Back to index Big Meadow to Dardanelles Lake Hike
Trip Date:  6/05/2020

: 7.8 Miles

Vertical Gain: 1200'

Group Size: 6

Hike Rating:  Easy   Moderate    Hard    Strenuous
Big Meadow to Lake Dardanelles Route
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Big Meadow to Lake Dardanelles Profile
Start Coordinates:   N 38 47.367, W 120 00.017     End Coordinates:   Same as Start Coordinates
Car Shuttle Req'd:   No Parking Directions:   Take Highway 50 to Highway 89 or north from Pickett's Junction (Hwy 88.)  Follow Highway 89 to the entrace to the Big Meadow Parking Area on the north side of Highway 89.  If the gate is closed, then park off the road in this area, but be aware of any no parking any time signs in a few places.

Hazards of Note:   Crossing highway 89 near the start of the hike, bears, bikes on the Tahoe Rim Trail section toward Round Lake before you turn off to Lake Dardanelles. Crowd Factor:   High.  This is a very popular trail to a number of popular destinations, including this lake, Round Lake and even Meiss Lake and the Pacific Crest Trail about 8 miles further on.
General Notes:
From the parking area head south to the Highway 89 crossing to pick up the Tahoe Rim Trail on the other side of the road.  The first section gains elevation pretty quickly with switchbacks on rocky terrain, and then it will straighten out until you come to Big Meadow.  There is a trail junction right before the meadow itself, which you will head to the right toward Round Lake and the Tahoe Rim Trail.  If you go left you will be on the Scott's Lake trail toward Scott's Lake and Waterhouse Peak.   Head across the pleasant meadow, which is bursting with wildflowers in the mid summer time.  The trail will once again begin to pick up elevation pretty quickly as you head through forested trail for the next mile and a half.  At this point you will come to a junction in the trail, where you will turn right on the Lake Valley trail to head toward Lake Dardanelles.  It is another mile and a half down this trail to reach the lake.  Make sure you take the junction to the left across a small creek to head to the lake and not just continue on the Lake Valley trail all the way to Christmas Valley where it ends.
Once at the lake be sure to head around the north side of the lake to where the trail ends at the western end of Lake Dardanelles.  The views here are great back across the lake and there are numerous camping areas in this location.

Look for this kiosk on the south side of Highway 89 to be sure you are at the correct start of the hike. Trailhead kiosk
A look at the steep rocky section at the start of the hike.  It gets you elevation pretty quickly. Steep start 
The bridge that crosses a small stream gets you to the start of Big Meadow, a spectacular location in itself.    Entering the meadow 
They weren't very big, but the creek was teeming with fish. Fishing spot
Big Meadow rarely disappoints. Heading through Big Meadow Big Meadow
At about the 2 1/2 mile point is the junction to either continue on the Tahoe Rim Trail to Round Lake and Meiss Meadow, or to turn right on the Lake Valley trail toward Lake Dardanelles. Junction
In another 1/4 mile is this signed junction post for Lake Dardanelles.  Make sure you head south off the Lake Valley Trail so you don't end up back near Meyers. Dardanelles Lake junction
Ironic how these rocks just naturally formed right at the spot we needed to cross the creek!Crossing
Lake Dardanelles never disappoints, as it is one of the prettiest lakes in the area.At the Lake
Some of our group exploring the western end of the lake near the camp sites (off to the right.)Exploring
The very distinctive peak to the east of the lake. Lake Dardanelles
One last shot of some of the group navigating their way back down to the parking area. Navigating the trail back
GPX image of the hike from right to left and then back. GPS track of hike