Tahoe Rim Trail

We set out to hike the Tahoe Rim Trail in July 2012. Four of us began the trail, two of us hiked the whole thing; the other two finished about 100 miles of the trail. Below you will find a description of the adventure, as written from the tent each evening.

Day 1 – Tahoe City to Watson Lake (12.5 miles)
We parked at the Tahoe City trailhead. The hike started out with a decent climb and our packs were heavy. Frustratingly, the trail was headed the wrong way – it feels like it was designed for mountain bikers; at least it’s not steep but is’s also not direct. After a few hours of gentle climbing we were able to descend a bit. We had to ascend again up to a dozen false peaks before reaching the top where we rested. At only seven miles in, we all felt done. The next mile or so brought us down (gently) to the road. The last four miles were way too hard. The lake was warm and shallow and difficult to get into (Watson Lake). We ate and slept.

Day 2 – Watson Lake to Martis Peak (11 miles)
After a couple miles, decisions were finalized for Christa to drop out from sickness and Lisa from pain. We guided them out the 6.6 miles to Brockway Summit by 2pm. The path out was mostly flat with a small climb near the end. Christa’s parents brought us a resupply of water, plus some beer, coconut water, and seaweed. After some gear rescrambling, Andy and I continued up two miles or so, up a continuous hill. We made a quick detour (sans pack) up to “View Point” which was worth it. We camped on a flat sandy opening near some logging roads. After our delicious warm beers, we both ate too many mashed potatoes. At night, a bear sniffed the area and the moon was bright. We slept very well.

Day 3 – Martis Peak to Grey Lake (7.2 miles)
Woke at sunrise; were on trail by 8:20 am. Long day of uphill, maybe 8.5 miles or so. A jogger passed very early – he was going to Mt. Rose and back (to Brockway) in ONE day! We passed the first thru hikers going the other way. We should pass again on Monday near Showers Lake. They informed us of snow ahead and we informed them of no water ahead. Epic vistas all day. Especially Mt. Baldy! We hiked down to Grey Lake by 3:30 for water and washing. The Knorr Cheddar Broccoli Rice with salami really hit the spot.

Day 4 – Grey Lake to Ophir Creek (10.3 miles)
Late start due to cold and mozzies. (I picked this nickname for mosquitoes up from some British blokes on the JMT, and it’s stuck with me since.) Stayed in tent. Up, up, up all morning. Hoping for a snow patch to make slurpees (gatorade slushies) – no dice. After an impossibly long climb we reached the top of Relay Peak. Lassen AND Shasta were visible to the northwest. We spent 45 minutes at the top then descended to the pond. A nearby ski lift reminded me of hiking in Switzerland. The trail eventually splits to a boring hot dirt road OR a footpath to a waterfall! Easy choice. The falls were lovely but a bit crowded. I dunked my head in the cold stream and filled three liters of water. I was probably detracting from the view of others but I wasn’t there long. We ate a snack a bit back from the falls with a great view. Finally we headed toward Tahoe Meadows campground. The trail could have been built a couple miles more direct to Ophir Creek (our destination). Oh well. The Tahoe Meadows camp was apparently new, but the walk-in sites were in the back, uphill, with NO showers. No trash cans at the entrance either. Seems like the campground was designed with cars in mind only – why would you put the walk-in camp way in the back over a hill?  We talked to a woman on her way to wash three juicy plums.  She didn’t want to share :-(. We hiked another mile or so past the campground and reached the Tahoe Meadows trailhead. Somebody had left a sealed VitaminWater trailside – we snatched it. We set up camp hidden in the trees past Ophir Creek. The BioLite stove kept the mosquitos away so we stayed up until sunset (not really that late), with a delicious spagetti dinner. The cold VitaminWater was quickly consumed.

