—By Laura Van Jangles—
The Tahoe Rim Trail is commonly understood to provide one of the most picturesque journeys on the west coast. This famous trail offers awe-inspiring vistas, a diversity of foliage, and a fun way to firm up that hiney (wasn’t that one of your summer goals anyway?).
And to think, it’s right in our ‘effing backyard!
If conquering this 165 mile trek, or at least segments of it, isn’t already on your bucket list, then maybe it’s time you reevaluate your priorities.
Taking on the whole rim in one quest is one way to do it, but not everyone has the time and training to take down this beast in one go.
Besides, we’ve got lives to live, dammit!
But guess what? You don’t have to swallow the whole salami in one bite! With eight trail-heads offering manageable morsels of trail, you can nibble on that salami in as many bites as you please.
So that’s what we’ve decided to do. Nibble.
Bite #1: The northeast section of the Tahoe Rim Trial.
An E-Z Lowdown on Spooner Summit to Tahoe Meadows.
Distance: 23.1 miles
Level of Difficulty: Blue square for those in at least moderately good shape.
Time needed: We suggest making this an overnight trip. However, if you’re short on time and quick on your feet, it could be done in a day.
Dog friendly? Yes.
Horse poop? Affirmative. Watch your step.
Water sources: Water pump at the 10 mile mark at Marlette Camp, Ophir Creek at the finish line.
Where to park: From South Lake, drive meniacally towards the Carson City Wal-Mart like you desperately need to load up on generic toothpaste. But instead of driving down the hill, veer off at one of the turnouts at the crest of the hill just past Spooner lake. The best part? Parking here costs a whole ZERO DOLLARS!! That’s right, as in FREE.99!
Tips: Pack smart, wear good socks & shoes, and bring lots of water.
Part 1: POWERLINE TRAIL’S TWIN
If you’ve spent any time biking/running/hiking/fleeing the cops on the popular Powerline trail of South Lake, then you’ll likely find this section of the TRT comparable.
The trail carries along at a moderate level through sprawling manzanita, towering pines, granite boulder piles, and cool pockets of Lake Tahoe and Carson Valley views. Worry not—these quick vistas are just the pregame for the upcoming party.
Thinks you’ll most likely say on this portion of the trail:
“Ah, this is a breeze! I could hike forever!”
“Damn! Check out highway 50 from up here! Crazy!”
“I wonder if I turned off the stove before leaving the house…”
Part II: Mind-blowing vistas overlooking Big Blue and Marlette Lake
Lake Tahoe and her good looks star in this section of the TRT. The aerial vistas enable you to observe about 80% of the shoreline as it wraps around Big Blue, giving it that “WHOA!”, larger-than-life feel.
Be sure to watch your step while rubbernecking the lake. We get it, she’s hott, but don’t wreck yourself over her beauty.
Save that for the crazy chick you’re dating.
You’ll also be passing right by Snow Valley Peak, the highest point on this section of the trail (9,214 feet). Be sure to give it a wave as you pass by. Then take a moment to glance down at the aspen grove below, which will no doubt be popping with lemon-colored leaves in the next few weeks.
If the initial aerial view of the lake isn’t enough to make your head explode with awe, spontaneous combustion will most certainly take place upon arrival to the TRT section overlooking Marlette Lake. We had just so happened to have had a late start, which timed out perfectly with the sun setting over BOTH LAKES.
Remember the double rainbow guy of YouTube fame? If not, I posted a friendly reminder below.
- Stumble over a rock while staring out at the lake.
- Add hiking to the top of Snow Valley Peak on your bucket list.
- Take a zillion panoramic photos on your iPhone, only to realize they just don’t do it justice.
Part III: The woods to Marlette Camp.
Once the sun set and daylight bid us adieu, we decided it was time to strap on the headlamps and book it to our destination for the evening: Marlette camp.
Bear boxes, fire pits, picnic benches, a water spout, and a surprisingly clean port-a-potty are all provided for the whopping price of zero dollars! You can even observe Reno’s twinkling city lights from camp, which, for some strange reason, makes you feel less like you’re in the middle of BFE.
