Everything You Need to Know to Thru-Hike the Tahoe Rim Trail

There’s a little strip of dirt that runs all the way around a big, blue lake. It passes through lush meadows, aspen groves, mountain hemlock forests, volcanic rock, granite faces, mountain passes, alpine lakes, and carries some of the nicest people you'll ever meet.

It’s called the Tahoe Rim, a 170-mile trail that circumnavigates the Lake Tahoe Basin.

Below are pictures, pro tips, and packing lists from my thru-hike. I've broken the info up into the five following sections:

  1. Stats
  2. Planning
  3. Gear
  4. Sustenance
  5. Route

I hope this info helps make your planning easier and inspires you to explore the Tahoe Rim Trail. Enjoy!

Stats

Dates: Monday, August 29th to Thursday, September, 8th 2016.

Time to complete: 11 days and 10 nights.

Highest point: Relay Peak, 10,338 feet.

Lowest point: Lake Tahoe Outlet, 6,240 feet.

Total elevation gain and loss: 30,000 feet.

Total miles: 176 (explored a few places off TRT and got a little lost once).

Daytime Temps: 7o’s to 80’s.

Nighttime Temps: 30’s to 40’s.

Planning

Any successful thru-hike requires planning. It can be flexible, but there has to be one. Without it, anything can happen, and not all of it positive. Planning ahead and preparing can save you from life-threatening situations and mishaps.

Below are the resources I used to prepare for my Tahoe Rim Trail thru-hike:

  1. Reviewed the Tahoe Rim Trail map. I also carried this with me on the thru-hike.
  2. Read Tahoe Rim Trail guide book. I read this before departing and left at home.
  3. Secured permits and checked regulations. Permits are required for Desolation Wilderness (thru-hikers get to bypass the quota system) and CA Campfire.
  4. Perused the Tahoe Rim Trail Association website. Excellent resource and amazing people!
  5. Made a day-by-day plan for parking, camping, water caching, and resupplying.
  6. Checked weather.

Pro tips:

  1. Plan your ideal camp destinations before you leave home. This will give you a goal for the day’s hike and a good excuse to stop if you need to. However, part of any thru-hike is to let the plan go and follow the adventure. Which in my case, happened often. I only followed the plan the first night and tweaked things along the way.
  2. Plan your water stops in advance. It’s kind of ironic to be hiking around a gigantic body of water and for water to be one of the biggest concerns. But along Tahoe’s east shore this is the case and water is in short supply, especially during late summer and early fall. Every year and season are different, so do your research and plan ahead. I ended up caching water at Brockway Summit before embarking on my journey.
  3. Plan your food storage. Store all food properly to minimize interactions with wildlife. I don’t recommend bear hangs on the Tahoe Rim Trail, as there are areas where the terrain does not have ideal trees for this. I used my trusty bear-proof canister that also makes a great camp chair! :)
  4. Plan your resupply. Unless you can carry enough food to fuel you for 170-miles you’re going to need to resupply at some point. Below are the two places I recommend in Tahoe City:
  • Granlibakken: My husband reserved a room for me here at the halfway point and it was such an incredible gift! It was really nice to shower, do my laundry, and eat vegetables. They’ll also accept your resupply box for no charge, and hold things for you while you’re on the trail. Their staff is incredible and I’m so grateful for all of their kindness and generosity.
  • Alpenglow Sports: These guys will also accept your resupply box for no charge. Send your food, fuel, or other supplies ahead of time to their store with your name and the date range you plan on being there. They also have an amazing selection of items if your gear breaks or if you just want to stock up there. Their staff is super knowledgeable and helpful!

Notice how the world plan was in every one of these tips? I’m not kidding about the planning part. ;)

 
 Pre-trip planning.

Pre-trip planning.

 

Gear

Here is my gear checklist, along with links to exactly what I brought with me. Please keep in mind this is stripped down compared to what I’d bring on a 2 or 3-day backpacking trip. Outdoor checklists will always vary depending on individual preferences and itineraries.