Day 5 – Ophir Creek to Marlette Peak Camp (14.3 miles)
Up before the sun.  Had a great oatmeal breakfast. Thought about food ALL day as we hiked on the well graded trail. We passed Diamond Peak ski lift about half way through the day.  Two mountain bikers rode past us at 11:00 am on an ODD day – tsk tsk. (Bikes are only allowed certain days.)  We destroyed the first nine miles before noon. Then we started climbing. It took until about 2:20 pm to reach the Sandy Harbor Overlook trail. It was SO hard to want to go up, but we dropped our packs and went for it. Just over the hill the scenery was great – well worth the extra effort.  The rocky cliffs were even more amazing. We both made camera art for 15 minutes or so. I was jealous of those swimming in the inland sea far below. Finally our tired legs dragged us to Marlett Camp. The newly added well pump is nice to drink and bathe in – but VERY cold. We had pasta with sausage for dinner, then a sound night’s sleep (very windy).

Day 6 – Marlette Camp to past Spooner Lake (12.5 miles)
We woke up before sunrise. Got an extra kick from peanut butter oatmeal. Breezed through the ten miles to Spooner Lake where we found lots of goose shit and weeds.  Water was warm and yucky.  Stayed for lunch and the crappy $2 water (the trail down to the lake had a use fee). We continued up the hill in search of a campsite, complaining along the way about how bad the warm water in our hydration packs was tasting. We found a great vista about 2.5 miles up. The delicious tuna pasta did not attract any critters (except one thousand huge ants).

Day 7 – past Spooner Lake to Kingsbury Grade (10 miles)
We want to see our wives SO bad that we took few breaks and walked fast. We looked forward to the showers and food too. We breezed up and down the ridge. It was cool at the top and HOT otherwise. Didn’t find the correct trail to our hotel so we took the long hard road. We made it!  By sundown, we were clean, fed, and tired. A good day.

Day 8 – “Christa and Lisa are back!” – Kingsbury to Cold Creek past Star Lake (9.8 miles)

[Christa writing for the rest of the trip…]

We set out from Kingsbury after a breakfast of poptarts. We were on the trail by about 8am. The trail mostly went up all day, but it was well graded and never seemed too difficult. We stopped only a few times for snacks. We had some epic views into the Nevada desert before we climbed up over Monument Pass. Soon (after a few miles) we made it to Star Lake. Most of the other backpackers we saw today were planning to camp at the lake. We decided to go a little further to Cold Creek. Our campsite is nice and flat and we can hear the creek. Rob and Lisa both swam in Star Lake, but it was too cold for me. On the way to our campsite we had some nice views of South Lake Tahoe (the lake, not the town). Saw a bald eagle today.

Day 9 – “Saw a marmot today!” – Cold Creek to Big Meadow (13 miles)
Made it to Big Meadow today after about 13 miles. We were planning to camp a couple miles earlier but it was really overgrown forest and a campground with pit toilets sounded better.

Today we got a relatively early start. After an oatmeal breakfast, we were on the trail by about 8:30am. We climbed up to where the trail for Freel Peak splits off. The vews were awesome. From there, the trail went up and down – we went through a lot of forest but we got a few good views to the south and one great vista of Lake Tahoe.

We saw one horse, several mountain bikers, and a couple of hikers/backpackers. (Some TRT thru hikers going the other direction warned us of the mosquito doom near Phipps Creek.)  The campground here is pretty nice, but the creek is a bit difficult to access. It’s Sunday, so only four or five sites are occupied. Tomorrow will be a seven mile day to Showers Lake.

Day 10 – Big Meadow to Showers Lake (7 miles)
This morning Rob and I had hot chocolate in our oatmeal. It was really good – especially with the banana chips. Maybe a little too much sugar though. We left the campground by 8:30 and followed the paved road for about a half mile. Eventually we got to the trailhead at Highway 89. Rob and Andy realized that they had walked over one hundred miles.

