A blog about outdoor adventure and Vanlife

Tahoe Rim Trail- Big Meadow to Echo Summit

Big Meadow lives up to its name

Fall colors on the Tahoe Rim Trail

The Tahoe Rim Trail (or simply TRT), is a 165-mile trail that circumscribes the rim of Lake Tahoe.  The trail is commonly divided into eight sections (where it crosses roads or access points).  One of our outdoor goals in Tahoe was to join the TRT 165-Mile Club- for those people who’ve completed the entire 165 miles of the Tahoe Rim Trail.

Each section of the trail is spectacular in its own way.  Some sections have expansive views of Lake Tahoe, others wind through alpine forests.  All sections feature spectacular views and a trail that is physically challenging, but unfolds like a great story- with dramatic twists around each corner.

It’s been a couple of years since we completed the TRT and joined the 165-club.  Blogs don’t necessarily run chronologically, though.  This post is the first installment of our adventures on the TRT.  In reality, we’ve probably logged at least 1,000 miles on the Tahoe Rim Trail.  There are several sections that we mountain bike weekly, and others that we rarely set foot (or tire) on.

Daisy Trail Dog- cooling off in Round Lake

The Big Meadow to Echo Summit section of the Tahoe Rim Trail is a 15-mile section (17 miles if you are through-hiking to Echo Lakes) that runs along the southwest corner of the Tahoe Basin. Much of the Big Meadow to Echo Lakes section runs concurrently with the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).  In fact, most of the western part of the TRT is also the Pacific Crest Trail (and is often described as one of the more spectacular sections of the PCT along its 2,700 mile length).  The PCT is not bike legal, despite many parts being perfectly suited for mountain bikes.  This, of course, means that we hiked it with Daisy Trail Dog.  Daisy has done most sections of the Tahoe Rim Trail, too.

The first five miles of the Big Meadow section of the TRT are bike legal (100% rideable, too), and make for great riding, especially in the fall.  We often ride out to the PCT/TRT junction and return-  descending through Christmas Valley- one of our favorite Tahoe mountain bike rides. You can read about it here, in our post entitled: Santa Always Delivers in Xmas Valley (which includes GPS data for the first 5 miles).

Large open meadows and dramatic views best characterize this section of the TRT.  There are many sections that wind through alpine forests or granite, but the “Wow” factor of this section is definitely in the open meadows and wide skylines.

Expansive meadows in Meiss Valley

We hiked this section in the Fall (late September), when the leaves were turning and Fall colors were in full force.  Fall in Tahoe is stunning.  Unlike other parts of the United States (where Fall erupts in a sea of color), seasonal changes are often muted living in California.  Not so in Tahoe.  Fall in Tahoe means a high contrast of colors.  Aspens turn golden amid stands of evergreen firs and pines.  Meadows turn various shades of reds, yellows and browns.  Ferns and other plants become bright, pale yellows and greens.  Much of this happens with backdrops of expansive granite and epic views.

Historic ranch cabin and barn

There are two historic ranch buildings that lie about 1/4 mile off the trail from the intersection of the TRT and PCT.  A century or so ago, Meiss Valley was a summer grazing ground for cattle ranchers.  Their cabin and barn remain standing alone in the valley.  Definitely worth the side trip to check it out.  I don’t seem to have any good close up pics, but you can see them behind Daisy Trail Dog (click for larger pic).  Tough people, those ranchers- driving cattle into the mountains for the summer, and down to the valleys in the summer.

Blazing aspens

Break time

Showers Lake is pretty close to the halfway point of our hike this day.  We had lunch on granite outcroppings next to the lake.  A perfect spot for a picnic and to dangle our feet in the cool water.  Daisy swam, got lunch, and sat with us.

Showers Lake- our lunch spot for the day

Oranges and alpine lakes

Boy and Dog- Daisy often just leans up against us in her gentle springer spaniel way

One of the nicer pics I took that day

A 15-mile hike above 7000′ is a good day and nothing to scoff at.  We like to travel light and fast- with lightweight hydration packs, food, a lightweight shell, and basic emergency kit.  I’ve realized that throughout our adventures and travels detailed on the blog, I rarely talk about equipment, or blisters, or the things that run through your mind when you’ve been out for hours already and just want to get back to the car to take off your boots.  Somehow those experiences fade when compared to whole adventure.

I remember looking at contrast of this solo aspen amid the pine and granite. The pic doesn't capture how dramatic it was.

Switchbacks amid fields of granite

Snoutferns?!- Daisy poked her nose in at the right moment

Because it’s fall, there are few water sources to keep Daisy Trail Dog cool.  We carry extra water for her, and make a point of getting her to swim in every creek and lake along the way. Springer spaniels are water dogs-  add water to them and they become very spunky.

Although we spend much more time on the bicycle, we definitely take more photos while hiking.  We rarely stop when riding mountain bikes, so the slower pace of hiking is much more conducive to taking pics (and I can often do it while on the move).

For more information on the Tahoe Rim Trail, check out the Tahoe Rim Trail Association. The Tahoe Rim Trail Association is a stellar organization that built and maintains the Tahoe Rim Trail.  Here is the link for specific information about the Big Meadows to Echo Summit Section.

I’ll be writing a post and report for each section of the TRT.  Some we’ve hiked and run, some ridden on mountain bikes (and some sections both foot and mountain bike).  I hope to have them all written up in summer 2012.  There are just so many blog  projects on the burner- in addition to actually getting outdoors too!

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Categorised in: Dogs and Paws, Tahoe Rim Trail, Trails

2 Responses »

  1. Gorgeous! We need to get up to Tahoe more often. When we go to the mountains, we usually head straight to the Eastern Sierras or Yosemite. We’ll add Tahoe to the mix this summer. Thanks!


    • Tahoe is a not so hidden gem. Very touristy in some parts (like South Lake Tahoe). But like anywhere, once you leave the beaten path there is tons of great stuff to do- for all ages and abilities.


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