The day I originally planned to be hiking along this slightly snowy trail from the Echo Lakes Trailhead was the day I slipped on ice in a parking lot while trying to go buy some earrings. After a couple hours in urgent care and an evening of icing and pain medication - I thought the possibility of attempting this route was lost. The experience taught me never to go shopping instead of hiking.
The next morning, after more pain medication and icing, I decided to rally - maybe we wouldn't make it all the way to Lake Aloha, like I had originally planned. Perhaps it would just be a short walk along the road to Lower Echo Lake since the access road would surely be closed due to snow.
Turned out the road was open(ish) and drivable for the 4x4 vehicles - at least to an upper parking area. With my left arm in a sling, YakTrax on my boots, and a hiking pole in my right hand - we set off on what was supposed to be a short walk maybe just around the first lake. It turned into a hike just shy of eight miles round trip with the tail end being completed in the dark without flash lights. It was probably not the best decision after possibly fracturing my elbow.
All that being said - the Echo Lake Trailhead offers some pretty fantastic views and plenty of opportunities to suit your hiking preferences.
The first part of the trail parallels the Lower and Upper Echo Lakes - offering great views both up the rocky hillside and down to the water (snow covered ice in the winter time). Along the way you'll pass through a few backyards of adorable cottages built on the rock along the lakeside. In the summer, you can take a boat (for a fee) across these lakes to cut off about three miles of distance. The trail gains a few hundred feet of elevation - but it's so gentle you'll hardly notice.
After rounding a corner from a view point of both Echo Lakes, you'll join up with the Pacific Crest Trail for a short jaunt. Since we started our hike so late in the day we hit this section of the trail right as the light was beginning to dim and golden hour was upon us.
Thanks to well marked routes, we found direction towards Tamarack Lake, deemed our final destination due to the declining light. With only a few other boot prints headed out that way - we found ourselves stomping through about half a foot of snow out to the lake. We made it with just enough time to catch the glow of the light setting behind the hills.
Of all the trails I've hiked in the Lake Tahoe area - this is the one I would recommend first to just about anyone interested in a hike. It's easily customizable based on what you're comfortable with, really not technical in any way, and it has fantastic views!
In terms of winter conditions, when we hiked this trail on New Years eve we had snow, ice, puddles, mud, and rock on the trail. I wore YakTrax, which were incredibly helpful for the snow, ice, and mud (less so for the rock) - and it was totally fine even with me being slightly off balance from the injury.