Pacific Southwest Region Viewing Area
Wild iris bordering a spur trail to Carson Pass. Photo by Cheryl Beyer.
California mountain ash in the Echo Lakes basin. Photo by Cheryl Beyer.
Wildflowers along trail below Freel Peak. Photo by Cheryl Beyer.
Pause to enjoy the wildflowers above Lake Tahoe! Photo by Bill Stevenson.
Tahoe Rim Trail
Forest: Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit
Description: The Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) provides 165 miles of single-track trail that circumnavigates Lake Tahoe, while passing through 2 states, 6 counties, one state park, 3 national forests, and 3 wilderness areas. Forty-nine miles overlap with the Pacific Crest Trail. A network of additional trails connects to the TRT. The TRT passes through meadows, conifer forests, scree slopes and alpine terrain where a variety of wildflower displays can be enjoyed along or near the trail.
The TRT is one of the world’s premier trails, encircling one of the world’s most beautiful lakes, Lake Tahoe. While hiking the TRT, you will be treated to spectacular views of Lake Tahoe plus unlimited vistas to all points of the compass. Elevations along the trail range from 6,300 feet at Tahoe City to 10,338 feet at the top of Relay Peak. Numerous creeks and lakes, ridges and meadows, can be accessed via the TRT. This variety of elevation and habitat provide an abundance of diversity of wildflowers.
There are 10 official trailheads easily accessible by vehicle that access the eight trail segments which form a continuous loop in the mountains above the lake. The segments range from 12.2 to 32.5 miles in length. Unofficial entry points also provide a means of getting onto the trails. Whether walking a short distance from the trailhead, or hiking longer distances, using the TRT is a great way to get out and see wildflowers, fungi, or fall colors. Trail conditions are best during the usually snow-free months of July through mid-October, and the height of the wildflower bloom is usually mid-July to mid-August, although in some years trails may open much sooner. You can check trail conditions on the official TRT website listed below.
Viewing Information: The TRT segments each have rewarding wildflowers and plenty of views:
- Tahoe City - Brockway Summit: an occasional sugarstick plant may reward the observant hiker.
- Brockway Summit - Mt. Rose / Tahoe Meadows: colorful alpine wildflowers brighten the view on Relay Peak, the highest point on the TRT.
- Tahoe Meadows - Spooner Summit: look for purple elephant’s head in soggy Tahoe Meadows.
- Spooner Summit - Kingsbury Grade: views of Lake Tahoe from the trail as it passes below Genoa Peak are spectacular. The trail goes in and out of forest on this drier side of the lake.
- Kingsbury Grade - Big Meadow: this section includes flower-filled wet meadows, Star Lake, and a segment hiking the shoulder of Freel Peak.
- Big Meadow - Echo Summit / Echo Lake: Lakes and meadows and their spectacular wildflower displays are common on this section.
- Echo Summit / Echo Lake - Barker Pass: the heart of Desolation, the TRT overlaps the PCT along this section. Once the flowers are gone, one can still enjoy fall colors of shrubs such as when the California mountain ash turns red and yellow.
- Barker Pass - Tahoe City: a short segment of this section can be accessed from Highway 89 near the community of Sunnyside. Turn west onto Ward Creek Blvd. and proceed along the paved road for 2 miles to a small turnout on the left-hand shoulder, where the trail is marked by a small TRT signboard. During the summer, a garden of wildflowers greets you near the crossing of a tributary stream about 1.75 miles from your car.
Safety First: Drive carefully on mountain roads. Although often warm and sunny in the summer, the weather can change rapidly. Take sunscreen and water, and keep a jacket and warm hat handy. Some trails are open to equestrians, mountain bikers and hikers. You can find out which segments are open to the different users by accessing the official TRT website displayed below.
Directions: Get trail conditions, trail maps, directions to the 10 trailheads, and other helpful information, visit the official TRT website.
Ownership and Management: USDA Forest Service, Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit. Additional trailheads can be found nearby on the Eldorado, Tahoe, and Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forests.
Closest Town: South Lake Tahoe and Tahoe City, California.
The mycotropic non-green plant, candystick, is rare around Lake Tahoe. Photo by Cheryl Beyer.
Penstemons color a mountain meadow. Photo by Cheryl Beyer.
Elephant's head along creek below Freel Peak. Photo by Cheryl Beyer.
Rock fringe near Relay Peak. Photo by Steve Matson.
Snowbank orange peel fungus - characteristic spring mushroom. Photo by Cheryl Beyer.
For More Information
- Hiking Tahoe’s Wildflower Trails – Julie Stauffer Carville - 1989
- Plants of the Tahoe Basin: Flowering Plants, Trees, and Ferns – Michael Graf -1999
- Tahoe Wildflowers – Roger Rosenberger – available at www.blurb.com
- The Tahoe Rim Trail - The Official Guide for Hikers, Mountain Bikers and Equestrians - Tim Hauserman – 2008 Edition
- The Tahoe Sierra: A Natural History Guide to 112 Hikes in the Northern Sierra – Jeffrey P. Schaffer – 1998
- Wildflowers of the Tahoe Sierra from Forest Deep to Mountain Peak – Laird Blackwell