A Plethora of Planning and Preparation: The Pre-Trail Logistics

Upon hearing about my upcoming 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail hike, others tend to be baffled by the thought of the undertaking. Questions about the trip’s duration, the food that I’ll eat, where I’ll sleep, and much more arise. To say it lightly, a trip like this takes a plethora of planning and preparation. So how does one go about orchestrating an endeavor such as this? There is so much involved in answering that question… so much that I have decided to break this up into a few different parts. I know some may be eager to hear about gear (I am a sucker for a good gear blog) or the food and resupply strategy (which can be a bit elaborate for a hike this immense) or about physical training (which is always a work in progress). But unfortunately, that is a lot of information and will be covered in future blog posts. So, to start, here are some of the basic steps that I have taken in approaching the pre-trail logistics of this adventure:

Knowledge and Resources

The TRTA Website

First and foremost, I consulted the plentiful resources available on the Tahoe Rim Trail Association website. They provide all the pertinent information to plan a successful trip recreating at any point on the trail. I have frequented their website to gather information about trailheads, parking, transportation, water sources, and so much more. Whether you are backpacking, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, trailrunning, or even birding, I would highly recommend that the TRTA website be your first stop for planning. 

TRTA Website Homepage

Podcasts and Vlogs

Secondly, I listened to Zach “Badger” Davis’s recap of his thru-hike of the TRT in Episode #157 of the Backpacker Radio podcast. His hike was much quicker than mine will be, but I was able to glean some great insights. (NOTE: Anyone who is interested in beginning this hobby, Backpacker Radio is awesome! They feature stories from many hikers on a myriad of trails. However, if you do not enjoy a good poop story, I might not recommend it.) Additionally, I have found some other hikers’ vlogs on YouTube, such as that of the Whimsical Woman. Viewing others’ vlogs and blogs can be really helpful in exhibiting ideas or thoughts that you may have otherwise overlooked.

Go listen to it wherever you listen to podcasts…then give it a rating of any number of stars (as long as it’s NOT 1, 2, 3, or 4).

Wilderness Skills

Finally, I spent a weekend completing a NOLS Wilderness First Aid course offered locally through REI. I have been first aid and CPR certified as a teacher and youth sports coach, but I figured that this class would offer valuable perspectives of applying these skills specifically in a wilderness setting. During this course, we reviewed and practiced several plausible scenarios that could happen during my time outdoors. Throughout the course, I was able to think through potential risky situations that could arise in the backcountry. Then, I was able to problem-solve and formulate a solid and safe game plan in response. In my gear blog, I will review what I plan to add to my first aid kit and gear list after taking this course. Overall, I have more confidence venturing in the wilderness now that I have been NOLS Wilderness First Aid certified. You can find resources from NOLS at their website, something I recommend for anyone who recreates in either backcountry or remote wilderness areas.

Officially NOLS Wilderness Medicine and First Aid Certified


The entire Tahoe Rim Trail is a loop, and it is broken down into eight sections. Hikers and mountain bikers can access general information about each section of the TRT here. I personally purchased the National Geographic map, which was $15 well spent. I do prefer a paper map, especially in the planning phase of a hike (even more especially for one this big). The paper map helps me conceptualize distances in conjunction with elevation and vertical gains. These details will help assist me in the phase of plotting out day-to-day mileages and potential camp spots. National Geographic maps also provide details about amenities near each trailhead (as does the TRTA website). This information will help me construct a resupply strategy and plan some potential “zero” days.

My growing collection of National Geographic maps.

Further, I paid for the interactive map on Far Out as well. This was the first map I’ve purchased using Far Out (formerly known as Gut Hook). A primary benefit of this tool is seeing live GPS data. I will be able to view user-updated information about water sources or trail conditions while I am physically on the trail. This will assist in making any necessary decisions about filling our water or making camp while we are out there.


Those unfamiliar with backcountry hiking may not realize how many areas require overnight permits. Along the Tahoe Rim Trail, only one such area has this requirement: Desolation Wilderness. Prospective backpackers can check out Recreation.gov to peruse available permits for the wilderness area. These permits are available six months in advance, and I secured mine in mid-January. My permit entry date is June 26th, entering from the Echo Lake trailhead. That is where we will begin our journey. I chose this starting point because I know how unpredictable my backpacking speed can be. I wanted to avoid the anxiety of ensuring that we make it to the Desolation Wilderness by our permit start date.

