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Plan B due to snow in the Lake Tahoe area

Posted: Wed Jul 03, 2019 8:14 pm
by ksluyter
Hello friends! I am new to this forum and new to the Sierra Nevada in general. We have a group of 4 out-of-staters flying into Reno on July 10th. Our plan HAD been to do a 30 mile loop trail 4 days-ish in the Desolation Wilderness. But due to snow, we have to come up with a new plan. None of us know the area and could really use some help in finding another option in the general Tahoe region. We don't want to drive more than 2 hours from Lake Tahoe. We've been told that we need to stay below 8000ft to avoid a ton of snow. We don't want to do full on snow camping. We are level 3 backpackers. So far I've looked at Loon Lake up to Rubicon Reservoir and over to Camper Flats (not sure if we can even get there however). The Lakes Basin Area, but finding enough miles in that small area seems unlikely unless we add some out and back miles on the PCT. The Tahoe Rim Trail, which really doesn't excite us much as we want a wilderness experience and don't want to be crossing a lot of roads and dealing with mobs of people. Also any very current trail conditions reports in the immediate Tahoe area will be very helpful as we rule out certain trails. I've been talking with rangers non-stop in Tahoe, Eldorado and Plumas National Forests, but they are all so busy and under staffed that they don't always have really current conditions. Thank you so much for your help! We have 7 days to do a serious sun/snow melt dance or come up with a new plan. We're coming and going backpacking, one way or another!

Re: Plan B due to snow in the Lake Tahoe area

Posted: Wed Jul 03, 2019 8:38 pm
by c9h13no3
A few comments, they may or may not be helpful.

The Desolation Wilderness is one of the heaviest used in the US. I once hiked over 6 miles of snow to Lake Aloha, and had people jamming a boom box & snow camping across the lake. It's not really a wilderness experience. You'll see less people on the east side of Tahoe.

I think people get a bit too scared of snow. Even in May there's dry ground to sleep on while ski touring. Properly prepared (sun gear, trekking poles, good knees, and a slower speed attitude) I think a trip with a lot of snow coverage is enjoyable.

If you're unwilling to touch the white stuff, Leavitt Meadows is a nice area that's not too far of a drive. TahoeJeff here like the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness. But it's hard to put 7 days of backpacking together right now without crossing an impassable river or a snowy pass. Add some layover days? Do 2 trips?

Re: Plan B due to snow in the Lake Tahoe area

Posted: Wed Jul 03, 2019 9:24 pm
by SSSdave
Planning Sierra Nevada trips into higher elevations is a gamble any year before late July. You could easily do your trip hiking that much each day but it would not be in wilderness but rather on national forests lands in boring mid elevation mosquitoey forest without alpine lakes. Most worthwhile places people with "lakeitis" go to are and will be under snow with lakes frozen over. You ought to look at the thread linked below and figure out how to use caltopo dot com maps as it will give you a better idea of what is possible by avoiding much snow or high stream crossing. Switch between Weekly Hi-Res satellite and topo modes to understand where things are as switching between modes retains map registration.


Most lakes people backpack to in the Sierra are at highest elevations because they are depressions left in bedrock from glaciers tens of thousands of years ago at highest areas where lots of snow fell. Looking at today's image, it appears the very popular Velma Lakes doesn't have much snow left and trails still with snow are going to trampled during this holiday week. So to fill up 4 days easily, you could certainly go there stumbling through minor areas of snow on the trails and then take the trail down to Upper Rubican River areas staying down in the bottom of the canyon. To avoid people go to the lower lake. Velma Lakes with Tahoe in the background:


Re: Plan B due to snow in the Lake Tahoe area

Posted: Wed Jul 03, 2019 9:55 pm
by JohnS
You could check the Penner Lakes Grouse Ridge area off the Bowman Lake Rd in Tahoe NF. Lower level and forest with mosquitoes as David mentioned. Use the search function for Grouse Ridge or Penner.

Check the Tahoe National Forest webpage for road conditions.


