Start off hiking season with Rim Trail trek |

Start off hiking season with Rim Trail trek

Sam Bauman

Now that you’ve warmed up with a hike to the gazebo, you might be ready for a trek a little more demanding. This is one where you can use two cars for the LONG hike, or double back for a shorter tour.

The Tahoe Rim Trail circles Lake Tahoe, and a handy place to enter it is at the top of Spooner Pass. As you’re heading up Highway 50 you’ll see a road sign for the Rim Trail. You can park off the highway just below the large sign that offers tips on hiking and conservation. This leg of the trail is about 13 miles to Tunnel Creek and goes through Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park and skirts some private property.

The Rim Trail was largely built by unpaid volunteers and maintained by the same group. The trail is designed with a maximum of 10 percent grade at most with the path largely dirt and rocks with the usual water breaks cutting across the trail.

For the whole 13-mile hike you’ll need to position a car by the Ponderosa Ranch area, but this early in the season a shorter, return trip might be wiser. For most early season hikers the run from Spooner to the south end of Marlette Lake, about six miles, will suffice. This time of the year hiking boots are probably a must as there are still patches of snow on the trail. In summer sneakers will do.

You’ll want to bring a lunch and beverage as there is no water along the hike and there are several vista points that make excellent al fresco dining.

Trailhead is at 7,200 feet and you’ll climb to about 9, 210 feet for 2,000 feet of vertical. But there are few really steep sections with most of the trail at less than 10 degrees.

You’ll start with a gentle downhill for about a quarter-mile and then begin a long uphill pull. Along the way you’ll see that a lot of hard work went into building this sector of the Rim Trail. And since it is early in the season you’ll probably come across damage to the trail such as fallen trees. If you can note such damage and let the Rim Trail people in Stateline know about it.

You’ll catch glimpses of Spooner Lake on your left about here as well as Lake Tahoe ahead in the distance. It’s a little early for wildflowers, although mule ears and perhaps some lupine and Indian paintbrush may be coming out.

About a mile along the trail you’ll come to the first vista point on your right. A sign points the way. Some fine views of Heavenly Ski Resort trails and the Carson Valley.

At something better than two miles you’ll come to a steeper section of downhill trail. You can go cross country here to a jumble of massive rocks on your left and uphill. For some excellent photos of Lake Tahoe you might want to climb to the top of this rock pile.

A second vista point come up about now on the right. This offers an awesome view of the valley and Highway 50 slicing through thick pine forests.

After this stop the trial climbs again, passing Snow Valley Park on the right. And not long after this you’ll come to another vista point on the left. This looks out on the whole of Lake Tahoe and the Homewood ski resort across the lake. In the far distance west you can see Sierra-at-Tahoe ski trails. To the north the Alpine Meadows ski runs are white highways in the forest.

Just a quarter mile or so past this vista point you’ll be able to see Marlette Lake below and a trail will cut off to the left, joining the famous Flume Trail.

Plenty of places to enjoy a later lunch here. And unless you want to do the whole 13 miles and have parked a car below, you’ll want to turn back now and retrace your steps to the original trailhead. Don’t be surprised if it seems a lot farther going back than it was coming out.

Back at the trailhead you might want to drop some change into the collection tube to help the Rim Trail folk complete the last dozen or so miles. For information about the Rim Trail call (775) 588-0686 or write to Box 4647, Stateline NV 89449. Tell them Sam sent you.

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