Back to index TRT - Segment 3 - Tahoe Meadows to Spooner Summit
Trip Date:  06/09/2015

: 24.3 Miles

Vertical Gain: 2400'

Group Size: 1

Hike Rating:  Easy   Moderate   Hard    Strenuous
TRT Segment 3 Trip
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TRT Segment 3 Trail Profile
Start Coordinates:   N 39 18.777, W 119 53.853     End Coordinates:   N 39 06.277, W 119 53.829
(Alternate start/stop coordinates to cut this segment in half are at the Tunnel Creek Station at N 39 14.058, W 119 55.805.  Breaking this into two days is highly recommended!)
Car Shuttle Req'd:   Yes Parking Directions:   For the parking area for Tahoe Meadows, follow the Mt. Rose Highway (431) north toward the Mt. Rose Summit and park at the large lot on the west side of the highway.  You will have to cross back over the road and start down the paved road for the Mt. Rose Campground to start off this section of the trail.  For parking at the end of the hike at Spooner Summit, take Highway 50 east from South Lake Tahoe.  Park on the north side of the highway at the parking area provided for the Tahoe Rim Trail hike.
Hazards of Note:   This is an extremely long segment, and water is only available at the Marlette Peak Campground, over 15 miles into the hike. Crowd Factor:   Moderate.  This is a popular mountain biking area so keep an eye out for quickly approaching bicyclists.  They are only supposed to be on the trail during EVEN dates on the calendar, but there were many who ignored this rule on the ODD day I was out and anyone else I have talked to has said the same thing.
General Notes:
You will start this hike at just about 8900 feet in elevation, making your way down to and then across Tahoe Meadows.  In the spring this is a very lush, green meadow area with a less than 2 mile interpretive loop trail that visitors can enjoy and get some good information regarding the history and geology of the area.  Once you pass through this area the trail will slowly begin to lose elevation over the next 9-10 miles until you reach the lowest elevation on the hike at 7900 feet.  During this gradual descent you will have a number of nice views to the west and the northwest across Lake Tahoe, including the nearby Incline Village and all the way to Blackwood Canyon and even Desolation Wilderness.  
About 11 miles into the hike you will come across an old dried up lake bowl, with smooth boulders in the center of what used to be the middle of the water.  This is the point where the hike will begin a climb all the way back up to almost 9000' of elevation, and it is a real thigh-burning stretch.  Near the top there is an amazing view of Marlette Lake high above Lake Tahoe, and be sure to take the short diversion trail marked "Viewpoint" to see a panoramic view of the scene from high above.
Soon after this point you will come to a bit of a confusing trail junction, which points to the TRT South in two different directions around Marlette Peak.  The official trail map for the TRT indicates to head toward Marlette Peak Campground, which heads to the east.  There is water available at the campground via a well, as well as bathrooms.
Six miles from the end of this segment you will pass Snow Valley Peak on the left, a worthy summit to climb but definitely too much if doing the entire segment in one leg.  The final five miles will gradually wind down the mountain, descending almost 2000 feet in elevation by the time you get to the end of the day at the Spooner Summit parking area.

The sign for the start of the actual Tahoe Rim Trail after heading down the initial paved road from Mt. Rose summit parking. Beginning of the trail
Looking east across the start of Tahoe Meadows.
Tahoe Meadows 
Signs along this section of the TRT are helpful so that you don't get diverted onto one of the many side trails that branch off during the first few miles. Signs More signs
There is a second trailhead a mile up the road from Mt. Rose parking, which would shave over a mile off the entire loop around the lake.  But, that would be cheating! A cheaters trailhead
The TRT heads directly across Tahoe Meadows near the start, crosses over a bridge and then leaves the meadows behind to start a gradual descent through the forest.  Heading across the meadow More meadow
There are some great views along the way which appear from time to time, including this one looking south toward Sand Harbor far below. First views
This section of trail is nicely padded with sandy granite that you walk along, which your feet will appreciate after so many miles yet to come. Sandy trail
Coming around each bend offers new views of the lake, including this one back toward the North Shore and even the mountains in the distance toward Donner Summit. West view
The trail crosses over and starts to head along the east end of the rim offering some nice views into the Carson Valley to the east far below.  This is the first time I've ever seen it look green! Carson Valley More Carson
The trail then heads back across to the western side of the ridge, and more views up toward Incline Village and King's Beach appear. Back to the west
An interesting section of the forest where the moss all grew in horizontal lines on the trees in the area. Interesting moss growth
When you get to this dry lake with old rounded boulders in the middle, it is the indication that you are about to start a very long and tiring climb over the new few miles. Dry Lake Climb start
Along the way is a highly recommended diversion that I didn't take on this day called Christopher's Loop.  It offers some amazing views of Sand Harbor, including this one that I took on a different trip. Christopher's Loop Christopher's Loop
Near the top of the long climb there is a view of Marlette Lake, but be sure to take the marked short "Viewpoint" diversion to get this even better scene. Marlette Lake
Up ahead about 4 miles away from this spot is Snow Valley Peak.  An OGUL peak with great views, but too much on an already nearly 25 mile day. Snow Valley Peak 
Shortly past the Marlette Overlook is a confusing junction of many signs, but follow this one to the Campground for the "official" TRT route and water as needed.  Confusion spot
The trail around the back of Marlette Peak on the way to the campground. Backside trail
At the southeast side of Marlette Lake you get another great view of it in its location high above Lake Tahoe. Another Marlette Viewpoint
This shot not only includes most of Marlette Lake, but also in the far distance, just below the peak of Mt. Rose (highest on the right) is where the day started almost 18 miles ago.   Looking back to the start
The last 5 miles head down the ridgeline toward Spooner Summit and Highway 50, and there are many switchbacks and it feels like it will never end.  However, it does, eventually! Heading down
The location of the end of the trail, a blissful sight after the long trek south. At the end
GPS track of the hike starting in the upper left and heading down to the bottom right.  Just north of the white section along the shore halfway down is where you would join or leave this hike splitting it into two trips. GPS Track of the hike