The Tahoe Rim Trail

Big Meadow Trailhead to Echo Summit/Echo Lake (15.3 miles to Echo Summit, 17.5 miles to Echo Lake)
By Tim Hauserman
Echo Lake
Lower Echo Lake (Photo © Tim Hauserman)

Excerpted from The Tahoe Rim Trail by Tim Hauserman

This section is moderately strenuous. Most of the trail is gentle up and down terrain or almost level through meadows or open fields. While there are several sustained climbs, they are not too steep and most will find this section of the TRT not exceptionally difficult. The most difficult portion of the trail is between Bryan Meadow and Benwood Meadow, where you will experience an almost continuous, steep descent (or a steep climb if coming from Echo Summit).

Best Seasons
This section of trail is best hiked from late June to early October. While you may see a few snow patches well into July, the trail is mostly snow-free by late June. The wildflowers come into full bloom in late July or early August, which makes that the best time to hike this section. When those flowers are in bloom you are in for an incredible treat.

There are three beautiful lakes on this trip: Round Lake is only a 5.2-mile round trip from the trailhead. Dardanelles is 1.4 miles off the TRT and provides a 6.8-mile round trip. Showers Lake is a good halfway stop at 7 miles into the 15-mile hike (18 miles if you also go to Dardanelles Lake). You will find impressive volcanic rock formations jutting high above the shores of Round Lake, and on the ridges above Meiss Meadows. There are two large meadows, Big Meadow and Meiss Meadows, which if you come at the right time of year, will provide you with some of the most stunning displays of wildflowers you will see on the Rim Trail. In addition, other interesting flora is found on the trail, including some spectacular juniper trees. At a wonderful large bowl just past Showers Lake, you will encounter waterfalls and numerous wildflower-bordered streams caused by springtime snowmelt, and spectacular castle-like volcanic rock formations. This section may have the greatest variety of views and habitats of any section of the TRT.

Heads Up!
While the trail has several good water sources and places to swim, the second half of the trail, between Showers Lake and Echo Summit, has more limited water supplies, especially in the fall. Water can be found at the following locations: About 0.7 mile south of the Big Meadow trailhead in Big Meadow is Big Meadow Creek, which may dry up in the fall. The Upper Truckee River in Meiss Meadows is usually a swift-flowing stream. About halfway through the hike is Showers Lake, an excellent water source.

The two miles of the trail descending to Benwood Meadow are quite steep, which can be very hard on the knees and every other body part. From the Echo Summit end, this is a major uphill starting just 1 mile into your hike.

Tips for Mountain Bikers
From the Big Meadow Trailhead bikes are allowed on the first five miles to the junction of the Tahoe Rim Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. Bikes are not allowed on the Pacific Crest Trail, so this ride is a 10-mile out and back. Much of this ride is technically challenging, with lots of rocks.

Getting There

Big Meadow to Echo Summit
From the intersection of Highway 89 and Highway 50 in Meyers (south of South Lake Tahoe) drive 5.3 miles south on Highway 89 to the Big Meadow Trailhead on your left (this is about 3.3 miles before signed Luther Pass). The previous segment from Kingsbury Grade to Big Meadow trailhead ends here, and you start across the road and head uphill towards Big Meadow. The trailhead has a restroom facility and informational kiosks.

Echo Summit to Big Meadow
Drive west on Highway 50 from South Lake Tahoe to the top of Echo Summit (4 miles west of the intersection of Highways 89 and 50 in Meyers). Just 0.3 mile past Echo Summit make a left turn, which is marked with an Echo Summit Sno Park sign. Park on the southern end of the parking lot close to the hill, and begin walking south on the dirt path.

Article © Wilderness Press. All rights reserved.


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