Back to index Meiss Lake Loop

Trip Date:  09/06/2019

: 9.7 Miles

Vertical Gain: 1800'

Group Size: 4
Hike Rating:  Easy   Moderate    Hard   Strenuous
Meiss Lake Loop
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Meiss Lake Loop Elevation Profile
Start Coordinates:   N 38 41.813, W 120 00.204     End Coordinates:   Same as start coordinates
Car Shuttle Req'd:   Yes
Parking Directions:   Take to a small turnout with a stop sign coming out of it about 1/2 mile west of the Carson Pass Information Station at the summit.  The parking area is just about 50 feet down this turnoff on the south side of the road.
Hazards of Note:   Be cautious crossing Highway 88 from the parking area.  To the west is a bend in the road where cars will not have much time to see you.  The on trail sections of the hike are clearly marked.  The off-trail sections require good navigational skills and decision making where some steep drop-offs can be avoided easily.  The south side of Meiss Lake is very wet meadow and can have deep pockets of water from time to time.

Crowd Factor:   Moderate on trail - Negligible off-trail
General Notes:
From the parking area, cross over Highway 88 and you will find a well-defined trail heading north that is not on any map of any kind.  Follow this trail for about 3/4 of a mile until you reach the Pacific Crest Trail which headed north from Carson Pass.  Using this little-known trail will cut two miles off of your trek -- one in each direction.  From the PCT you will head north up and over the ridgeline to drop down into Lake Valley.  When you reach the junction with the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) and the PCT, turn to the right on the TRT, and head north for about a mile until you cross a small creek.  From here, you will leave the trail and travel cross-country for the entire time you are crossing Lake Valley and until you reach the PCT on the other side of Meiss Lake.
When you reach the north end of Meiss Lake there are great views of the Little Round Top ridgeline across the lake, and then you will head northwest toward the Four Lakes if you choose to visit them as well.  The second one from the west is especially gorgeous and worth the effort to get there.  Between these lakes and the PCT is the Truckee River, near where it starts but still something that will have to be negotiated carefully.  Especially in the spring be cautious of the slippery rocks and the places where there are actually two crossings with an 'island' in the middle.
Once back on the PCT you can choose to take a 1/2 mile detour to the north to visit Showers Lake, but if you have been there previously Meiss Lake is just as wonderful a destination with no others around.

This is the parking area you will be looking for as seen from about halfway across Highway 88.  Park in the first turnout area on the left.
Parking area from Highway 88

Sweeping views of the Carson Pass area and Round Top and the Sisters specifically are visible as you climb up into the rise which will drop you back down into Lake Valley.
Heading up the PCT

Looking across the valley to the north you can see Tallac, Dicks and Jacks Peaks from right to left.
Into the Valley

It was very surprising to find a waterfall this late in the summer.  All of the water from this area helps form the headwaters of the Truckee River.
Late summer waterfall

Our group heading up the Tahoe Rim Trail toward Round Lake with Red Lake Peak visible in the distance.
Up the TRT

Heading cross country from the TRT we stopped near Meiss Lake to look back at the distinctive Dardenelles formation of rock which towers above Round Lake.

Meiss Lake is in a wonderful setting, looking here across it from the north toward the Little Round Top ridgeline we have traversed many times in the past.
Meiss Lake

Another look south across the lake, capturing a neat little island with its very own tree not too far away from where we took our break.
Another lake view 

About 1/2 a mile north of Meiss Lake are the cleverly named 4 Lakes, and this one, the second from the west was really pretty.  There were signs of old trails nearby, but nothing that connected up with anything we could find.
2nd of the 4 Lakes

As we headed west the first of the 4 Lakes was only about 2/10ths of a mile from the previous one, much smaller and shallower but still worth checking out.
1st 4 Lake

Our next task heading west was to cross the early part of the Truckee River, which was still flowing pretty well this late in the season after a wet year.  We managed, but there was a little scrambling to accomplish this.
Crossing the Truckee Crossing the Truckee

Once back on the PCT and heading south, the going is pretty straightforward and the views were great the entire way.
Back on the PCT

Almost back to the end of the trek, the view south across Highway 88 toward Carson Pass just takes your breath away.
Almost back

GPS Track of the full hike. GPS Track of Hike