More from the Tahoe Rim Trail
July 15, 2004
June 18 turned out to be a perfect day to begin our quest of covering all 165 miles of the Tahoe Rim Trail. We began our journey at the Echo Summit Trailhead heading for Big Meadow 17.8 miles away.
With our packs loaded with all the essentials, our group of experienced, friendly hikers were off. Faced with an immediate 3.9-mile steep ascent to Bryan Meadow, we had to shed layers rather quickly; I think a little sooner than most of us wanted to.
While climbing, we encountered a few snowy patches along the way, but we were able to maneuver around them and remain on the trail most of the time. From Bryan Meadow, we headed toward Showers Lake, enjoying breathtaking views along the way. With the snow still melting, many parts of the trail were soggy and water was plentiful. Wildflowers were blooming, and the mosquitoes were bloodthirsty.
Reaching Showers Lake, we rested and refueled for the second half of our hike. With eight miles covered and seven to go, we made our way toward Round Lake. In my opinion, this is one of the best parts of the entire trail. The scenery is unbelievable ” you pass an extremely lush meadow full of blooming wildflowers, and you are completely surrounded by beautiful mountain views. It’s a great place to stop and take it all in.
Continuing on, we came upon what would normally be a small, easy stream to cross, but this early in the season it was quite full and at first glance we thought we were going to have to wade across. However, to everyone’s relief, we were able to cross just downstream from the trail without getting wet.
Round Lake was a great place to rest and regroup before descending into Big Meadow. There were several people camping in the area. The descent into Big Meadow was quite a treat. The variety of wildflowers along this stretch of trail is amazing and they are bursting with tremendous color right now. We ended our hike in the parking lot of the Big Meadow Trailhead.
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Much to our delight, one of the hikers brought a cooler full of cold beverages to share. He was our hero. Although our feet were sore and our joints aching, we were all looking forward to the next hike.
[Audra Mansfield is a volunteer hike leader for the Tahoe Rim Trail Association. This is the second installment in a summer long series covering sections, aspects or experiences had by hikers on the Tahoe Rim Trail.]
Big Meadow to Echo Summit/Echo Lake facts
– Bike Logo/Equestrian logo/Hiker logo
– Tips for Mountain Bikers ” From the Big Meadow Trailhead, bikes are allowed on the first five miles to the junction of the Tahoe Rim Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. Bikes are not allowed on the PCT. Much of this section is technically challenging, with lots of rocks.
– Distance ” 15.3 miles to Echo Summit; 17.5 miles to Echo Lake
– Camp stove permit required from US Forest Service
– Camping ” 300 feet from trail and 200 feet from water
– Water sources available ” Water can be found at the following locations: About 0.7 miles south of Big Meadow Trailhead in Big Meadow Creek and the upper Truckee River in Meiss Meadow and Showers Lake.
– There are three beautiful lakes on this segment. Round lake is a 5.2-mile round trip from the trailhead. Dardanelles is 1.4 miles off the TRT and provides a 6.8-mile round trip. Showers Lake is about halfway through the 17-mile hike and a great place to stop for lunch.
– There are two large meadows, Big Meadow and Meiss Meadow, which provide some of the most spectacular wildflower displays on the TRT.
Directions to trailheads
– Big Meadow to Echo Summit
From the intersection of Highway 89 and Highway 50, take Meyers Drive 5.3 miles south on Highway 89 to the Big Meadow Trailhead on your left. Start across the road and head uphill toward Big Meadow. This trailhead has a restroom.
– Echo Summit to Big Meadow
Drive West on Highway 50 from South Lake Tahoe to the top of Echo Summit. Just 0.3 miles past Echo Summit make a left turn. Park on the southern end of the parking lot.
– Shuttle possibilities ” None
Sweaty and blistered, my feet ache from hiking miles over the loose decomposing granite of the seemingly endless backcountry trail.
Slowly, I push up the ridgeline feeling the overpowering rays of the sun warring with the sunscreen on the back of my neck. As I reach the top, I happily release the waist and chest straps of my 50-pound backpack and hastily drop it to the ground.
