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Tahoe Rim Trail
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Evan Parker
(ecp12) - F

Locale: Upstate NY
Tahoe Rim Trail on 11/20/2011 14:30:28 MST Print View

My brother and I are looking to thru hike the TRT this upcoming summer. I am starting to look into the logistics of planning this trip. When exactly should we plan on hiking it? I think this is highly subjective since it depends on the snow in the Sierras, but for those of you who have done it, when do you suggest? We don't live in CA so would you suggest flying into SMF and renting a car? I would hate to rent a car and just have it sit at a trailhead for 9 days basically wasting money. I'm planning to pick up the guide and maps from the TRT shop, but is there anything else that I should read before we head out? From what I've read, it's a fairly easy trail to follow. Finally, how prevalent is water on the trail? I remember reading Tony Wong's trip report about the TRT and he noted that water was pretty scarce on the trail. So, any advice anyone could give on the TRT would be very appreciated, thanks!

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Tahoe Rim Trail on 11/20/2011 15:03:42 MST Print View


Definitely a matter of checking on the weather conditions that we have this upcoming winter to give you a sense of when the right time will be.

I believe that the link for the Tahoe Rim Trail has a map showing what sections are open and which ones are closed due to snow.

Here are some links:

TRT Home Page:

TRT Trail Conditions:

My Photo Essay from 2009:

If memory serves me, at the end there is a listing of the food we took to start with, how many days of food between resupplies and locations to resupply at.

The Eastern Side of the TRT is very dry and after Marlette Lake, your next reliable water source was Spooner Lake, which is 9.3 miles between the two. Depending on how the snow fall is this winter, it might mean water or no water along that section. The lighter your pack, the faster you can get to the water or the more you can carry with you.

From Spooner, you have 13 miles to the Tramway Market by Heavenly Ski Resort...that was our driest section of the trip, which required us to carry extra water to cover meals that night and in the morning. I recall carrying 6 Liters, which sucked...think I really only needed 4 L, but I do have a relatively low water consumption. Know your personal consumption rates from past experience. Note: being higher elevation, the air tends to dry you out too.

As for when to go...we went in July. August should be free of any possibility unless we have a winter like last year at 160% to 200% of normal in the Sierras. Downside with going later in the year is that you also have less water on the Eastern Side.

Simply check the trail conditions....good news is that even in the dry sections, you can carry all the water that you need. Just a matter of how uncomfortable you might be depending on your base weight.

The other spot where water will be an issue for sure is Brockway Summit. You will need to leave yourself a gallon of water per person there, maybe one extra gallon for you both to share to tank up on the spot. Do that when you drive in to the trail head. Suggest labeling the water to explain why it is there and to emphasize that you need this water to stay alive. Hide it in the bushes. We did not have a problem with ours.

Lastly, besides checking the TRT website, I am sure you can post up questions here and someone who has either hiked the trail a few days or weeks before you can provide you with information. I even recall that some BPL members living up in Tahoe were nice enough to provide trail conditions for the general area in response to a post that I put up here.

Hope this are going to have a great time of it!


Elizabeth Tracy
(mariposa) - M

Locale: Outside
elsewhere in Sierra? on 11/21/2011 15:14:06 MST Print View


I don't mean to butt in, but I don't find the TRT very scenic compared to all the areas further south in the High Sierra that a person can thru-hike. (JMT; HSR; HST; Sonora Pass to Tuolumne on the PCT; etc.)

Have you done those ones already?

And if you have done them: There are so many delicious thru-hikes all over the West that are also simply better than Tahoe. Probably 5-6 outstanding ones in Washington State alone (loops, semi-loops or thru-hikes along sections of the PCT). And that is not even to mention some great possibilities in Wyoming, Colorado, Oregon...or, say, a series of shorter (3-5 day) hikes in southern Utah in April or October.

- Elizabeth

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: elsewhere in Sierra? on 11/21/2011 17:02:18 MST Print View


I completely agree with you, but the TRT does offer something...relative ease of access off trail for resupply, which allows for a long trip with a relatively light load.

We used the TRT as a training trip for the JMT.

