Tahoe Rim Trail: A Heavenly Hike

Twenty years of hard work near Tahoe yields a 150-mile path so high, you'll breathe "angel air."

The Tahoe Rim Trail gives new meaning to the phrase “getting your money’s worth.” This recently completed route squeezes two states, six counties, three national forests, some state parklands, and a portion of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail into its 150-mile length. If that’s not enough, the path follows high ridges and mountaintops in a spectacularly scenic circuit of the largest alpine lake in North America.

Trail construction “was a heck of a challenge,” says Glenn Hampton, a retired Forest Service recreation officer who 20 years ago proposed a loop around the lake that straddles the California-Nevada border. Some 10,000 volunteers and 200,000 work hours later, Hampton and the Tahoe Rim Trail Association are celebrating the path’s grand opening with 3 days of festivities beginning September 21, 2001.

The Tahoe Rim Trail offers nine different trailheads for easy access. Complete the whole trail, whether in a single thru-hike or in sections, and you can join the Association’s 150-Mile Club. To get you started, here are three hikes, best taken in September or October to avoid crowds:

  • From the Brockway trailhead at the north end of the lake, hike 4 miles east to a rocky point where you can leave the trail to explore otherworldly lava pinnacles. Return to Brockway.
  • Hoof it north from the Kings-bury trailhead for 12 miles, alternating between forest and awe-inspiring lake vistas, until you reach the Spooner Summit trailhead. A car shuttle is required.
  • For arguably the best scenery, hike south from the Tahoe Meadows trailhead for 22 miles. Spend a night at a campground (no permit required) near mile 14 and finish at the Spooner Summit trailhead. A car shuttle is required.

Mark Twain said that Tahoe, with its rim elevation ranging from 6,300 to 10,333 feet, is home to “air that angels breathe.” In other words, be ready for weather that can change with every peak.

For more information or to order a detailed map of the trail ($10), contact the Tahoe Rim Trail Association at (775) 588-0686;