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The Best Hikes in Lake Tahoe Basin Area National Forest

28 Triplog Reviews in the Lake Tahoe Basin Area National Forest
Most recent of 4 deeper Triplog Reviews
14.1 mi • 4,012 ft aeg
Mt. Tallac
This is another beautiful hike, although with a lot of snow it was definitely a workout. The large amount of snow made it difficult to follow the trail, which we lost many times. I think the official route/mileage for this hike is about 10 miles RT, but my GPS logged 14.1 miles. Yes we definitely hiked more because of the snow condition and not being able to follow the trail accurately, but I doubt it was by that much. Ran into a few small groups of hikers. Came across a blondie bear just below the tree line at the bottom of the bowl. It came to about 40 yards behind me right by the edge of the trees when I was taking a pic of my wife and probably decided that we were too blue :) So it galloped away. I got a pretty good video clip of it, but no photos. The bowl below the giant talus madness was quite challenging. The trail probably traverses/switchbacks, but we just took a direct frontal assault, which was not smart in hindsight. I felt like it was much steeper than Dutchman Glade - felt like 50-55 degree in the long section before getting to the lower lip of the bowl. And we didn't have traction devices or ice axes. With hiking poles and 3 hard kicks in for each step up I made for secure footing, it was some arduous work to work our way up those few hundred yards. It took us a while and a couple of false summits before we saw and got on the real one. The views on the top made the arduous hike worthwhile. We were sliding down sections on our way down - was a lot of fun. And a lot of bear tracks on the snow. A great hike all in all! Dogs that love snow will probably love this hike. Saw one on the mountain - a shepherd and husky mix. He looked at home!
176 mi • 25,175 ft aeg
Since hiking the JMT in 2012 I really havent done much backpacking. But recently I have been increasingly interested in finding another long distance trail to hike. After doing some research, I settled on the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT).

I wasn't initially sure how much time I could get off of work, so I needed to find a trail that was short enough that I could finish within about 7-10 days, but still long enough that I felt challenged. The TRT comes in at about 170 miles, which felt like the perfect length. My goal was to see how light I could make my pack and how far I could travel every day- knowing that if I didn't finish in 7 days I still had a couple of extra days to finish.

The best part about the TRT is that it really doesnt take too much effort to plan the trip. I was able to fly into Reno and then hop on a shuttle straight to Tahoe City where I spent my first night in a motel and gathered my supplies. The next morning I just walked down the street and was on the trail in about 15 minutes. No need to drive for hours on end or worry about my car being broken into while parked at a trailhead for a week. Since the TRT circles Lake Tahoe, it is never very far from a major highway and passes through several towns/resorts along the way. This meant that I was able to resupply as I walked and didn't need to send packages ahead. And the best part- once I finished I was right back at the same trailhead I started from- no need to hitchhike back to the start!

Having now finished the TRT- I highly recommend it to anyone looking to do a long distance backpacking trip. The trail is only moderately difficult, and most people comfortable with multi-day backpacking trips should be able to do it. If anyone has any questions about planning a trip, I would be more than willing to help you out!

For the trip my base weight was 19 pounds. I also carried about 5 pounds of food and the capacity to carry 5 liters of water. So my total pack weight fluctuated between 20-35 pounds.

What follows are the mostly unedited entries I made in my journal along the way, enjoy:

Monday 8/24 1100 78 Degrees
On Trail. I hid my cache of clean clothes. Start of hike is a bit bland. I expected a bigger trailhead.

1700 75 Degrees Watson Lake 13.8 miles 7,7775'
Stopping for water. Already used all 4 liters I started with. Warm, dusty, and rocky today. Lots of hikers and bikers. Most people I talk to are section hiking the TRT. I will likely rest for an hour and drop to Brockway Summit. I may try to hit Marlette Camp Tomorrow if I make good mileage today and still feel good tomorrow.

2218 60 Degrees Lake View Picnic Rock above Brockway Summit 7770'
Met a thru hiker, Devin, at Watson Lake who is going clockwise from Echo- he started Friday. We chatted for a half hour and both decided to hike to Brockway. He left about 45 minutes ahead of me since I still had to filter water and cook. Dark since 2030. I think I passed him just before Brockway, but I don't know if it was his tent or not. Not many places to camp. I took the turnoff for the vista picnic area about a mile after Brockway and set up camp here. Nice view of the lake lit by the moon. Going to leave a sign for Devin at the junction now, then its bed time. I hope I didn't mess myself up today by overdoing it. Ended 9 miles past my initial goal!

