Round Lake to Meiss Meadow Spring backpacking High Sierra

Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 11 April 2011

A little over two miles South of Round Lake on the trail we will encounter the Pacific Crest and Tahoe to Yosemite Trails. 

We will wind our way South from Round Lake thorugh meadow and forest along a moderately ascending well maintained trail  to the trail junction with the Tahoe to Yosemite and Pacific Crest Trails within sight of Meiss Cabin and Barn. 

Three trail guide pages cover the section of trail heading South between Round Lake and Meiss Meadow, and that link will bring you to the Northernmost of them.

During Winter and Spring snow conditions, the routes South from Round Lake multiply, though the trail is buried under snow. The hardest route is following the creek up out of Round Lake towards Meiss Meadow. The map shows this creek draining from Meiss Meadow, and the creek draining Meiss Lake joins in about a half-mile above Round Lake.

Round Lake backpacking is worth the short but steep hike into Meiss Country Roadless Area out of the Lake Tahoe Basin.

Looking North at where the creek that feeds Round Lake enters the lake on its North side. The creek flows in through the green berm to the Right of the rock formation. The meadow climbing South up to Meiss Meadow sits to the Left of the rock formation. That would be the easy way up.

From the point where these two creeks meet down to Round Lake is a section of the highest difficulty for cross country hikers. I followed this route down from Meiss Meadow to Round Lake one Winter carrying a heavy backpack, and it became tremendously difficult as I was approaching Round Lake, and equally beautiful.

I was within a crystal cavern of snow. Only by looking straight up could I know that I was on this earth, below our sky.

The creek passes through a steep and deep narrow channel that was just full of snow. It was a tricky navigation down.

Not because of the general outlines of the route, which basically follows the creek in its channel down to Round Lake, but in finding the correct places to follow the creek, or climb up a bit to follow along above the creek, or to cut completely out of the drainage for short impassable sections. It was very hard to figure. Mistakes required a prudent backtrack to find a way around. 

During Summer this route is full of dense growths of underbrush, thickets of Aspen, and various types of obstacles. It's a rough go Summer or Winter!

I will not recommend this route during Summer or Winter for backpackers. Enter at your own risk. But it was stunningly beautiful. If you are camping at Round Lake or up in Meiss Meadow during Winter you may want to explore this area with a well-equipped daypack, a lot of hours of sunlight, your map, compass, and a good dose of common sense and a bit of solid cross country experience.

The other snow route roughly follows the trail route up the meadow heading Southeast from Round Lake. At the head of this meadow another meadow doglegs to our Right, Southwest,  leading us into another open meadow area. The picture below is from the point between these meadows. The route to Meiss Lake from the end of the second meadow traces its way Southwest to find our way to the North end of Meiss Lake.

This is a pretty easy route between Round Lake and Meiss Lake if you can follow it up through and between the maze of hillocks.

Hiking South through snow through the Meadow South of Round Lake. Looking back North at the dogleg beween meadows.

Hiking South through snow across the Meadow tracking Southeast out of Round Lake. Looking back North from the dogleg beween meadows.

The third route is to follow the meadow Southeast out of Round Lake, trace the dogleg to the next meadow to the Southwest, as above, but instead of hiking Southwest at the end of this second meadow, we hike Southeast, tracing our way along the North side of the low ridge dividing us from Meiss Meadow, until we find the lowest gap in the ridge to make our way South into Meiss Meadow.

Or we can continue moving Southeast on the North side of this ridge to its end at the far Eastern side of Meiss Meadow before turning South into the far Eastern side of Meiss Meadow. At this point we will be a bit to the Northeast of our route out of the Tahoe Basin through the Carson Gap.

My point is that we have a series of potential routes that find their way through the natural contours of the terrain, once it is deeply covered with snow. Most of these routes are impassable or near impossible during Summer because of the dense underbrush that thickly clogs the terrain.

Although snow offers one type of obstacle to mountain travel, it removes many others.

Balzacom wrote of his Summer Cross Country hike through here in the comments section of the Dardanelles Lake trail junction page on the Backpacker's Forum, and I wrote a bit about these routes there, as well as on the Trail Guide page covering the terrain from Showers Lake to the Meiss Cabin

Check out Balzacom and his wife's Website, Backpack the Sierra. Both he and I are available for questions and comments about this route.

This video covers the Round Lake to Meiss Lake route during Spring Snow conditions.

Trail Guide
Round Lake to Meiss Meadow and Cabin

Topo Map
Meiss Country Roadless Area

Miles and Elevations
Meyers to Carson Pass

Leave your comments and questions through the comments link below, or register to post your own Forum Page about your trips through this section of the Meiss Country Roadless Area.

 The Next Forum Page
The Trail Junction with the Pacific Crest and Tahoe to Yosemite Trails at Meiss Cabin.


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