Momentarily free from my own relentless wilderness pursuit, I reach into my backpack searching for warm water and a zip-lock bag of melted chocolate chip cookies. After chugging my water and inhaling my cookies, I begin to see what my sunburnt skin and dry, crusty lips forced me to forget: The beauty of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
As I stand peering over this 9,000 foot ridge top, my pain is forgotten while the inviting clear sky welcomes my eyes to the sight of beautiful blue Lake Tahoe. Only the vivid imagination of a child could dream of such a place without knowing of its existence. Standing atop the Tahoe Rim Trail, my eyes are transfixed on blues and greens swirling through the waves forced by the light breeze dancing over the lake and ridge lines circling the lake in a frenzy of jagged angles and rugged terrain. Suddenly I realize, in this magical place I am forgotten.
After visually painting a landscape to be hung on the walls of my memory, I strap on my 48-pound backpack and head to Star Lake, my final destination for the day. Upon arrival, I anxiously remove my dusty boots and hurriedly place my swollen feet into the cool water of the snow-fed lake.
While enjoying the numbing sensation diluting the pain in my feet, I realize that setting camp here will create a temporary home I will not look forward to leaving. After I pitch my tent and eat my dehydrated dinner, I finally understand the difference between my usual afternoon hikes and this extraordinary backpacking trip.
For one night, I will become a resident of the forest and will share the vulnerability of an unprotected animal with the wildlife around me. In the morning I will awake to the unfamiliar sound of birds chirping in my ears boasting of a beautiful day waiting to be had.
Without hesitation, I will open my arms to my surroundings and prepare for another amazing day backpacking on the Tahoe Rim Trail, alone, unafraid and inspired by the beauty of the land.
[Erin Casey is Associate Director of the Tahoe Rim Trail Association. This is the third installment in a summer long series covering sections, aspects or experiences had by hikers on the Tahoe Rim Trail. More information about the TRT can be found in “The Tahoe Rim Trail: A Complete Guide to Hikers, Bikers, and Equestrians” by Tim Hauserman. This is available at http://www.tahoerimtrail.org or by calling (775) 298-0012.]
Necessities for backpacking the Tahoe Rim Trail
– TRTA Map ” Available at http://www.tahoerimtrail.org
– Water ” Be sure to bring a purification system and examine all possible water sources on the TRT. Some TRT segments are very dry in the summer.
– Food ” Be sure to pack plenty of high energy, light weight food. Plan ahead and try to keep it light. Recommended food items are instant oatmeal, pasta, energy bars, gorp, bagels, hard cheese and fruit packages.
– Clothes ” Hiking shorts, shirts (made of lightweight synthetic fibers), warm fleece shirt, rain shell, several pairs of socks, hat, warm pants and gloves (it can get cool at night).
– Camping supplies ” First Aid Kit, sunscreen, tent, stuff sack, Thermarest sleeping pad, sleeping bag (lightweight), stove (test at home), gas for stove, water filter (or iodine tablets work well too), lighter or matches, pot/pan, utensils, compass, headlamp, flashlight, field guides, all-purpose knife, trowel (pooper-scooper), large amounts of water (especially for the dryer sections of the TRT), and permits (where required)
– Bear canisters ” In areas with lots of bears, canisters are essential. They can also be used as a chair or a wash tub for doing laundry.
Permits when backpacking
– You will need a permit when backpacking through the Desolation Wilderness. Call (530) 543-2600 for information on Desolation Wilderness and fire/stove permits. Fires are no longer permitted in the basin, and you must obtain a permit for the use of stoves.
– When backpacking through the Nevada State Park, you must camp in one of the two designated campsites in this area. For information on these campsites please call Nevada State Parks at (775) 687-4384.
[For more information on designated camp areas call the USFS at (530) 543-2600.]
To view the first installment of the Tahoe Rim Trail Association’s summer-long series, go to: