A blog about outdoor adventure and Vanlife

Tahoe Rim Trail- Echo Summit to Barker Pass

Echo Lake from the view of the water taxi

The Tahoe Rim Trail (aka TRT) is a 165-mile trail that circumnavigates the Lake Tahoe Basin.  This is part two of our 8-part series showcasing each section of the 165-Mile Tahoe Rim Trail.  The TRT is commonly divided into eight sections (where the trail meets roads or access points).  While many people do the TRT as a continuous through-hike, we did the trail in sections.  Some parts we hiked, others we rode on mountain bikes.  By the time we completed all 165-miles and joined the “165-Club,” we had logged over 1,000 miles (over the course of 3 years) on the TRT.  Some sections we ride, run, or hike almost weekly, others we rarely visit.

The Echo Summit to Barker Pass section runs concurrently with the Pacific Crest Trail (aka PCT) through a large swath of Desolation Wilderness.  At 32.5 miles, this section of the TRT is the longest continuous section due to a lack of access points and a long stretch through Desolation Wilderness.

Entering Desolation Wilderness

This section of the TRT is also visually stunning.  It is dotted with Alpine lakes, vast fields of granite, long climbs and descents, and miles of forested trails  studded with granite boulders and outcroppings.

We did this section in three days, covering nearly 40 miles from Echo Lakes to our front door on the West Shore.  Although 40 miles over three days (loaded for backpacking) is quite an undertaking for most people, many parts of this Rim Trail section are accessible by out and back day hikes.  As with most trails, once you get more than 2 miles away from the trailhead, you rarely see anyone.  My hope in writing the TahoeSux blog is to showcase some spectacular trips and inspire people to get out their on their own adventures.

Daisy Boat Dog enjoying the water taxi across Echo Lakes

We started by taking the Echo Lake water taxi across both Echo Lakes.   Upper and Lower Echo Lakes are connected by a narrow channel.  Except for the water taxi, motorboats are not allowed on Echo Lakes.  The water taxi shuttles hikers and summer cabin owners daily.

Daisy loves boat rides and jumped aboard without hesitation  She stuck her nose into the wind, ears flapping as the shore passed.

We started by letting Daisy swim a bit before our hike started in earnest.  It’s always important to keep your dog cool on hot days and during long hikes.  We get Daisy to swim or cool her feet off in a stream every

One last swim before we hit the trail

chance we get.  This keeps her cool, soaks her fur so that she stays cool for an hour or two, and gives her lots of energy.  Remember, dogs can’t lose heat through sweating or shedding clothes.  If your dog is panting excessively or becomes sluggish in the heat, cool him or her down.

We began our hike, slowly climbing amid among the conifers and passing Tamarack Lake and Lake of the Woods along the way.  There are numerous named and unnamed alpine lakes along the trail.  One could spend a week scrambling around granite fields and checking out different lakes along the way.  One in particular, is my favorite:

Lake Aloha, Lake Aloha, Lake Aloha!!!

Looking south, Lake Aloha looks endless

I have a particular affinity for Lake Aloha.  It is perhaps the most incredible alpine lake I’ve ever seen.  I could easily write an entire blog post about Lake Aloha.  At 8,120′ in elevation, Lake Aloha is a true jewel of the Sierras.  It is accessible only by foot, and the distance from the trailhead keeps it unspoiled.  Dozens of granite islands dot the lake amid a backdrop of granite.  Patches of snow often linger well into fall on its east facing slopes, and the sky seems huge along its shores.  Indeed, some views looking south along Lake Aloha have a feeling of endlessness as lake and sky seem to merge.

Basking in the sun at one of Lake Aloha’s granite islands

We spent a couple of hours exploring it’s shores, swimming in the frigid water, and soaking up the sun on the warm granite.  Then we shouldered our packs and continued on.  We could have easily spent an entire day (or two) scrambling around and exploring the lake.

Daisy Water Dog swimming in the crystal clear water

From Lake Aloha the TRT/PCT drops down, following the outlet of Lake Aloha and by the shores of Heather Lake, Susie Lake, and Gilmore Lake.  We spent the night near Gilmore Lake.  Of all the lakes, Gilmore Lake felt the most impacted.  It is often an overnight camp spot for people hiking up to Mt. Tallac (one of Tahoe’s signature peaks), and only a few miles from Glen Alpine trailhead.  Unfortunately, more people means more impact.  Sadly, a minority of hikers and backpackers do not have outdoor ethics, and bits of trash were evident here and there.  We make a point of “Leave No Trace” camping, and it makes me both angry and sad when I come across trash miles from the trailhead.  Pack it in, Pack it out.  There is no garbage truck in the back country.  It’s really not that hard.