From the highway, the trail began climbing. Almost immediately we had to stop – Rob got shakey and needed to eat some non sugary food. He munched on several handfuls of sunflower seeds and soon we were on our way again. We took a break at Round Lake. From there, it was 4+ miles to Showers Lake. We walked through a lot of meadows, climbed over 1,000 feet, and met up with the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)! Eventually we got to the lake. Lisa and Andy swam. It got cloudy and windy, but the clouds cleared by dinner time.

Since today was only a seven mile day, we had much of the afternoon to set up camp, do some laundry, and hangout. The wet laundry is strung up inside the tent… hopefully it will sort of dry by morning. We had delicious pasta for dinner – it was creamy broccoli flavor and we added hash browns, salami, milk powder, and olive oil. Yum! We had chocolate pudding w/ crushed cookies for dessert – shared between all four.

We saw a big group of horses, a lot of day hikers, and many other backpackers. There are jumbo rocks around one side of the lake with flat sandy spots in between. A lot of people have settled in for the night.

Day 11 – Showers Lake to Echo Lakes/Berkeley Camp (10.5 miles)
Last night the wind died down as we went ot bed, but around 10pm it came back with a vengence. Wind gusts kept everyone awake for most of the night.  I kept waking up, putting on my glasses and looking out to make sure I could still see stars. It sounded like a storm so I thought it would rain.

In the morning it was so cold and windy we skipped our oatmeal breakfast. We packed, ate poptarts, and were on our way. We made the mistake of following the map and trail down the hill below Showers Lake, only to climb right back up to near where we camped. A minor setback.  The trail down to Echo Lakes was steep, rocky and very pretty.  We ran into fellow TRT hikers going the opposite direction (Rob and Andy saw them on Day 3), and chatted briefly before continuing on our journeys.  Before we know it we were walking along Highway 50, then up over a forested hill towards Echo Lakes.

We “camped” in a tent cabin at the Berkeley Echo Lake Camp. It’s a kids camp, but they let thru-hikers stay for $16/night. We haven’t paid because we can’t find Bob – the manager? I plan to send a check later.  Rana (our newest addition to the group) brought delicious sandwiches, chips, and beer for dinner! Her and Kendra are staying in the tent cabin for the night. Tomorrow Kendra will head home and the rest of us will continue on.  The showers here kind of suck (but still felt outrageously good).

Day 12 – Echo Lakes to Gilmore Lake (13 miles)
We woke up a little later than normal – tent cabins are dark! We slowly packed up, then walked down to the store at the Echo Lakes trailhead. We had already resupplied there yesterday, but this morning we bought a few extra things (beer, warm beanie for Lisa, cream cheese, Hot Tamales). We sat and had bagels with cream cheese and avocado for breakfast. A ranger came by and checked our permit – her name was “Wilderness 42”. Soon, we were on the trail walking along both Echo Lakes. It was very pretty, then even more beautiful when we got to Lake Aloha. Lisa and Rana swam in the lake. Rob jumped in and got out very quickly. Andy did laundry (a beer can had exploded in his pack). I sat in the sun.

From Lake Aloha we continued on past several gorgeous high-alpine lakes. It was a hot and steep climb up to Lake Gilmore – where we are camped for the night. The mosquitoes here are the worst of the whole trip (… so far).  We had mashed potatoes with salami and a LOT of cheese. Shortly after, I was already in the tent hiding from the mosquitoes.

Tomorrow will take us over Dicks Pass. Hoping the weather holds up – 20% chance of showers and thunderstorms.

Day 13 – Gilmore Lake to past Phipps Creek (10+ miles)
Woke up to grey clouds and wind over Gilmore Lake. Rana was convinced she heard a bear sniffing around our tents last night. Also, apparently it rained and there was a bit of lightning – I slept through all of it. I’m glad I convinced Rob to use the rainfly last night. We had oatmeal with peanut butter chips and banana. It was my favorite oatmeal so far. We left camp between 8:30 and 9. We immediately began climbing toward Dicks Pass. The clouds and wind were a bit cold, but the views behind us and to the side were awesome – we saw Pyramid Peak, Lake Aloha, and all the other lakes/peaks we passed yesterday. From the top of the pass, we descended past three more lakes. There was some thunder and a few sprinkles, but it never rained on us too hard.

