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Trip Report - Tahoe Rim Trail
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Martin Wilde
( - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Trip Report - Tahoe Rim Trail on 08/12/2008 16:26:20 MDT Print View

I just got back from a 2 week hike around Lake Tahoe on the Tahoe Rim Trail. The trail is about 160 miles from start to finish. The unique thing about the trail is that it is a loop. Unlike other trails that are either one way or around a mountain, on the TRT you can see your progress from the many vistas of the lake. The trail covers many different types of terrain - from the dry north and east sides, to the lucious meadows on the south side to beautiful Desolation Wilderness on the west.

I rated the TRT as an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10. The JMT was a 10 for me last year. The trail is very well maintained thanks to the Tahoe Rim Trail Association and their many volunteers. Some people complain about the TRTA - however they are non-profit and spend their time maintaining the trail.

I did 3 resupplies to cut down on weight - Echo Chalet Store, Tahoe City and Tahoe Meadows. Thus I carried at the most 4 days of food.

Started at Kingsbury South (Heavenly Valley) and hike clockwise to Kingsbury North. The TRTA does not require you to hike the 3.5 miles between the two trailheads as it is all residential and not wilderness like. Someday they will re-route the trail around the commercial development of Heavenly Valley.

The biggest planning issue on the trail is water. Being up on the rim, there is not much water and the seasonal streams/lakes dry up early in the snow year. Even though this was a normal year for snow pack, many streams were already dry. I dry camped two times. That was a first for me - dry camping as you have to carry all your water needed for the day, that night and the next day until you find water. One thing I did learn was to tank up on water when you found it. Thus if I chugged down a liter of water, I was not so dehydrated the next day.

Bugs were not too bad - however there were a few spots (in the dry areas) where the bugs were still persistant. Did find some areas that were full of yellowjackets. I got stung by one that went up my shorts!

Equal parts of the trail were in the forest and exposed areas. The meadows were simply beautiful. Flowers 3' to 4' tall along the trail - just excellent. Desolation Wilderness was spectacular with all the high alpine lakes surrounded by granite. The trail is well graded with only a few steep sections that did not last long. Yes you do share 3/4 of the trail with mountain bikers - however they were are very courteous and fun to talk with. Did not have any kamikaze ones. You have many options on the trail to drop down to cities around the lake as the trail is really in segments between trailheads. Thus you climb up from a trailhead and back down to another one. We averaged about 14 miles per day with the longest being 20 miles. Had 2 down nights in Tahoe City at the Travelodge.

For the gear heads, I really like the GG "The One" tent. I had no issues with it at all. It is very quick to setup reliably each time. I camped in some very windy ridge areas where the winds were around 30 to 40 mph gusts and had no issues. Some noise from the spinnaker however. My Injinji socks simply did not last very well. They got holes in them quickly - however they did do their job of keeping my feet injury and blister free . My LaSportiva Mountain trail runners worked well on the many rocky spots of the trail. I had no issues with my Clearview BA pad. Performed great and was not cold to sleep on. Some slippage issues - but not too bad. Less slippage on the Clearview than the insulated one as the Clearview has a more rubbery feeling to it. My ULA Conduit was perfect for the trip as I did not have alot of food - I did have to carry 3L of water for many days and that sometimes feels like lead bricks in the pack.

Got an early start each day around 7a to avoid the heat of the day hiking. Typically hiked from 7a to 5p - except in Desolation Wilderness where we did 7 miles days to enjoy swimming in the lakes.

For food, I had granola for breakfast (Bear Naked or Archer Farms with Nido, Just Berries and a scoop of Muscle Milk), this allowed quick starts from camp. Lunch was a mixture of Pringles, crackers, gorp, Couscous/Chickpea salad, PB and Honey. Dinner was usually 1000 calories of some FBC combination I thru together. I only lost 3 lbs on the trail, thus I was eating pretty good.

