Hiking the Tahoe Rim Trail

Highway 207 to Genoa Peaks

Except in early season, when melting snow lies about and feeds ephemeral creeklets, this entire route is dry. If you are going to do the entire hike, bring along a liter of water; if it is a hot day, bring two. Backpackers hiking north through the entire Carson Range should first obtain water at George Brautovitch Park, located along Andria Drive 0.8 mile north of Highway 207. The Tahoe Rim Trail begins in Burke Creek's headwaters gully, which lacks both water and a creek bed. Lying in the rain shadow cast by the Sierran crest above Lake Tahoe's west shore, the Carson Range receives relatively little precipitation. Our part of the range was not glaciated, so its soils and sediments were never removed, and they can be relatively thick. Unfortunately for us, the relatively little water that falls on this range flows through gravel, not down a bedrock-lined creek bed. Consequently, if you do need water, you usually will have to descend a half mile or so down any promising gully, dropping about 400-500 feet in elevation.

Our trail climbs west, and in 1/4 mile offers a fair view of southern Lake Tahoe and one, to the southwest, of Castle Rock. In another 1/4 mile our TRT reaches a broad, low saddle, from which a use path heads west to a low knoll with poor views through its trees. The TRT then begins a winding, 4.6-mile traverse north, dipping into and climbing out of creekless gullies, and between each two it usually offers poor-to-fair lake views, impaired by a moderately dense growth of red firs, western white pines and Jeffrey pines. Just 0.4 mile along this traverse, as you approach the dry headwaters area of a South fork of McFaul Creek, you cross a bike path. Mountain bikes are legal on your stretch of the TRT, which is great if you like this sport, but upsetting if you are a hiker in search of solitude, for bikers seem to be this trail's primary users. The traverse north ends as we start to curve east around a nose, from which we contour southeast 1/4 mile to the floor of a broad gully, the waterless headwaters of Lincoln Creek. Just across its nearly level floor the TRT crosses Road 14N24.

A shorter of two ways to the top of Genoa Peak is to take this road, first south then east, 0.3 mile up to a junction with Road 14N32 (Genoa Peak Road), then from that junction go cross-country directly upslope for about 0.7 mile to the top. However, those interested in the most direct way would not have taken the TRT, but rather from its trailhead would have begun on Road 14N32 and would have followed it 3.7 miles to the road junction, saving 2.0 miles.

From the crossing of Road 14N24, the TRT switchbacks briefly eastward up slopes, then climbs about 2/3 mile north to a switchback just below an obvious saddle. Your trail goes briefly east, and almost at the saddle, veers north. Here you meet a 50-yard-long lateral trail to Road 14N32. If you walk just 40 yards south on this road, you will meet the start of a jeep road, the longer way up to Genoa Peak. This climbs quite directly southeast up to Genoa Peak, which offers a 360' panorama.

From the lateral trail the TRT begins a 200-foot gain in elevation to the highest of several summits along the western edge of a plateau of South Camp Peak. Midway up our 1/2-mile-long northward ascent, the trail passes immediately east of an andesite outcrop, which offers a viewpoint. Then higher up, at the open, 8818' summit of South Camp Peak, it reaches a similar outcrop with similar views. Most of Lake Tahoe spreads below you, only its southeastern part hidden behind a granitic ridge. In the distant north stands the Carson Range's third-highest summit 10,776' Mt. Rose. In the distant south, stands, from left to right, a cluster of its other high summits 10,633' Jobs Peak, 10,832' Jobs Sister, and 10,881' Freel Peak, ranking respectively fourth, second, and first. Freel is partly obscured by 10,067' Monument Peak, ranking fifth, and barely beating out Stevens and Red Lake peaks, at the south end of the range, by several feet. Much closer to us in the southern direction is 9150' Genoa Peak, which though lowly, is quite imposing due to its proximity.

The volcanic rocks of that peak and of our South Camp Peak are mostly andesite and dacite, but some lighter-colored rhyolite is present, and all are very old. These formed mostly or entirely during the Jurassic period, a span of time from 208 to 140 million years ago. All then were exposed to regional metamorphism, perhaps around the end of the Jurassic period, when the early Sierra Nevada experienced severe compressive forces. Contact metamorphism, operating on a smaller scale, may have occurred about 90 to 85 million years ago as rising, hot magma intruded this bedrock and locally altered it before cooling to form the widespread granodiorite exposed in most of the Carson Range today.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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