Climbing to Dick’s Pass

We left Gilmore Lake the next morning and climbed toward Dick’s Pass at 9,340′ elevation.  One of the reasons that I love the Sierras is that there is a virtual change of seasons with elevation gain or loss.  As we climbed up to Dick’s Pass, spring wildflowers were still in bloom (in September where the last bits of snow had melted off sometime in August).

When we got to Dick’s Pass, there were several large patches of snow on the north side.  Daisy Trail Dog became Daisy Snow dog and she romped and rolled in the snow.  We stopped to play chase with Daisy, toss snow balls for her to pounce on, roll, and eat snow.  One of the great things about dogs is their infectious joy at the little things.  Daisy keeps us young, and we play with her every chance we get.  We get old because we stop playing.

H and Daisy amid the wildflowers at 9,000′.  It’s September, yet the spring wildflowers are in full effect here.

Spring wildflowers in September- a high altitude treat

Dick’s Peak in the background

In some of the pics you’ll see that Daisy Trail Dog is wearing her dog booties.  Earlier I talked about taking care to make sure Daisy is kept cool while hiking.  One of the other important things about long distance hiking with your pooch is to make sure your dog’s paws are protected.   Because we are a very active couple, Daisy gets lots of exercise.  As such, her paws are well conditioned for running and hiking- in most terrain.  Long distances over rocky terrain can be like sandpaper to your dog’s paws.  This is especially true in Tahoe, where miles of granite and rocks quickly take their toll.

Booties!

For day hikes and trail runs, Daisy does not need booties 98% of the time.  Covering 40 miles over three days is a different story.  In fact, we saw another hiker who had to wrap her dog’s paws in tape because they were bleeding from the granite.  Daisy hates her booties, but tolerates them because we’ve trained her and practiced with them.  Daisy’s booties go on when covering long stretches of rocky terrain or granite, and come off when traveling smooth trail.  Sore feet or raw pads would ruin her experience of backpacking too.  (I could write an entire blog post about dog booties- perhaps in the future.  We’ve tried a couple different types of dog booties, but have settled on the Ruff Wear Grip Trex).

Daisy Trail Dog, falling asleep in her booties

From Dick’s Pass, there are spectacular views of Dick’s Peak to the West, Lake Aloha to the South, and five lakes to the north (Dicks, Fontanillis, and the three Velma Lakes).  We stopped at several lakes for Daisy to swim and cool off before setting up camp in a nice clearing among the granite.

Daisy Snow dog rolling in the snow atop Dick’s pass, elev. 9,340′

Dicks Lake, Fontanillis Lake, and the Velma Lakes. Oh, and unending views.

Daisy Snow Dog- tail up and ready to play.

H and Daisy with 100 mile views near Dicks Pass. (Susie Lake,  Lake Aloha, and Mt. Price are in the background).

Our third and last day wound through forested trails with beautiful views deep into Desolation Wilderness.  When we reached Richardson Lake, we left the Tahoe Rim Trail and headed for Lost Lake Trail and General Creek trail back to our house.

Home is where you pitch it

Tired Paws fast asleep at our campsite

That’s a big rock!

Break time near the Desolation Wilderness boundary

Richardson Lake

One last swim in General Creek before the final push home.

For more information, please visit the Tahoe Rim Trail Association website, or this printable PDF map of the Echo Lakes to Barker

Pass section.

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

5 Responses »

  1. Great Post – loving your photos! Have a Great Day:)

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  2. Beautiful! Looks like an amazing place.

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  3. OK…this is definitely a must-do hike. What’s your recommendation for the best time of year? September? And great post, by the way!

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    • Thanks! Glad you like post (and blog). I’m a fan of yours and love your pics and stories of the American West.

      September is a great time to hike out there. After Labor Day, Tahoe empties out of it’s tourism. It’s also one of the most beautiful times of year. This year, with our anemic winter (snowpack 30-40% of normal), July or August would probably be best. You can also take the water taxi both ways and get to Lake Aloha as a day trip. There are many other alpine lakes in the vicinity (so many, not all of them have names).

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