All-in-all it was a great trip and I highly recommend it from someone wanting to stretch themselves into longer trips. Resupplying is easy and there are many opportunities to escape to a town for civilization stops. I do recommend slowing down in Desolation Wilderness to enjoy it. The time of the year was perfect for viewing the flowers in the meadows. Later in the year the flowers are gone (along with the bugs) and I don't think it would be as nice.

Christopher Holden
(back2basics) - F - MLife

Locale: Southeast USA
Re: Trip Report - Tahoe Rim Trail on 08/12/2008 16:52:38 MDT Print View

"Did find some areas that were full of yellowjackets. I got stung by one that went up my shorts!"

Yeah. That's worth knocking a few points off the perfect score. Other than that, it sounds like you had a great trip.
It's always good to see trip reports like this.. especially for the gearhead section. I like hearing about what works and what doesn't.
Thanks for the post. This is a good "heads up" on what to expect for those planning a trip in the near future.
I spent 8 days camping around different parts of the lake in July 1985. I still consider that one of my favorite trips ever.
Did you get any photos you could share?

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Any Suggestions from Someone Doing the TRT in Sept??? on 08/12/2008 20:03:54 MDT Print View


Thank you for taking the time to post up your experience and tips for the TRT.

My friend, Jeremy, and I are looking to do the TRT in Sept in 10 days.

I have been concerned about water sources, so it was good to know that we should tank up where we can and to carry extra water.

Can you tell me what stretches of the trail you would recommend carrying extra water?

How much water were you carrying on average each day?

As you said, water is like a brick and it takes extra space in the backpack.

I typically use a 1.8 L Platypus hydration bladder and was thinking of carrying a 2nd one for extra water storage.

Hope that will be enough on the dry stretches.

What were the night time temperatures like?

I am planning on using a 40 degree Marmot Atom bag and a MLD Bivy and layering up on my clothing.

I have a 15 degree Marmot Helium EQ that would be plenty warm, but I was hoping to get away with using the 40 Degree bag to cut weight and save space in my pack.

Sorry for all the questions, but as this will be the longest trip that we have done, I am looking for any advice or tips you might have to keep us safe.

Thanks again for your report!


Martin Wilde
( - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Tahoe Rim Trail in September on 08/14/2008 10:07:06 MDT Print View

Thanks everyone for the nice comments.

I have about 500 pics I took, here are a few of them:Flowers in Big Meadows

Looking North near Relay Peak

Desolation Wilderness - Half Moon Lake from Dicks Pass

Washoe Lake

Big Bowl of flowers near Showers Lake on the PCT

Lake Tahoe from Rifle Peak

Desolation Wilderness - Lake Aloha

As for water - it is very scarce on the North and East sides. Your only sources of water from Tahoe City are: Watson Lake, Watson Creek (1.5 miles from Watson Lake, then 0.3 miles down Forest Road), Gray Lake, Snow/Frog Lake, Ophir Creek, Marlette Peak Campground (if TRTA has stocked the water cache), Marlette Lake, North Canyon Campground (creek 100' west of campground), Spooner Lake (15 minute walk from TH). That is it. So you will need to plan accordingly. We did find water at a seasonal stream about 2.5 miles south of the Tahoe Meadows TH - however it will be dry by September. From Kingsbury South to Star Lake it is dry. About 1.5 miles from Star Lake there is a tributary of Cold Creek that was running nicely and excellent camping there - it was about 2' wide, it might still be trickling in another month. From Armstrong Pass to Big Meadows there were several seasonal streams just down from the pass that were flowing nicely and "may" still be running in another month. After that you are dry until you reach the streams near Big Meadows. From Big Meadows to Echo Lakes you should have plenty of water as you have several lakes and streams. Desolation Wilderness to Barker Pass is pretty good. You have Richardson Lake and Miller Creek. From Miller Creek to Ward Creek is dry - some water in Blackwood Canyon.

Hopefully that helps you in your water planning - you will probably need to do big miles on the North and East side to camp around water sources. We dry camped at South Peak Camp and near the PCT/TRT junction on the east side.

On the north and east side I carried 3L of water so that I had plenty and then if I knew I would be dry camping - loaded up when possible.

