Tunnel Creek.
  • Dogs on leash welcome.
  • The elevation gain was 445 feet. The lowest elevation was 6,337 feet, with the highest being 6,766 feet.
  • For more ideas about where to hike in the greater Lake Tahoe area, check out The Dirt Around Lake Tahoe: Must-Do Scenic Hikes or Lake Tahoe Trails For All Seasons: Must-Do Hiking and Snowshoe Treks.

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