Bike Rides & Hikes

Weekend Hike: Tahoe Rim Trail

A deer scampers through the trees along the Tahoe Rim Trail three miles south of Spooner Summit.
A deer scampers through the trees along the Tahoe Rim Trail three miles south of Spooner Summit. Bee file

Stretching 22 miles long and 12 miles across, Lake Tahoe and its deep blue waters are a visual treat from vantage points all around it. One of the best is the top of Ridge Run while skiing at Heavenly Mountain Resort. Another great perch: the top of the Bayview Trail in Desolation Wilderness.

And then there’s my new favorite: the view from the northeast section of the Tahoe Rim Trail. Nowhere have I seen such panoramic vistas of Tahoe, capturing its full glory.

I recently hiked the 23-mile section of the Tahoe Rim Trail between Spooner Summit and Tahoe Meadows as an overnight backpack trip. Fit hikers could do it as a long day trip. The trailhead for Spooner Summit is on Highway 50, 17 miles northeast of South Lake Tahoe. There are no water sources on the trail, so you either have to go off trail to find water in a lake, stream or spring (such water must be treated for impurities, of course) or bring enough for the trip. You also have to figure out how to get back to your car on this point-to-point route. I locked up my bike at Tahoe Meadows and rode it back to my car. But using two cars will also work as a shuttle system.

For the first 5 miles or so, the hike winds through trees, with an occasional view of Tahoe to the west and some flat Nevada towns to the east. Then, as the trail moves above the treeline, the views start to really deliver. Marlette Lake provides a beautiful complement to its much bigger neighbor to the west, Tahoe, which of course is the real show here.

Because Lake Tahoe is so big, it’s hard to see it all in one look, unless you’re in a plane. Atop this section of the Tahoe Rim Trail, you see about as much as you could hope to, along with tighter views of some well-known sections of the lake, such as Sand Harbor and Crystal Bay. Don’t take the shortcut around Marlette Peak and miss the vantage point from its east face. The trail offers more than just views of our most famous lake, though. It provides a few challenging climbs up and down valleys, as well as some beautiful landscapes, including Snow Valley and Tahoe Meadows.

Brad Branan: 916-321-1065, @BradB_at_SacBee

Tahoe Rim Trail: Spooner Summit to Tahoe Meadows

Level: Strenuous to moderate, depending on whether done as day hike or overnight trip

Directions: Take Highway 50 northeast of South Lake Tahoe, just east of the intersection with Highway 28, and parking for the Spooner Summit trailhead is on the north side of the road. The 23-mile segment of the Tahoe Rim Trail to Tahoe Meadows is easy to follow, with signs clearly marking any side routes.

Cost: Free

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