As far as temperatures - we started at 7a each day to hike in the cool of the day. Night time temps were in the upper 40's, however in September it will be cooler so you may need warmer gear. It was funny - in the sun very hot in the forest area and then chilly on the ridges in the shade. So you have to layer yourself.

There was evidence of bears all over the place, however we used Ursacks and practiced safe handling and had no issues - nor did we see any, just lots of prints on the trail. Both Marlette Peak Campground and North Canyon Campground have bear lockers. I don't think you need a bear cannister. I don't hang my food as I prefer to use an Ursack and tie it up (much easier than throwing a rope).

You can also ready my Trail Journals entry at for more information.

Enjoy the hike! It is a very nice one.

Edited by on 08/14/2008 10:11:24 MDT.

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Tahoe Rim Trail in September on 08/14/2008 11:08:18 MDT Print View


Hey, thank you sooo much for replying to my questions and adding the great photos.

What sort of camera are you using?

Panoramic photos are great for trying to capture the vast scale of the scenery.

Good to know that 3 L of water carried you for the dry spots....I was thinking about carrying 3.5 L via 2 Platy 1.8 L Hoser hydration bags.

I will be taking my TRT with a friend from the 3rd thru the 14th, so I hope that the temps don't get much colder and that the water last a little longer.

Just received/bought an Ursack, so I better get proficient at using it.

I will check out your online journal.

Again, great more if you can, I am sure that I am not the only one who is inspired by them.


Martin Wilde
( - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
TRT Camera on 08/14/2008 13:51:35 MDT Print View

Hey Tony,

I was using a Nikon S600. I really like the light weight of it and being able to take 10 Megapixel pics. Yes I know that some people say this is alot of pixels - however it allows me to do some great digital zooming. It is also wide angle. I found I can take about 200 pics on the rechargeable batteries. I ordered some extra ones on Amazon for about $12 (much cheaper than Best Buy). I will be uploading a bunch of pics to my Picasso account and will pass on the link in a few days.

You are correct - water is scarce so take as much as you think you need. I could of probably drank more as I don't like being dehydrated. At any water opportunity - chug-a-lug :)


Emily Hardy
(emilyehardy) - F

would 6 days be enough? on 09/02/2008 13:40:23 MDT Print View

or would those be better spent on the JMT this time of year?

David T
(DaveT) - F
. on 09/03/2008 15:03:45 MDT Print View


Edited by DaveT on 01/18/2015 19:08:06 MST.

Emily Hardy
(emilyehardy) - F

ups and downs on 09/03/2008 18:44:39 MDT Print View

i have not yet looked at the topos for the TRT if i do about 25-30 per day is the camping ok. i guess what i mean is are there enough flat spots to pitch a tarp?

i would like to start in south lake. is it better to head around the west side first so as to make hitching a ride at the end easier?

David T
(DaveT) - F
. on 09/04/2008 12:09:22 MDT Print View


Edited by DaveT on 01/18/2015 19:08:38 MST.

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: tony - TRT on 09/11/2008 11:12:23 MDT Print View


Great memory on your part and thanks for asking.

Sorry that I did not respond earlier...missed seeing your post.

Unfortunately, my TRT trip has been put on hold for this year and pushed off, hopefully, to next year.

My friend, Jeremy, and I went on a warm up trip North of Yosemite in the Immigrant Wilderness last month and my friend injuried his knee half way through the trip.

He hike out for 1.5 days (20 miles) in a lot of pain.

We decided that it was not worth the risk to do the TRT with him not fully healed up.

Better to delay the trip vs. him damaging himself to the point that it would be his last trip.

It is a bummer, but it is the right call to make.

Jeremy told me that I could do it solo and not miss out on the trip because of him, but hey...he is my UL Buddy and we planned the trip to go together, so we'll do it later.

The TRT is not going away anytime soon. :)

Still, I do appreciate all the advice that you and others gave me/us.

I will be posting some photos from my Immigrant Wilderness trip within a month or so....was some beautiful country. We even got caught in a hail and thunder storm!