Additionally, in order to operate a stove in the backcountry, recreators must obtain a California campfire permit. Indeed, I plan to operate a stove to prepare my meals, so I have attained my permit to do so. This simple four-step process took no more than twenty minutes. Prospective recreators can get their campfire permits here.

How Long Will It Take?

This is one of the most common questions I am met with when I tell people I’ll be hiking a 165-ish-mile trail. I hate to say it, but I don’t have a concrete answer for it. Based on my previous backpacking experience, I consider how many miles I typically average in a doable day. My longest daily mileage is somewhere in the neighborhood of fifteen miles. I know full well that we will not hike that far each day. In fact, I outright know we will start with lower mileage days. Nevertheless, there will be days where we will need to cover more mileage than fifteen. After consulting my maps, I have found stretches of the trail where water sources are scant or camping is not permitted. This means that we will see days where we will need to hike at least seventeen miles. However, I have planned our hike so that by the time we reach those stretches, we will be several days in and will have hopefully acquired our “trail legs.”

All in all, I can’t say exactly how long this hike will take. My initial estimate is at least two weeks, averaging somewhere around eleven or twelve miles a day. However, there are so many factors that can affect that number: weather, fatigue, illness, zero days (which I’m undecided on as of the moment). Hence my hesitation to commit to any specific time limit. I picked a start date that would allow enough of a time cushion for any potential delays we may encounter. Ultimately, I just need to return home by the start of the school year, so I’m in no particular rush.

Parking and Transportation

Though it will be a long drive from Arizona, we will be taking not one, but two cars. Since my boyfriend cannot commit to the entire length of the trip, we will park his car at a point on the trail where he will depart. Like I said, the Tahoe Rim Trail has several trailheads. Some allow overnight parking. Many do not. Fortunately, the TRTA has an organized overview of parking options that are available at locations throughout the entire trail. With that, I am able to determine some options for our particular parking situation.

Transportation to and from the trail at more remote trailheads is available in some cases. The TRTA provides resources for the many transportation options available, including the Flume Trail Shuttle that operates in the summer, popular with mountain bikers. This is what I’m thinking of utilizing to get from Mount Rose into Incline Village for a potential resupply. I will report back with an update when I post about my food and resupply strategy after revisiting available resources.

Some Hikes Aren’t Meant to Be…

So I have to admit…this is not my first rodeo in attempting to plan a thru-hike of the Tahoe Rim Trail. In the fall of 2022, I was already dreaming about the adventures that awaited me during the next summer. Reminiscing about the transformative journey I had on the High Sierra Trail in 2018, I was ready to take on another several-day hike. My heart landed on the Tahoe Rim Trail. After looking into the logistics and realizing it I could totally do it, I reached out to my most recent backpacking partner, Kelsey, to see if she’d want to take it on. Alas, she most certainly was. She, like I, wanted to embark on a journey that would push us just past that breaking point. We both wanted to see what we were truly made of. In December, we decided: we’re doing the Tahoe Rim Trail next July!

My friend Kelsey and I on a trip in Cave Creek, AZ (Fall 2022). This was the trip that inspired us to see how much further we could push ourselves on a backpacking trip.

Let It Snow

Nonetheless, our aspirations were met with blizzards. Those in and out of the backpacking sphere can understand the magnitude of the record-breaking snowfall in the Sierra during the winter of 2022-2023. Despite all the numbers, a hopeful-me meticulously planned a thru-hike of the Tahoe Rim Trail for summer of 2023. My naivety convinced me that the snow would melt enough to be able to complete the loop in July before the school year started. I even researched ice axes, watched how-to videos on YouTube, and even looked up places where you can learn to self-arrest. Though I had secured all the appropriate permits, planned the resupply points, and configured travel logistics, the reality of the unrelenting snow levels finally set in. It was clear that Kelsey and I would be out of our depth traversing passes in those conditions. By April, we had officially called off our Tahoe Rim Trail attempt for that summer (and planned other adventures instead).

Kelsey, her dog Boone, and me in Coconino National Forest, AZ (Summer 2023)

Or Are They?

So, with the Tahoe Rim Trail glaringly unchecked on my “To-Hike” list, here I am again, a year later, planning an attempted thru hike. I have, once again, procured all of the appropriate permits for a late June start to this trek. Though I have yet to set foot on this trail, I am another year wiser and more experienced. I am certain that the Tahoe Rim Trail will show me the far reaches of my limits, and I plan to hurtle toward them as fast as a girl with a thirty-something pound pack can.

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