We got water out of Middle Velma Lake – I was a bit grumpy because we had to do some backtracking for the water.

After getting the water, we entered mosquito/meadow/dense forest land. We had been warned about this dreadful place on Day 9, and again on Day 11. We made it past Phipps Creek (gross standing water) and began looking for a campsite. It was a little difficult because not many people camp in the dense water-less forest between Velma and Richardson Lakes. But, we managed to find a nice rocky clearing in the trees above the trail. The clouds finally cleared as we cooked dinner. We had hot chocolate with Korbel brandy and Toblerone for dessert – thanks Rana!

Day 14 – Phipps Creek to Barker Pass (12 miles)
Today felt like a long day for everyone. There was quite a bit of condensation on the tent last night/this morning. There were a TON of mosquitoes, so after breakfast we left camp very quickly. I got tired fast. We kept up a quick pace through the forest until we reached Lake Richardson. Lisa and Rana swam. I did some laundry and Rob took some time lapse photos of the clouds.

From the lake, the trail was relatively flat until the last two miles before Barker Pass. We all got pretty tired. The flowers everywhere were very pretty. After a rest at Barker Pass we climbed about a mile further and found a great campsite high up on a ridge with views to Lake Tahoe and back to Desolation Wilderness.

We saw a giant swarm of bees and really pretty yellow birds with red heads.

Day 15 – Barker Pass to Tahoe City (17 miles)
We hiked home to the hotel in Truckee – very long day.  Had some great dinner and beers at Fiftyfifty Brew Co. We hiked over a pass, past many views, a nice creek and a waterfall. When we stopped by the creek to eat our last lunch on the trail, Rana was attacked by biting flies. We were all attacked actually but she was especially delicious. Rana and Lisa stopped early (at one of the road crossings) but Rob, Andy, and I were determined to finish the last several miles.  Some people congratulated us when we were about a mile from the end. After 16+ miles of hiking for the day, and 180+ in two weeks, we were done.
“Shoo fly, don’t bother me”

6 thoughts on “Tahoe Rim Trail”

  1. Best journal of the TRT I have read to date…and I have read many. I keep a print copy in my pack for every segment of the trail I hike. Thanks guys, brilliant!

    1. Thanks Lorenzo! I was reading a lot of different TRT descriptions before hiking as well. It’s always nice to see how others experience the trail. So glad you enjoyed our trail journal!

  2. Thanks for the response Christa. I’ll have to tell you about my difficult segment on the rim Trail from Tahoe city to Mt. Rose (attempted) over packed my backpack couldn’t keep up with my friends spent the night alone on the other side of Mount Watson with just one quarter cup of water to get me from the campsite to Watson Lake to purify more, two hours away. Blisters on top of blisters I trudged along at 1.4 miles an hour overall speed to reach Brockway Summit. I was fortunate along the way to meet a young lady who was day hiking and offered me a ride back to my car. She saved me. Got back to my campground at Kaspian and stayed in my hammock for two days between soaking my feet in lake. I think I’m destined to be hiking alone from now on at my own pace I’ll get there when I get there. Thanks for listening. Oh, by the way if you Twitter I am @TahoeMarmot.

    Ciao Guys,

    1. That sounds like quite an adventure! I didn’t even make it to that part of the TRT, but I know Rob and Andy struggled with the heat and lack of water. Morale was saved by a small patch of snow somewhere along the trail. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Hi, I am planning a TRT thru hike in August with a friend. Thank you for all of the great information! Can you tell me if the Berkeley Echo Camp was right off the TRT/ easy to find or did you have to get off trail and hike to it?

    1. Hi Tre, The camp was easy to find – we just dropped down to the road since it runs parallel to the trail. However, the staff and guy in charge were very difficult to track down. Didn’t make it easy to pay for the very hot showers and bunk.

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