The negatives of the TRT is that you do not really get a deep back country experience and you are often sharing the trail with day hikers, so no real sense of solitude.

Still, the views are good and there are a variety of terrains to experience.

Yes, there are more epic trails, but the TRT does have its merits.


Evan Parker
(ecp12) - F

Locale: Upstate NY
Why the TRT on 11/21/2011 17:47:06 MST Print View

Elizabeth, the TRT was the first trail "off the beaten path" that I found when I discovered backpacking other than the big 3 of the At, PCT, and the CDT. I have somewhat of an emotional attachment to doing the TRT and I'm sure I will want to do the JMT and all of the others at some point but I figured the TRT would be a nice intro to the sierras since it seems like it's relatively easy and it will be nice to just relax and walk with my brother and to enjoy the scenery. Being from the East Coast, any views of the sierras are incredible, so I'll be able to continually be wowed by the south sierra when I get to them. Thank you though for the suggestions for more trips, I'll be sure to check them out!

Ben W

Locale: NW Center for Volcano-Aided Flight
TRT on 11/22/2011 21:15:01 MST Print View

I found the TRT plenty interesting, though I had end-of-October weather and solitude to flavor it. [summary here] It is certainly more subtle/less jaw-dropping than other spots in the Sierra, but I don't think that's a reason not to go. If your "summer" is flexible enough, I'd recommend pushing towards fall for slightly less traffic on the trails, though this will make it drier too. I'll bet it gets pretty darn hot and crowded in the summer. I'm not familiar with typical meltout patterns for the area in the early season, but pushing the snow would be a good way to ensure no water worries and probably a little less company...

Transportation and off-trail logistics
I recommend Reno if you're flying in and want to avoid a rental car.
My trip was planned because I was attending a conference in Reno. (On a grad student budget, conference = free travel = make sure to go backpacking nearby!) This also had the advantage of being able to send conference clothes/laptop home with a fellow student so I didn't have to worry about storing anything while on the trail.

There's an REI in Reno in walking distance of the airport. I picked up fuel and a firesteel (unsure of how TSA would like that) there. Actually, after my trip, with the firesteel unused, I returned and, with time to kill, found a nice deal on a clean shirt for the flight home. :)

I rode the South Tahoe Express from the Reno airport to South Lake Tahoe ($26 one-way about a year ago). Alternatively, there was at the time (and probably still is) a way to do public transit from Reno to SLT (and even up to the trail at Kingsbury) for something like $6 one-way. The timing with the end of my conference was going to be tight for that, so I "splurged" on the shuttle.

Pick up your fire permits and Desolation Wilderness permits from the USFS office in SLT. From there you can get a local shuttle service to the trailhead at Echo Summit or Echo Lakes (after trying for about an hour to hitch, I used ShuttleIt! Can't remember the guy's name, but he showed up in about 15min(!) and charged me $20). You can also shuttle to other locations from there. The USFS office can recommend shuttles or taxis -- they seem to know who's expensive and who's not.

On my way back, I managed to hitch down to SLT from Echo Summit (2 rides, both within minutes). From there, I took the STExpress back to the airport. While in SLT, I spent the night at Motel 6 both directions (inexpensive and clean).

Water notes
North and east sides are pretty dry, but the guides make that clear.
The one water thing not reflected in the TRT website info when I hiked was that the Marlette Peak campground (right on trail) had recently been overhauled and included a nice hand-pump well with potable water just down a slight hill from the campsite. This means you don't have to detour down toward Marlette Lake for water.
For my hike, long dry sections (tempered by a giant storm my first 3 days out, when I was fording thigh deep streams not on the map) were: near Brockway to a couple miles W of Tahoe Meadows. Stream crossing at Tahoe Meadows to Marlette Peak Campground (Twin Lakes dry). Marlette Peak campground to stream a few miles S of Kingsbury (detoured .5mi one-way to Spooner Lake and also filled up on water at Tramway Market (nice guy), where I had send a food drop).

Other resources
In addition to what's mentioned in the thread so far, I found pmags' TRT info very useful when planning.

I made up and carried this guide for my trip. No guarantees that it's not out of date. (Print 2 pages per side)

Hope you have a great hike.