Essentials

Sleeping Gear

 
 My home away from home. 

My home away from home. 

 

Clothing/Footwear

Hygiene

Cookware

Miscellaneous

Pro tips:

  1. Put your sleep clothes (shirt, pants, and socks) in the bottom of your sleeping bag and put them on every night before going to bed. Even if you’re covered in trail grime (sweat + dirt) it’s really nice to change out of your hiking clothes and into something that’s clean (somewhat).
  2. When you camp by a lake, stream, or creek take the opportunity to wash your clothes. No soap, just a quick rinse and ring in the water, then lay them in the sun to dry. I also highly recommend dunking yourself in the water and taking a quick bath. It really lifts the spirits and leaves you feeling refreshed after a long day of hiking!

Sustenance

A few things to note about my strategy in this department:

  • My motto was keep it easy peasy. I knew I’d be tired, especially at night, so I didn’t want to deal with cooking elaborate meals or washing dishes. Plus, I didn’t want to carry a lot.
  • I wanted hot meals. I met a lot of thru-hikers who were going stoveless, but I was not very excited about this. A stove is one of my backpacking comfort items, where I’ll sacrifice a little weight to be more comfortable.
  • On shorter backpacking trips I’ll take fresh fruits and vegetables, but for longer ones, like this thru-hike, I only pack dried and freeze dried food to keep the weight down.
  • I carried one week’s worth of food with me at a time. I planned on completing the trail in 14-days but ended up doing it in 11-days. I ended up with way more food than I needed, but my fellow campers and PCT thru-hikers didn’t mind. They happily ate my extras! :)

Breakfast

Pro tips:

  1. Mornings outside are for moving slowly and taking in the natural world. Sip your tea or coffee, eat your breakfast slowly, and don’t rush. Take time to watch and listen to the world wake up.
  2. Pour a scoop of green powder into the oatmeal packet and stir. Add hot water directly to oatmeal packet and give it another stir. Roll top of oatmeal packet down and let sit for one minute, then enjoy! Best part? No dishes!
  3. The first morning I tried adding the almond butter to the oatmeal packet, but there’s not enough room, so I just ate it separate in between oatmeal bites. Almond butter is also really good straight out of the jar anytime during the day when you’re hungry! ;)
 
 Tastes best straight out of the jar!

Tastes best straight out of the jar!

 

Snacks

  • Trail Mix: raisins, coconut chips, dried apples, cashews, pumpkin seeds, and macadamia nuts.
  • Epic Bars (favorite flavor pork, it’s like eating bacon on the trail).
  • GoMacro Bars (favorite flavor: banana and almond butter).
  • Krave Beef Jerky (favorite flavor: black cherry barbecue pork).

Pro tip:

  1. If you’re hiking longer distances make sure to stop, eat a snack, and drink water every 2-3 hours. You might be jazzed and not feel hungry, but it’s important to avoid bonking and dehydration in the backcountry.

Dinner

Pro tips:

  1. Add cashews, macadamia nuts, or an epic bar instead of fish to freeze dried meals for variety.
  2. Freeze dried meals require 20-minutes to work their magic. While you’re waiting make your notes from the day and write in your journal. Or do nothing and watch the sunset! :)
 
 Dinner time!

Dinner time!

 

Beverages

Pro tip:

  1. When you stop to refill your water bottles also make sure you soak your feet from time to time. Nothing in the world feels better on swollen, tired, achy feet than cold water! Doing so increases circulation, numbs the pain, reduces swelling, and makes everything feel a little better.
 
 My favorite soaking spot.

My favorite soaking spot.

 

Route

Here’s a map of my 11-day route! I traveled clockwise around Lake Tahoe, starting at South Kingsbury Grade.

I hope you get to experience the Tahoe Rim Trail very soon, in whatever way you can. It's a very special place.

Happy adventuring!

Warm hugs and big love,

Megan

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