How desolate are you really if you can practically hear the ‘cha-ching’ of the slot machines from within Reno’s temples of debauchery.
Note that there is no trash removal, so don’t even think about leaving your ca-ca stained toilet paper or KIND bar wrappers behind.
The old school water pump located on the south end of camp is nothing short of a good time. We will admit it did take us an extra split-second to figure it out (it will appear as though nothing is happening for a minute, then—WOOOSH—there she blows!)
Be sure to take photos, it’ll make your great-grandpapi proud!
Things you’ll probably ponder while camping here:
“How the hell do I have three bars of service?”
“How is this camp free? Balling on a budget!”
“I really hope I get a poop out while I have this port-a-potty handy.”
Part IV: Christopher’s Loop and Diamond Peak
Let me just begin this section by saying: make sure you pack functioning gear! The valve on my sleeping mat decided to go on strike, hence I basically slept on the ground. Needless to say, it was an arduous start on day 2 of our trek.
Be sure to take the .6 mile detour on Christopher’s Loop for one of the sickest views on this section of the TRT. This viewpoint consists of an unprotected cliff vertically perched above the cerulean waters of Sand Harbor.
This dramatic view, infused with the sense of living dangerously on the edge, will make you feel the most alive you’ve felt in a long time.
If you still don’t believe me, watch the video below and tell me that alone doesn’t inspire you to make the trek out here. Please ignore the fact that I sound like a 13 year old girl who gets picked last in gym class and focus rather on the profound beauty of this place we are fortunate enough to call home.
After Christopher’s Loop it’s a long, dry haul to Tahoe Meadows. You won’t be seeing any water for about 14 miles, except for that giant pond on your left named Lake Tahoe. And don’t be fooled by the two splotches on the map titled Twin Lakes, which should be renamed Twin Dust-flats. Stare at them too long and you’ll probably end up thirstier than you were before.
As the trail moves along it weaves back and forth along the ridge line, offering spectacular vistas of both the lake and Washoe valley. It’s also spectacularly hot, as much of it is exposed to the sun. Sweaty armpits are to be expected.
The midpoint of this stretch intersects with the summit of Diamond Peak. Seek shady retreat underneath the chairlift and enjoy a lovely lunch. And by lovely lunch, we mean stuffing your face like a feral caveman.
It’s ok—mountaintops are commonly known for being judgement-free zones.
What you’ll probably realize at this point:
“Should have packed some Babybels…”
“I’m not sure I got my money’s worth on my season pass this year.”
“There’s more hiking. A lot more.”
Part V: ARE WE THERE YET?
Halfway through this section you’ll realize you’re already north of the lake, thus bathing you with an overwhelming sense of badassery.
But don’t get too excited. Tahoe Meadows is nestled pretty far north of Incline Village, something that will dawn on you as the “ARE WE THERE YET?!!” syndrome sets in.
Once the lake, our trusty landmark, disappeared behind us, the trail seemed to just keep winding aimlessly through the woods in no pattern that could be immediately recognized on the map, thus making it impossible for the amateur hiker (for instance: us) to pinpoint exact location.
Siri was of no help either.
Every single hill we approached instilled in us a certainty that Tahoe Meadows was right behind it. Don’t do this, unless you can handle soul crushing disappointment. Over and over.
But you’ll get there. And once you do, take the time to relish in your accomplishment.
Things you’ll probably do once you finish this section.
- Take a hippy bath in Ophir Creek, much to the dismay of passing joggers.
- Tell yourself “you’s a m*f* badass* while fist pumping the sky
- Relish in some mental food porn. Greasy burger. Fries. Bottle of wine (to yourself, obviously). Nothing is off limits today!
You’ve just completed the northeast section of the Tahoe Rim Trail.
Now go eat a freakin’ hamburger and post 1,000 photos about it on social media—you’ve earned it!
For more info on the Tahoe Rim Trial, visit www.tahoerimtrail.com
Also be sure to visit their facebook page!
Visit this link and vote for the Rim Trail in the Michelob Trail challenge so it can receive $25,000 for maintenance and improvements!