Tuesday 8/25 0704 55 Degrees
All packed up and ready to go. I have just shy of 2 liters left, but I should be okay to Grey Lake. And that will make my initial climb easier.

The dirt here is amazing. Under 24 hours on trail and my legs are coated, despite wearing pants all day!

It got cool last night, but never cold. Slept a little, but was up most of the night (as usual). Wore long johns with a wool shirt and was good. I'm a little sore today, but not bad. No blisters. I need to do laundry and wash at Grey Lake. I left a sign for Devin on the spur trail marker to the viewpoint. Hopefully he arrives soon and we can get today's climbing out of the way. 2,500 feet or so to Mt. Rose, then a long downhill and flat stretches. I doubt I could hit the 33 miles needed for Marlette Camp, so I will likely dry camp just outside the Nevada State Park near mile 45.

1107 Mt. Baldy mile 27.6
Now in Nevada! I waited at the junction until 0830 but Devin didn't show. He is possibly still behind me, but he could be in front. Just under 1 liter left. Only saw 2 groups of day hikers coming down from Mt. Baldy today. No one saw Devin pass, so I told them to relay to him that I would wait 1 hour at Grey lake to get water. I can't believe its only been 24 hours and I am already in Nevada. The view of the lake is changing and it feels like I am actually accomplishing something.

1304 Grey Lake
Had Navigational Issues. Devin caught up. A local gave us directions to the lake. Plenty of water here.

2137 Mt. Rose Campground
Long day. Sprained my right ankle, but I feel better now. Today felt tougher than 20 miles. I am glad to be done with the highest peak. Easy day tomorrow. We got confused trying to find Grey Lake junction and were actually searching the trail a 1/2 mile short of where it actually was. A local hiker headed out way walked us to it, but he wouldn't stop talking. There was about a foot or so of water in the lake, nice place. I also stopped by Galena falls.

Wednesday 8/26 0627 55 degrees 8820'
Cloudy and windy. Slept well. Looks like it could rain, but weather forecast still shows no rain in sight. Clouds should clear in a couple of hours. High of only about 80 today. Legs are sore, but they should warm up as I walk.

0806 65 degrees
Left camp at 0745. I have a blister forming on my left foot between the ball of my foot and toes, so I put mole skin on it. Otherwise I am feeling good. I am waiting at the southern junction of the interpretive trail for Devin who took the scenic route. Skies are clearing. Nice breeze.

1447 70 degrees 58 miles 8276' Marlette Camp
Bathrooms, picnic tables, and pump water (w/ aluminum in it)! Long day so far. I will probably push to Spooner. We had clouds early, then the sun came out. Warm climb, but not bad. Christopher's Overlook was nice.

2110 60 degrees 69 trip miles Spooner Summit
Here since 1955. Quads hurt. Shoulders hurt. Body hurts. Think we did a marathon today. Walked down to check Spooner Lake for water. There is some, but you have to wade through 10 feet of mud. Bugs biting me, spooky trees around the lake shore. Not happy that I wasted 45 minutes walking to the lake and back. I have about 3.5-4L of water left. About 7 mile climb then some downhill to Kingsbury and my resupply. I will push across the highway and see where I end up. I just want to find a halfway decent camp. Tempted to stay at the Trailhead here, but its too noisy. I met TAZ the horse (and his owner) at Marlette Peak Camp today. They were marking the course of an upcoming horse race (which TAZ would not be participating in, he is just event staff). Also met a trail runner who is trying to do the TRT in 3-4 days. He was going from Mt. Rose Summit to Big meadow in 1 push!. He started at 1100 and was going to push through the night. My total ascent shows 12,361' so far!!!! No wonder I'm sore!

2213 70.7 miles
I pushed about a mile past the summit and found a flat clearing. I had issues finding the trail in the dark when I first crossed the highway. Exhausted. Goodnight.

Thursday 8/27 0624 45 degrees
Slept in wool top, regular pants, and beanie. no socks. Sore, but not nearly as bad as expected. Scratchy throat- probably dehydrated. Only 2 liters left. Last night I noticed when I am exhausted I breath to the tune of "the ants go marching one by one"

1439 80 degrees 86.2 miles Kingsbury Grade Market 7366' elevation
Have not seen Devin. Long trail. Started out ok, but body is sore. I made ok time, got here around 1330. Had a powerade, choco-taco, and burger from fox & hound. 2 thru hikers that started from Rose Summit left for Star Lake using the tramway shortcut when I arrived. I will head out the long way and push for Star Lake as well. Clouds are rolling in, hopefully the climb isn't bad.

