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Trail Head Options at Lake Tahoe | High Sierra Backpacker

Trail Head Options at Lake Tahoe

Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 09 October 2009

 This forum discusses the three main trail head options from where your Tahoe to Whitney trips can begin at Lake Tahoe


Your main trail head options are the Meeks Bay Trailhead, the start point for the classic Tahoe to Yosemite Trail located on Highway 89,  the Echo Summit Trailhead overlooking the Tahoe Basin on Highway 50, or the Round Lake Trail in Meyers, at the end of South Upper Truckee Road in Christmas Valley.


The Meeks Bay Trail head is the official start point for backpackers hiking the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail, and can also serve as your start point for a PCT-based route to Yosemite and points South. You may want to walk from Tahoe to Yosemite without having to cross the unmaintained section of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail. 

The Echo Summit trailhead sits 31 miles South of Meeks Bay along the combined Tahoe to Yosemite and Pacific Crest Trails.  

8 miles South of Echo Summit you will encounter the trail junction coming up from our third possible trailhead, the South Upper Truckee Road trailhead in Meyers. The South Upper Truckee trail intersects with our Southbound Pacific Crest/Tahoe to Yosemite trail route at the Meiss Cabin in Meiss Meadow. 

From there we only have a few easy Southbound miles to The Carson Pass.

The Meeks Trail head adds 31 miles to the distance between Lake Tahoe and Mount Whitney, or Tuolumne Meadows, compared with the Echo Summit Trail head, and about 34 miles more than starting at the South Upper Truckee trail head.

  The Meeks Bay trail head option also has a couple of other advantages. The elevation increase from Meeks Bay is fairly gentle, giving the backpacker a fairly mellow acclimation to the weight of the pack, the steepness of the trail, and the thinness of the air. Most importantly, your backpacking trip begins in the special beauty of the Desolation Wilderness.


The Meyers/South Upper Truckee trail head, on the other hand, starts by giving you four miles of hard trail that rises 3000 feet of vertical elevation as you rapidly climb out of the Tahoe Basin to Round Lake and then Meiss Meadow. You rise from 6000 to 8000 feet between the trailhead and Round Lake quite quickly, and you will feel it. But though this trail is steep, it is but a short hike to Round Lake, and you will soon be sitting in an awesome lake-side camp site next to Round Lake. The advantage of the South Upper Truckee trailhead over Meeks Bay may be the lack of traffic. Desolation is crazy busy, while the South Upper Truckee trail head is mostly used by locals.


Starting from Echo Summit puts you South past the Desolation Wilderness, which may be a good thing when Desolation is so very crowded mid-Summer. Starting at Echo Summit puts Showers Lake within easy range of even a very late start.

The main feature of the Echo Summit trailhead is that you round the Southwestern arc of the Tahoe Basin.

This drainage has cut multiple channels through rock and forest to transport runoff down to the Lake, forcing the backpacker over and through a rollercoaster ride of inclines and declines until you hit Showers Lake. Showers Lake sits above and to the West of Meiss Meadow's gentle grade up to the Carson Gap.

What do You Think about these trails? Share your experiences in the High Sierras around Lake Tahoe!

Maps, Mileage and Elevations

Meeks Bay to Echo Summit Maps. Index of Desolation Wilderness Maps.

The Desolation Wilderness along the Southwest rim of Lake Tahoe: Clicking various parts of the trail route will bring you to detailed maps.

Mileages and Elevations


Echo Summit to Carson Pass Maps, Index of Meiss Country Roadless Area Maps.

The Meiss Country Roadless Area Map. Clicking the colored points along the trail will bring you to the trail guide page for that position. This map includes the Echo Summit and South Upper Truckee Trailheads.

Mileages and Elevations


Trailheads in the Trail Guide:

Back to Meeks Bay Trail head

Back to Echo Summit Trail head

Back to Meyers Trailhead


Do you have any questions, comments, or information? Then please post through the comments link below, post on the home page through a blog, or Register to be able to add your pictures, maps, and videos to compliment your posting.


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