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Backpacker Magazine – August 2010

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.

by: Charles Bethea

The author treks along Carson Ridge (Ryan Heffernan)
The author treks along Carson Ridge (Ryan Heffernan)
Bouldering next to Round Lake (photo by Ryan Heffernan)
Bouldering next to Round Lake (photo by Ryan Heffernan)
Charles and Rob arguing logistics (photo by Ryan Heffernan)
Charles and Rob arguing logistics (photo by Ryan Heffernan)
Showers Lake: the author and
Showers Lake: the author and "silver surfer" (Ryan Heffernan)
Crossing a meadow near Showers Lake (Ryan Heffernan)
Crossing a meadow near Showers Lake (Ryan Heffernan)




TRIP INFO:

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; wildernesspress.com); Tom Harrison Maps Lake Tahoe Recreation Map ($10; tomharrisonmaps.com)
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; fs.fed.us/R5/LTBMU/). Thru-hikers must pay fees, but aren't subject to site quotas.

TRAIL TOOLS
View detailed maps and download GPS data for the entire Tahoe Rim Trail at backpacker.com/tahoerimtrail.




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READERS COMMENTS

Emily Hogan
Jul 12, 2012

My big life-changing trip didn't happen until I was 50, and it was a trip to Utah. I had been there before, and always loved it. This time, it was like a religious awakening. All we did was hike the day trails in Zion, Bryce, Arches, and Canyonlands, but I couldn't get enough of it. I decided I wanted to be a geologist. I've still got quite a lot of college credits to earn, and I doubt I'll ever get a job because of it (I work at the Heard Museum in Phoenix), but I'm happy with the path my life is on (and those paths I walked in Utah).

One question -- what's Giardia? An illness? A Flower? An Italian philosopher . . . ?

Paul Mags
Nov 08, 2010

Charles and I corresponded before the trip. Gave him some info...maybe this doc (since updated) will help any potential TRTers. Good trail for those want to see what a thru-hike may be like. :)
http://www.pmags.com/ring-around-the-lake-tahoe-rim-trail-journal-2009#impressions

TRT Hiker Gal
Aug 26, 2010

That should read 'east' side of camp. Sorry for the typo.

Star Lake is a good spot for water on the Kingsbury-Big Meadow segment and a great place to camp. Looking forward to the Echo/Barker segment soon. I'm half done with the trail.

TRT Hiker Gal
Aug 26, 2010

Hi Sparksrick, if you take the left fork at Marlette Peak, you can take a short path on the ease side of the campground to a water well with a hand pump. Ice cold and so yummy. The path from camp meets back up with the east fork not far from camp so its not out of the way. Its still on the TRT.

John I. Gutierrez
Aug 26, 2010

Thanks for this!

John I. Gutierrez
Aug 26, 2010

Thanks for this!

Sparksrick
Aug 26, 2010

Maps, Hauserman's guide is good, Harrison's Recreation Map is a handy topo, but I think the Take It Outdoors Trailview Map is essential. I've referenced it more than either of the first two for my 165-mile section hike. I agree, the Echo/Barker section is fairly spectacular. My least favorite section was Tahoe City to Brockway. I agree, the east side is dry, dry, and may require a water cache at Tunnel Creek road.

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