Brockway’s Picnic Rock: A short hike to stellar views |

Brockway’s Picnic Rock: A short hike to stellar views

Mark McLaughlin
Special to Lake Tahoe Action
Picnic Rock, at the North Shore at Brockway, provides amazing views of Lake Tahoe with relatively modest effort.
Courtesy Mark McLaughlin | Lake Tahoe Action

One popular and accessible Lake Tahoe hike or mountain bike ride is a segment of the Tahoe Rim Trail that starts on the east side of California State Route 267, just south of Brockway Summit between Truckee and Kings Beach. The short trip to Picnic Rock is a little more than 1.5 miles but must be considered moderate in difficulty since virtually every step is uphill on the way there. The ascent is worth every bit of effort, however, as the views of Lake Tahoe from Picnic Rock are truly inspirational.

This trail is well-maintained, but along the lower portion there are numerous piles of slash and underbrush collected from the forest floor. U.S. Forest Service crews are cleaning up fallen debris and removing dangerous ladder fuels in the Lake Tahoe Basin to mitigate catastrophic wild fires. When weather conditions are suitable in the fall or winter these slash piles will be burned, and the forest will be safer and closer to a natural state.

The current path of State Route 267 closely follows what used to be called Brockway Road, which connected Truckee with pools of natural hot springs at North Lake Tahoe. Located just west of the California-Nevada state line, the hot springs are caused by a nearby fault line and have probably been enjoyed by generations of Washoe people. In 1863, around the time that Truckee and Tahoe City were first being settled, a newspaper correspondent for the Sacramento Daily Union noted the commercial potential of the hot springs, observing that “at a comparatively trifling expense, baths and other accommodations could be provided here to meet the wishes of the most fastidious visitor.”

In 1869, after the completion of the transcontinental railroad, two Truckee men formed a partnership to grade a road along Middle Martis Creek and then over the pass to the lake. William “Billy” Campbell, a stage operator, and George Schaeffer, a sawmill entrepreneur, joined forces to construct the wagon road. Campbell took title to more than 60 acres of land surrounding the hot springs and built a large bathhouse. By the end of summer, Campbell had erected several cottages near the mineral springs and began accommodating tourist traffic. In 1870 Campbell and a new partner, Henry Burke, built a large two-and-a-half story hotel.

Campbell’s Hot Springs became one of the first resorts at North Lake Tahoe and, by 1873, was considered one of the most popular around the lake. Among its many amenities were soda and sulfur water pumped into the bathhouse, hot water in all the rooms and pleasant accommodations. After reverend R.A. Ricker took over management in 1875, the resort became a popular retreat for Pacific Coast clergymen. In 1900 Campbell sold the place to Frank Brockway for $3,500, and the name changed to Brockway Hot Springs. Today, Brockway Springs is a gated condominium development on Lake Tahoe.

Lake Tahoe historian Mark McLaughlin is a nationally published author and professional speaker. His award-winning books are available at local stores or at He can be reached at Check out Mark’s blog at

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