The 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail is arguably one of the most scenic through hikes in the country.. From volcanic rock formations and glacially carved valleys, to lush meadows packed with wildflowers and dense forests of hemlock, the sheer number of micro-climates on the Tahoe Rim Trail will keep this trek interesting for everyone.
What Makes It Great
Echo Lakes to Barker Pass - 32.7 miles
Shared by the Pacific Crest Trail, this section offers abundant alpine lakes and a breathtaking trek through Desolation Wilderness. Echo Lakes to Barker Pass acts as a perfect introduction to the TRT with low risk and maximum reward.
Barker Pass to Tahoe City - 16.7 miles
The TRT meanders through the volcanic outcropping of Twin Peaks before descending through lush fields of mule’s ear and blooming wildflowers. Camping options are limited if you push all the way to Tahoe City, but the pizza and beer from Front Street is well worth the trek into town.
Tahoe City to Brockway Summit - 20.2 miles
The trail maintains a persistent climb from Tahoe City to Watson Lake, a car-accessible campground that might offer the fortune of car camping food shared by good Samaritan neighbors (at least that was this author’s experience).
Brockway Summit to Tahoe Meadows - 20.2 miles
Gaining elevation to join the high-altitude Mt. Rose Wilderness, you are greeted by vast fields of blooming mule’s ear that appear to drop all the way to the shores of Lake Tahoe. The climbing continues as you huff and puff to the highest point of the TRT at the 10, 338’ summit of Relay Peak before descending down to Tahoe Meadows.
Tahoe Meadows to Spooner Summit - 23.1 miles
Turning southbound on the east shore of Lake Tahoe, the TRT sets its sights on wide-open ridgelines and ducks in and out of massive Western White Pines. A Hilton-esque backcountry experience awaits at the Marlette Peak backcountry camp, complete with pit toilet, water pump, campfire rings, and picnic tables.
Spooner Summit to Kingsbury - 18.5 miles
This is one of the driest stretches of the TRT, with seasonal streams typically dry by mid-summer. The parched nature of the trail is only a minor setback when considering the stunning vistas of both Lake Tahoe and the vast Carson Valley visible from the ridge.
Kingsbury to Big Meadow - 23.2 miles
This is one of the more strenuous portions of the TRT as you climb over Monument Pass, Free Saddle, and Armstrong Pass. Regardless, overnight camping at Star Lake combined with in-your-face views of Tahoe’s highest summit, Freel Peak, make this one of the most scenic sections as well.
Big Meadow to Echo Lakes - 17.5 miles
Perhaps the most scenically diverse section of trail, the TRT passes through verdant Meiss Meadow, volcanic Showers Lake, and jagged granite bowls before finally completing the full circle journey back at Echo Lakes.
Who is Going to Love It
The TRT offers day hikes, section hikes, and through hikes for backpackers of all abilities. As a through-hike, this is a perfect medium distance trail for those who have never gone on extended backpacking trips.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
The non-profit Tahoe Rim Trail Association is the ultimate resource for maps, driving directions, trail conditions, and information on the Tahoe Rim Trail.
A campfire permit and Desolation Wilderness permit are required for the through-hike and can be obtained from the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit headquarters in South Lake Tahoe.