Ten Reasons to Hike the Tahoe Rim Trail
Since finishing up the AT last September, I’ve been on the lookout for my next backpacking experience. Scouting for the site of my next adventure (and first solo thru-hike), I settled on the Tahoe Rim Trail. With little experience west of the Mississippi, I wanted a taste of the Sierra but didn’t have much time to commit. Since I’d be driving alone, the loop trail provided a convenient option for transportation, with promises of isolated wilderness, stunning views, and remote alpine lakes. The TRT did not disappoint —here are ten reasons why.
I was used to the Green Tunnel of the Appalachian Trail, where every view feels earned. This trail has views on views on views (even during fire season), which can start to feel sort of unearned, which is a great problem to have. The highlight for me was Dick’s Pass, at 9,400 feet (view pictured). After winding up from Echo Lakes all afternoon, it provided a stunning look back at the path, as well as offering views of Dick’s Lake on the other side of the ridge (a great spot to camp).
2. Loop Shape
Hiking in a circle makes the logistics of transportation much easier, especially if you are going solo or don’t have anyone to drop you off. I left my car at the Kingsbury North trailhead for over a week and had no issues.
The TRT runs about 175 miles. For those without much time, money, or hiking experience (i.e., the things that stand in the way of a longer thru-hike), this is a distance that can be completed in less than two weeks. I had blocked out two weeks for the hike, but experienced some restlessness while being alone most of the time. I ended up averaging about 22 miles per day, including a half-day in Tahoe City, finishing in eight days.
4. PCT Overlaps the Tahoe Rim Trail
The PCT coincides with the TRT for 50 miles. If you’re anything like me, you’ll stand at the junction with the PCT for a few minutes pretending to be Cheryl Strayed – and if not, you’ll still be able to meet PCT hikers for a decent leg of this trip and complete a small section of that trail.
Though South Lake Tahoe and Tahoe City can feel like touristy sideshows, the TRT itself is extremely isolated in certain spots. If you want a beautiful campsite – or lake – all to yourself, you’re in luck. Which leads me to…
6. Lake Swimming
Desolation wilderness especially has numerous isolated alpine lakes (some directly on trail and others on detour paths). If you’re long on time, a detour of a few days or more would be absolutely justified. If not, a lunchtime swim to cool down and rinse the grime off bumps my day to an 11 every time.
If you’re intimidated by higher peaks, or want a hike that’s more moderate in elevation change per mile than the JMT or Wonderland Trail, the TRT is surprisingly manageable. The trail tops out on Relay Peak, at a relatively modest 10,338 feet.
Though obviously variable, the arid climate allowed me to go over a week with only one instance of light drizzling rain. The rest of my days were sunny skies and warm temps. I’m really not into my socks soaking through, so this was a huge plus.
9. Easy Resupply
The two cities this trail passes through–Tahoe City and South Tahoe–are each about halfway through the trip from the other. This makes resupply relatively easy—especially in Tahoe City, which the trail passes directly through.
10. Lake Tahoe
It’s a stunning area, with other attractions including skiing (in relevant months), fishing, sailing (boating/kayaking/jetskiing), paddleboarding, mountain biking, and outlet shopping like a true American.
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