Everything You Need To Know About Hiking The Tahoe Rim Trail

December 27, 2018

Ready to plan your Lake Tahoe adventure? The 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail is one of the best ways to reach the more remote vistas, peaks, and lakes. It’s open to hikers, bikers, and equestrians for most of its length–and it’s an epic journey. From hemlock forests to volcanic rock, there’s something new to see around every bend of the trail.

Below is all the information you need to make the most of your trek, from stats and planning to camping and supplies. Let’s get going!

Everything You Need To Know About The Tahoe Rim Trail

  • There is no “average time” for completing the entire trail on foot–it depends on your personal level of fitness and experience.
  • Most hikers tend to complete the trail clockwise, but you can go in either direction.
  • Summertime temperatures vary, but highs tend to be around 70 degrees and lows around 40 to 50 (also note that snow and freezing temperatures can happen at any time of year!)
  • The trail is well-marked and easy to stick to, but only major junctions have signs. Experts recommend carrying a topographic map and compass, even if you are using a GPS device.
  • Snow tends to melt by June but sometimes hangs around as late as August. Check the trail conditions page for information.
  • Fires are generally prohibited, so make sure you pack plenty of layers to keep you warm!

Hiking The Tahoe Rim Trail

The Tahoe Rim Trail is known for being one of the most scenic and accessible thru-hikes in the country. But despite its ease-of-use, any 10-15 day hike still requires some forethought. Here’s what you need to know:

Getting Permits

Most of the trail is accessible without permits, but any trail users entering Desolation Wilderness will need to obtain a permit.

  • Permits for day use are self-issued and available at all trailheads entering the wilderness.
  • Permits for camping are issued through a quota system and must be obtained in advance through recreation.gov or in person at the USFS visitor center.

Trailheads

The Tahoe Rim Trail is a loop, so you start and end up in the same place. There are 10 official trailheads and half of them are clustered around South Lake Tahoe. It is recommended to start in either of the two major cities that border the lake (Tahoe City or South Lake Tahoe) so you can stop in the other one halfway around to resupply. Note: it is not recommended to park longterm at any of the trailheads.

When To Hike

If you want to attempt a thru-hike, July through September is the recommended timeframe. The trail is open yearlong, but some sections are closed in winter. In addition, trails are not marked for winter use and snowpack will likely obscure any signage.

Camping On The Tahoe Rim Trail

When planning any multi-day hike, it’s helpful to plan out your camping destinations in advance. Some of the more popular camping sites include:

  • Watson Lake: A popular destination for both hikers and car campers, but it offers a little less solitude than some other spots.
  • Marlette Peak: This location might be in the backcountry, but it has a vault toilet, picnic tables, and fire rings!
  • Star Lake: At 9,100 feet, this spot offers some unbeatable views.

Note: always have a backup in mind in case you arrive at your ideal location and it’s already occupied.

Where To Resupply

The goal of most backpackers is to carry the lightest ruck possible while still being well-supplied. In that spirit, there are a few places you can stop along the trail to stock up (instead of trying to jam everything into your pack from the get-go).

Tahoe City post office: Sending your own gear and supplies in advance to be held at the post office is one of the oldest hiker trips in the books. Just put the package in your name and mark it to be held for general delivery. Alpenglow Sports is another convenient location that will allow for package pickup.

Spooner Summit: If you have someone local that can meet you at the top, it’s a great place to resupply as it’s the midway point through the east shore.

Conclusion

The Tahoe Rim Trail is an amazing experience whether you’re attempting a thru-hike for the first time or you’re an old-timer–ensure your hike is a success by doing a little planning and keeping an open mind.