1920 Mott Canyon 94.6 miles 8394'
Freaking tired. :(
Wanted to push on, but I don't know if I should

2032 Monument Pass 96.2 miles 8800'
I pushed on. Other spot was no good. Would have had to climb the next morning in sunlight. And I could have mistakenly gone down a dirt road towards Carson Valley. Also I just can't stop.
-My smart wool icon looks like a spider on my arm when I am tired
-Why are there so many ski lifts?
-Some ski lifts are on remote 4x4 roads, how do those get used in the winter?
-Just barely inside CA state line
-I hope power lines are not unhealthy
-I forgot to get drink mix!!!
-No more detours after today, everything should be on trail

Friday 8/28 0620 55 degrees
Windy and cold. I slept pretty good. Body is sore, but not as bad as expected. Gonna break down camp and get moving to warm up. I want to bathe and do laundry today.

0827 Star Lake
Sun is out. Feels good. Filtering, washing, then heading on.

1319 108 miles 9408' Close to Freel Meadow 75 degrees (nice breeze)
Just got passed by the two hikers that started from Mt. Rose Summit. This is their 4th day on the trail. They stayed at Star Lake last night and saw a bear somewhere between Monument Pass and Star Lake.

It feels weird being so far south of Lake Tahoe. I can see highway 89 and am having flashbacks to driving thru the area many years ago. Two mountain bikers gave me Black Cherry Gu Chomps at the last junction. They smelled like chocolate flavor, but were good. About a dozen members of a trail crew are working just north of Armstrong Pass. Hopefully I can get to showers lake tonight. Still no sign of Devin.

1644 Big Meadow TH
(no entry)

2114 Showers Lake 123 miles 8687'
Cool, but decent temp. Made it here just with water from Star Lake (stupid). Filtered water and grabbed a flat spot. There are oher people camping here. I accidentally walked up on another person in an REI bivy thinking it was an open spot. Easy 9 miles to echo tomorrow. I think I left the couple behind. I last saw them where the trail was dropping to big meadow, bummer- they were nice. And they were from Hood River! I still haven't seen Devin. He is likely far behind. I am hoping he will arrive while I resupply tomorrow so I can see him off. Hoping to make it over Dicks Pass tomorrow (2nd to last climb!)

Saturday 8/29 0636 54 degrees
Packed and ready to go. A mouse chewed through my dry bag and ate TP and oatmeal. No damage to the backpack that I can see. It figures it happens on the one night I move the pack away from where I sleep. Strong winds. Periods of calm followed by loud sound of wind approaching through the forest, then it hits hard. Gonna go warm up now. Hope to be at Echo around noon

1215 Echo Lake Chalet 135 miles 7437'
Here just about noon. I would have been here 15 sooner, but a female runner pointed me in the wrong direction, so I walked down the wrong road about a 1/4 mile.

1925 Camp @ Gilmore Lake Turnoff 146 miles 8311'
55 degrees. Mostly cloudy. Crazy windy. Left the chalet around 1300.

Back at journal. Did chores first. Still windy, but clouds have mostly cleared. Two girls in their 20s w/ day packs just passed by on their way to Dicks Pass. They said they were "slogging" it. I wonder if they are taking another way down on the other side of the pass?

Back at Echo Lakes an older guy names James gave me trail mix, TP, and Tuna. He came from Yosemite on the Tahoe/Yosemite trail, but he was collecting his resupply and ending his journey at Echo Lake.

It's now 20:13 and 2 males and a female trail runner just came down from the pass!

When I reached Aloha today the weather looked super bad. I was checking with everyone for their opinion. You could see the clouds envelope the peaks above the lake and it looked DARK. One southbound thru hiker told me she would recommend turning around and not heading towards the pass. Everyone else was more on the fence. One group of ladies told me the rangers were expecting wind gusts up to 65mph. That feels right. I still pushed on anyways, but decided to camp near Gilmore to save wear and tear (my feet are dead) and do some chores. Tomorrow should be interesting. I'm ready to finish.

Sunday 8/30 0500 50 degrees
Still dark. I slept ok. Windy all night, but I was in a good spot and warm enough. Clouds are back, moving over the trees super fast. Going to push for the pass and drop elevation. 2 backpackers just hiked up into Gilmore Lake. I didn't see the girls return last night, but I fell asleep pretty quickly.

