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Tahoe Rim Trail: Above it All

On a thru-hike of the 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail, two brothers get some perspective - on America's largest alpine lake, and each other.


The Tahoe Rim Trail
Hike amid soaring peaks and alpine lakes on this three-day, 32-mile highlights route in the Desolation Wilderness.

Hike it In just two weeks, you can snag a lifetime of Sierra Crest panoramas on the 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail. Don’t have a fortnight? Take three days to knock off the author’s favorite section – from Echo Lake to Barker Pass in the Desolation Wilderness. From Lower Echo Lake trailhead (1), hike along the eastern edge of four small lakes dotted with granite islands. At mile 3.1, enter the wilderness (2) where the TRT and the Pacific Crest Trail merge. Stop at the boulder-strewn shores of Lake Aloha (3) for a swim beneath Pyramid Peak and the spired crest of the Crystal Range – watch for marmots near the pile of rocks known as Cracked Crag. Nav tip: At the northern side (4) of Aloha, turn east away from Mosquito Pass toward Glen Alpine; it’s a frequently missed turn. In half a mile, reach Heather Lake (5), encircled in flowers and hemlocks. In spring and early summer, an outlet creek creates a snow-tunnel waterfall (6) perfect for showering. At mile nine, camp at Susie Lake (7) with views of 9,974-foot Dick’s Peak. Push 1,600 feet to Dick’s Pass (8) the next morning, where, after a few hours of climbing, you’ll have huge views of a dozen lakes and 130-mile visibility north to 10,462-foot Lassen Peak (on clear days). The next 2.5 miles drop 1,000 feet to Fontanillis Lake (9), where you can rest your dogs in crisp, clear water. Pass Upper and Middle Velma Lake (10), each with nearby camping. Water up here, as the trail enters an eight-mile dry section through firs to Richardson Lake (11), a tree-lined tarn with campsites on the northwest corner. The last 6.7 miles to Barker Pass (12) traverse rolling terrain through dense forest dotted with meadows. End at Barker Pass trailhead.

GET THERE From South Lake Tahoe, take US 50 W 7.6 miles to FR 11NO6C. Turn right and drive .1 mile to a slight right onto FR 11N06 (becomes Echo Lakes Rd.) and go .9 mile.
GUIDEBOOK AND MAP The Tahoe Rim Trail, by Tim Hauserman ($13;; Tom Harrison Maps Lake Tahoe Recreation Map ($10;
HYDRATION Water gets scarce starting in July. Tank up before these sections: Tahoe City to Mt. Rose Highway (38 miles; consider a cache at Brockway Summit); Kingsbury North to Spooner Lake (20 miles); Spooner Lake to Ophir Creek (18 miles).
PERMITS Required only in the Desolation Wilderness. Half kept for walk-ups ($5/hiker/night; 530-543-2694; Thru-hikers must pay fees, but aren’t subject to site quotas.

View detailed maps and download GPS data for the entire Tahoe Rim Trail at

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