Tahoe Rim Trail Sampler
This hike starts at Highway 431, the Mt. Rose Highway, at the summit. This is the highest pass over the Sierras which is kept open year round with snow removal. Several hikes can originate from this trailhead. The trailhead has restrooms but no water or tables. The Tahoe Rim Trail also passes thru this trailhead. Hikers in the area will quickly learn that the Tahoe Rim Trail is marked by blue signs and an occasional blue dot of paint, locally Lake Tahoe is known as Big Blue. The popularity of the Tahoe Rim Trail has led to conflict between hikers and mountain bikers. To further complicate the issue several segments pass thru wilderness areas prohibiting bicycles. Another segment shares designation with the Pacific Crest Trail which prohibits bicycles. Some segments have created adjacent bicycle trails or regulate bicycles on a odd-even day restriction. The bottom line is to research the segment for regulations on bicycles.
This hike is done as a counterclockwise loop taking a hiker only section of the Tahoe Rim Trail out and returning on an adjacent bicycle /hiker segment of the Tahoe Rim Trail. It offers a great wilderness experience for a moderate effort.
Behind the restrooms take the trail marked for Mt Rose which heads off to the right. You immediately notice the alpine vegetation and beautiful granite rock outcroppings. After about one third of a mile Lake Tahoe comes into view and offers several Kodak moments. The trail enters a heavily wooded area made up of Jeffrey Pine, Ponderosa Pine and White Fur trees. Many of the younger ones are bent over from the heavy snow pack each winter. The mature ones that have survived bare scars and often have bent trunks as they have struggled to stand under the terrific weight of snow pack. After about one and one half miles and increase of about 500 feet in elevation the view opens up to the northeast. In front of you lie Tamarack Lake and on the horizon is Reno, Nevada in the valley. The trail maintains this altitude as you continue thru the forest and onto a narrow shelf path traversing steep sided Tamarack Peak. Now entering the Mt. Rose wilderness, at about 3 miles you can often hear and then see some waterfalls ahead. This is the headwaters of Galena Creek. The meadows above are filled with wetlands fed by snow melt and the cascading water is deafening. The trail passes by the foot of the falls which is a great spot to take a break. Continuing on, the trail swings towards the northeast for about one third of a mile to where you encounter a signed intersection. Our route is to the left or west towards Relay Peak. The trail follows the ravine up as you now have to regain the altitude you gave up to see the falls and more. Arriving at the meadow above the falls continue to follow an old jeep trail towards Relay Peak which looms over a thousand feet higher dead ahead. It is also punctuated by radio towers. About another quarter mile watch for a well defined unmarked trail swinging off to the left at a tree line and follow it as we head towards the high elevation of the hike. The trail crosses the meadow and joins an old jeep road then up and over a knoll. Coming out to a jeep road, in front of you lies a small lake, to the right is Relay Peak, and our trail from here is a left on the old jeep road. It is basically downhill from here back to the trailhead. In about three quarters of a mile Lake Tahoe will come into view again offering another perspective. Soon you will hear and see highway 431 below you. In about another mile watch for a signed trail on your left taking you back to the trailhead. If you should miss this trail and continue on the jeep road it will eventually end and you could walk along the highway back to the trailhead in front of you.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.