Back to index Scott Lake Snowshoe Hike

Trip Date:  01/24/2020

: 6 Miles

Vertical Gain: 700'

Group Size: 4
Hike Rating:  Easy   Moderate    Hard   Strenuous
Scotts Lake Loop
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Scott Lake Loop Elevation Profile
Start Coordinates:   N 38 47.362  W 120 00.011     End Coordinates:   N 38 45.945  W 119 56.411
Car Shuttle Req'd:   Yes
Parking Directions:   For the Highway 89 side (Start coordinates,) take Highway 89 between Highways 50 and 88, and park at the Big Meadow trailhead parking area at the coordinates provided on the north side of the road.   In the winter this parking area is closed so you will have to find a safe spot along the highway.

For the Highway 88 side (End coordinates,) find the parking area on the north side of the road exactly 1.5 miles west of Picketts Junction, where Highways 88 and 89 come together.
Hazards of Note:   Be cautious crossing Highway 89 from the parking area.   During winter, the trail from the Tahoe Rim Trail kiosk is usually pretty well marked from the highway into Big Meadow a couple of miles along the pathway.  The trail to Scott's Lake from this side is not often travelled and good GPS or map skills are a must for this snowshoe hike.

Crowd Factor:   Moderate on trail - Negligible off-trail
General Notes:
From the parking area, cross over Highway 89 and start at the Tahoe Rim Trail kiosk.  
Head up the steep first section of trail, and in less than a mile you will come to a trail junction, with the way to Scotts Lake to the left.  The trail to the right will follow the Tahoe Rim Trail and head on to Round Lake and Carson Pass in the distance.  Follow the Scotts Lake trail as it climbs up through the forest along the base of the ridge to your left.  Initially this trail will bypass Big Meadow to the west, and then meander up the valley with the Waterhouse Peak range soon coming into view on your left.    About 4 1/2 miles from the Big Meadow trailhead you will reach Scott's Lake, and it is easiest to follow the road that meanders about a mile and a half until it reaches the parking area along Highway 88 at the parking coordinates.

This can be turned into a much shorter snowshoe outing heading up the Scott's Lake from the Highway 88 parking area.  This would be about a 3 mile round trip to the lake and back.

Visible from Highway 89 across from the Big Meadow parking area, you can start this snowshoe hike along the Tahoe Rim Trail by finding this location and heading up the trail.
Tahoe Rim Trail kiosk

Getting ready to head up the trail after just having crossed Highway 89.  One of our vehicles has found one of the safe locations along the highway with enough room for multiple cars to park.
Along the highway

A little before the first mile mark you will reah this junction post, with Scott's Lake off to the left and Big Meadow to the right.  One option is to head to Big Meadow first, and then cross over the small creek to the east and pick up the Scott's Lake trail. Trail junction

A couple of miles into the hike the trail passes out of the tree-covered section and heads along the valley with the Waterhouse Peak mountains to the east.
Heading toward Waterhouse

Snowshoeing can be a lot of work, and we took a few stops along the way to rest up from breaking trail nearly the entire way.
Taking a break    

Most of the way to Scott's Lake on this particular day was helped by following a cross-country skiier's marks when they didn't pass along some questionable areas from time to time.
Following the ski trails

About 4 1/2 into the hike from Highway 89 you finally reach the frozen over Scott's Lake.  
Frozen Scott's Lake 

Scott's Lake is above 8000' in elevation, so it tends to be frozen over pretty early in the season.  
Scott's Lake

A quick stop along the way to check out the views of the lake and beyond.
Checking out the view

Hawkins Peak and part of Hope Valley are visible heading down to the end of the snowshoe trek.  So is the vehicle at the parking spot along Highway 88.
Hawkins Peak 

Mark and Robyn waiting patiently while I take quick break from the snow stomping for the past nearly 6 miles.
Mark and Robyn

Even with large snowshoes, there was a lot of post-holing involved on this day because the powder was deep and the snow was fresh.
Looking back along the fresh snow after breaking trail for the group.
Our tracks

GPS Track of the full hike. GPS Track of Hike