Tahoe Meadows a rewarding, easy hike high in the sky
Special to the Bonanza
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Half a mile above Lake Tahoe’s shore is an easy, handicapped-friendly hike less than 200 feet below one of the highest mountain passes in the entire Sierra Nevada.
Resting a little below the crest of the Mount Rose summit on Nevada State Route 431, just north of Incline Village, lies a lovely, picturesque alpine meadow near timberline level.
In late spring and early summer, Tahoe Meadows is awash with a kaleidoscope of colorful wildflowers and robust green grasses.
The trail through Tahoe Meadows is largely flat unless you extend your hike to nearby alpine lakes — then expect to do some heartier mountaineering.
But much of Tahoe Meadows is a bona fide treat for those of us who have a harder time getting around. Not only are many trails wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers, but they are plenty solid, too.
Hundreds of feet of wooden boardwalks stretch across the lower meadow, and there are several wood-planked foot bridges on the upper meadow loop trail.
This is the hike my wife and I took as May turned into June. It is a 1.2-mile loop that encircles the far eastern end of Tahoe Meadows. The western face of Slide Mountain looms above the trail, and the peak of Mount Rose rises in the sky to the north.
At 8,730 feet of elevation the Tahoe Meadows trail loop has topographical features consistent with timberline elevation: smaller, thinner pines that typically don’t grow very large and tend to bend in the direction of high mountain winds that frequently torment the region.
While there were a lot of critters around — squirrels and various kinds of birds — I mostly heard rather than spied them. They seemed shy and more skittish around people. From a naturalist’s perspective, that’s a good thing.
The east end of the upper meadow features ponds and marshes created from snowmelt and runoff. There are even small fish swimming in the little brooks that feed into the meadow marshes.
I advise you wait until well into June or even early July before hiking this trail with assistive devices. I encountered snow drifts from late-spring storms. These melting, moving slabs blocked parts of the path and made the trail nearly impassable in some places.
Because Tahoe Meadows is situated so high up above sea level — more than 1.5 miles — an adjustment to the altitude and thinner air is required. Give yourself a little time to get used to the significant elevation gain before starting your hike.
Try not to overexert yourself. This is hard not to do when the trail looks so easy and inviting. Take plenty of breaks along the way and stay hydrated. There is a vista point about halfway around the loop with a stone bench where you can sit and enjoy the view of the meadow.
Even though temperatures are generally cooler at very high elevations, the sun’s ultraviolet rays are also much more intense at higher altitudes. So be sure to apply sunscreen before your hike.
Most of all, have fun and enjoy yourself. Thin as it is, breathe in the crisp, clean alpine air. It’s invigorating and good for your health.
As usual, pack a camera and binoculars for viewing landscapes and wildlife. Tahoe Meadows offers scenic vistas ideal for panoramas that capture the unique beauty of the Lake Tahoe Basin’s Rim.
Brett and Lisa Fisher are Carson City residents. They welcome leads on handicapped-friendly recreation around the Eastern Sierra and Lake Tahoe regions. Send emails to email@example.com.