0948 156 miles 7714'
Just past Phillips creek (its dry). Climb to the pass had me nervous this morning. Most of the sky was dark and ominous. Very high winds. Clouds scraping the tops of nearby peaks. I made the 2.9 miles from camp to the pass in 1 hour 5 minutes! The drop down the other side was just as windy to Fontanillis Lake, then I entered trees and its been good since. A light breeze here or there, but I can now just wear my hoodie. No need for multiple layers. Still mostly cloudy, but not nearly as thick as earlier. The sun dances in every once in a while. Mountains to the west (last I saw) were still covered in clouds.

That couple that walked to Gilmore this morning came back and asked me for directions to the 2nd lake. I walked back up with them and pointed out the path across the dam. Now that I am looking at the map I don't see another lake up there- just the path to Mt. Tallac, so I hope that is what they were looking for...

Haven't seen anyone in a couple hours. Now that I am passed the lakes most of the people are gone.

1721 Baker Pass TH 168 miles 7698'
Clear, light breeze. All clouds are long gone. Amazing such a bad looking storm can blow in and out. Lonely trail today. Met a father and son trying the TRT from Echo, but they are planning on stopping at Tahoe City. Leap Frogged with them for a bit, but last I saw them they were still stopped for water at Richardson Lake. My filter is busted. Also met a southbound thru hiker named Michael (aka Sailor). Says he aims for about 30 miles a day and that his feet stopped hurting when he was around 300 miles into the PCT. I'm going to push to the PCT/TRT split or just passed it. I should have an easy 10 or so back tomorrow.

2007 173 miles 8459' 50 degrees
Mostly clear skies. Light breeze. Just enough haze of clouds for a pretty sunset. Camped 100 yards before the PCT/TRT split.

No sprint service in camp (go figure). Can faintly see the rising moon in the distance through the trees and it looks blood red. Sooooo ready to be done. My feet look *nasty*. The toe nails are discolored, blisters on them, small toes on both feet are red and starting to ooze clear fluid.

I hope everyone I met doing the PCT, TRT, and Tahoe-Yosemite Trail made it. No word from Devin- hopefully I will hear from him when I get cell service.

Monday 8/31 0409 55 degrees
Packed and ready to go. Excited to get this over with and looking forward to taking a shower. It had been a long, tough journey, but the end is finally in sight!

0951 186 miles* (Once uploaded to the computer the mileage came out a little bit shorter)
FINISHED!! Grabbed a drink and chips from the Shell station, retrieved my stash of clean clothes, and got my picture take at the TH. Its all over! Finished on time, my cache is intact, and no permanent injuries (that I know of yet).

GPS shows 186 miles. Only saw 1 other backpacker breaking camp this morning and a runner when I reached the paved path along the Truckee river. It was freezing this morning in the valley along Ward Creek. Thermometer showed 35 degrees. Weird, because that was 20 degrees colder than my camp at 4am- yet I was 1000 feet lower in elevation at 6am!

Ants here are wicked fast! There are medium size ones that walk regular speed, then go turbo speed with no warning! I have never seen ants so quick!
12.1 mi • 2,190 ft aeg
Hiked a section of the Tahoe Rim Trail from Ward Creek up to Twin Peaks with my daughter. Some great one-on-one time with a very special lady. The trail is in great shape and has gentle grades which makes the 2190 elev gain fairly easy. The trail follows Ward Creek for a couple miles before starting the ascent up the side of a ridge towards Twin Peaks. The trail passed through lush meadows with blooming Lupine, Indian Paint Brush and a yellow sunflower like plant. The views from Twin Peaks were fantastic but the Lake Tahoe views were obscured by a heavy haze hanging over the lake. We chose not to make the final climb to the top of the first peak - about 100 ft elev gain. It would have required boulder hopping up a steep slope covered with large sharp cornered rocks/boulders. The additional views gained would (in my opinion) not have been worth the extra effort and risk. This is a nice hike with the trail head only a few miles from Tahoe City.
10.5 mi • 1,236 ft aeg
September is the ideal month if planning to do the Tahoe Rim Trail. Comfortable temps, clear air, no bugs, and the summer people are gone/back in school. The only downside would be less flowers but even that is tempered with the beginning of autumn foliage. Great day on the trail with only two other single hikers encountered who were thru hikers-lovin it.

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