Re: Plan B due to snow in the Lake Tahoe area

Posted: Wed Jul 03, 2019 11:02 pm
by wildhiker
There have been other similar requests for early season hiking locations in the past month. Look through those posts to get more ideas. Consider the Carson Range on the east side of Lake Tahoe. Not pure wilderness, but pretty wild and great views. I mentioned a likely trip in response to another thread: ... 45#p146645

Re: Plan B due to snow in the Lake Tahoe area

Posted: Wed Jul 03, 2019 11:13 pm
by rightstar76
SSSdave, gosh, that is a beautiful photograph of Velma Lakes. Lake Tahoe and the sky are so crystal clear and blue. It looks like I can just walk into the picture for a hike. :)

Re: Plan B due to snow in the Lake Tahoe area

Posted: Thu Jul 04, 2019 8:49 am
by brianA
We train every year in the Tahoe area for our summer backpack trips. We've been hard pressed to find any trails free of snow. So far the only one has been the Tahoe Rim Trail out of Tahoe City toward Watson Lake. I can't for the life of me think of any 30 mile loop trails free of snow. But if you can do a car to car (car to Uber?), you might be able to do a couple of Tahoe Rim Trail segments on the eastern side. You'll still hit a few snow patches. If you're interested, here's the TRT trail condition website. It's too bad because there are some killer loop trails up on the west side (snow side). IMO, Lake Aloha ranks up with Thousand Island Lake on the PCT for beauty. Not to mention Lake Fontanillis, and Falls. Just talked to a through hiker yesterday near Donner, and he said Aloha was completely covered in snow.

Re: Plan B due to snow in the Lake Tahoe area

Posted: Thu Jul 04, 2019 9:58 am
by rightstar76
Hi ksluyter. A 30 mile loop in Desolation next week without snow is out of the question. But the snow is melting on the east side of Lake Tahoe and by the time of your trip, it will probably not be an issue. As brianA pointed out, the TRT on the east side works well for car shuttles and taxi/uber/lyft.

For example, you could hike south from Heavenly Ski Resort (Kingsbury South Trailhead) to Star Lake: ... _BM_19.pdf and if the snow is minimal, you could continue further south to Big Meadow Trailhead and Dardanelle Lake: ... _EL_19.pdf

You can then car shuttle or taxi/uber/lyft back to your starting point. Also, check out wildhiker's suggestion: ... 45#p146645


Re: Plan B due to snow in the Lake Tahoe area

Posted: Thu Jul 04, 2019 10:35 am
by TahoeJeff
The Weekly High-Res imagery on CalTopo dated 7/1/19 shows Meeks trail pretty much snow free all the way to Stony Ridge, which has a ton of snow free areas around it. Same for Bayview to Middle Velma and Azure, and Lilly to Grass. As others have pointed out, a Deso loop will be a snowy go, but you can still do one or 2 out and back trips.

Also, these guys have some good up to date intel:

Re: Plan B due to snow in the Lake Tahoe area

Posted: Thu Jul 04, 2019 11:22 pm
by wildhiker
I'm seeing a date of July 4 for the high-res satellite imagery (Sentinel program) on Caltopo today. Here's a false-color version with OpenStreetMap roads and trails and contour lines composite centered on Lake Tahoe. Pan and zoom to check out the snow in different areas. Snow shows as a very light cyan color. Some forested areas are speckled with this color, indicating snow pack under the trees. Other high forest areas may also have some snow that doesn't show in this satellite view. ... &a=c%2Cmba

My prior suggestion for the Carson Range in Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park shows almost entirely snow free. It also looks like there are only snow patches on the Phipps Pass trail that connects Stony Ridge Lake (mentioned by TahoeJeff) to Velma Lakes (mentioned by SSSDave). Looks to me like it wouldn't be too hard to do a one-way shuttle trip from Meeks Bay to Emerald Bay using this pass. If you don't have two cars, check if the "Tahoe Trolley" is running - it normally can get you from Emerald Bay back to Meeks Bay several times per day.

Be prepared for lots of mosquitoes!