165-Mile Thru-Hike of the Tahoe Rim Trail/Route Planning/Gear Lists

In June 2018 Rachael and I tore off on a thru hike around Lake Tahoe on the Tahoe Rim Trail. The TRT is a 165-mile long distance hike that passes through two Wilderness areas and crosses two state borders, California and Nevada.

Below are the details of our backpacking trip around the Tahoe Rim Trail that we completed in June 2018. The information below is intended to be used as a resource for others planning a similar hike and is broken down into sections to coincide with the sections used by the Tahoe Rim Trail Association (TRTA).

Our TRT Thru-Hike Route

Time to Complete: 13 days (daily mileage below)                Miles

Day 1: Kingsbury South TH to Star Lake (Mile 89.6)                           9

Day 2: Star Lake to Grass Lake Creek (Mile 102.4)                             12.8

Day 3: Grass Lake Creek to Showers Pass (Mile 114)                         11.6

Day 4: Showers Pass to Tamarack Lake (Mile 126)                            12

Day 5: Tamarack Lake to Dick’s Lake (Mile 137.3)                             11.3

Day 6: Dick’s Lake to Bear Lake Outlet (Mile 152)                             14.7

Day 7: Bear Lake Outlet to The Oven (Mile 167)                                15

Day 8: The Oven to Powerline (Mile 6)                                                10

Day 9: Powerline to Brockway Ridge (Mile 22)                                  16

Day 10: Brockway Ridge to Mt. Rose Camp (Mile 41)                        19

Day 11: Mt. Rose Camp to Marlette Lake Camp (Mile 54.4)             13.4

Day 12: Marlette Lake Camp to The Bench (Mile 69)                        14.6

Day 13: The Bench to Kingsbury South (Mile 81.4)                            12.4

Average Mileage:     13.22 Miles

Route Adjustments

Hindsight is 20/20, but after completing our thru-hike, these are the adjustments that we would have made:

Longer Days on the Trail

When we normally backpack, we hike 8-12 miles, stop for a long lunch and maybe a nap, then roll into camp around 3PM and take a load off until dinner around 6PM and bed around 8PM. When thru-hiking, we learned very quickly that there are benefits to longer days and more miles. We would have tried to average 16-20 miles per day and shortened our trip by a few days.

Less Food and 2 Resupplies

With the longer days, we would have needed less food and therefore, less weight. We only resupplied once at Tahoe City and would have added a second resupply somewhere like Mt. Rose Campground to only have to carry a few days of food at a time.

Cache Water at Brockway and Spooner Lake

The North and East sides of the lake are extremely dry and we could have been in bad shape if it weren’t for some good Samaritans and trail angels. We would have cached water at Brockway Summit TH and Spooner Lake TH. Although there is a water spigot at Spooner Lake, the detour adds 3+ miles to an already strenuous section.

Note: By late Summer the trail angels had picked up their efforts at Brockway TH and there was a steady supply of water jugs. Please clean up your trash and don’t leave empty bottles when you are done.

Section Descriptions

Section 1: Kingsbury South to Big Meadow

Kingsbury Grade Backpacking

This section of trail was an extremely good introduction to the TRT. Elevations hover around 9,000 feet and the temperatures up high are much more pleasant that some of the hot days in the valley. We only encountered snow at the base of Freel Peak and it was gone before we hit Armstrong Pass.

There were plenty of places to camp at Star Lake as well as near the creak a few miles down trail toward Freel Peak. Our campsite at Star Lake was excellent, but we wished that we had pushed a little further to one of the many creeks flowing off of Freel Peak for the added mileage.

Star Lake Camping

This section was extremely wet and water was easy to come by. Most was running clean and clear with little-to-no color. We carried only one liter of water at a time and simply stopped when we needed more.

Section 2: Big Meadow to Echo Lakes

Big Meadow Backpacking

Section 2 was similar in difficulty to Section 1 with the introduction of some interesting trail surface at Echo Lakes, mostly jagged shale and sharp rocks. It made walking a little more challenging in places. We encountered very little snow on this section, only on the descent from Showers Pass and it was avoidable. We chose to dry camp on the ridge above Showers Lake and really enjoyed the seclusion of not being by other campers, plus the view was excellent.

More streams ran through this section with no need to carry more than one liter at a time unless dry camping. Round Lake and Showers Lake appeared in good shape and drinkable, despite the annoyance of the mosquitos.

Section 3: Echo Lakes to Barker Pass

This section was a bit more challenging than the previous sections as you cross several high-elevation points, including Dick’s and Barker Pass. The climb up Dick’s Pass is challenging and exposed, pack plenty of sunscreen. Water is still plentiful from Lake Aloha to Middle Velma then sparse before getting to Miller Creek.

View from Dick’s Pass

The Aloha Lake area is extremely popular for reason, it is breathtakingly beautiful. Be warned, there are tons of mosquitoes at the lake and they are persistent. We picked up the pace around standing water and tried to enjoy the view when the mosquitoes weren’t attacking us. Reports from the area later in the Summer were worse.

Aloha Lake on Tahoe Rim Trail

We encountered roughly a mile of snow on the North side of Dick’s Pass leading almost down to the lake. Our campsite on Dick’s Lake was one of the best of the trip and we were there almost entirely by ourselves. The hike up Barker the following day was strenuous and challenging, but the reward was a beautiful view. Keep in mind that road construction on Barker Pass Road had kept it from opening on time and therefore the toilets at the trailhead were locked.

Dick’s Pass Backpacking

Section 4: Barker Pass to Tahoe City

This section is also moderately strenuous as you must climb up and around Twin Peaks as well as climb out of Ward Creek Canyon. We encountered patches of snow on the North side of Twin Peaks and found the walk down into Ward Creek very pleasant. The bridge over the creek is a really nice addition to the trail. The climb across the highway and out of Ward Creek Canyon was less than pleasant on a rocky Forest Service Road. We camped on the hill above Tahoe City to have a short morning hike to resupply in TC the next day.

Barker Pass Snow Hiking

There was plenty of water on this section as well and we carried only one liter at a time. The trail is in great shape, with the exception of the aforementioned FS road. If one could ignore the mosquitos, Page Meadows was beautiful in the early morning sun.

Section 5: Tahoe City to Brockway Summit

Views Above Tahoe City

Water becomes a problem on the TRT beginning in this section. Fill up water from Common Beach in Tahoe City as you will not have reliable water until you reach the creek down-trail from Watson Lake. From there, you should fill up again and prepare to carry all of your water for the climb up to Brockway Summit. Many hikers choose to cache water at Brockway for good reason, the next water is not for a few more miles at Grey Lake or Mud Lake; names aptly for their crystal clear drinking water.

There was no snow on this section of trail and despite the steepness, the trail was not in bad shape. You hike through several residential areas without really knowing it and camping locations are hard to come by between Watson Lake and Brockway.

Section 6: Brockway Summit to Tahoe Meadows

View from Relay Peak

Spectacular views continue on this section as you climb Martis Peak, Mt. Baldy, Rose Knob, and Relay Peak (the high point of the trail). This section is a strenuous walk with difficult and exposed sections throughout. The climbs are rewarding as you get mostly unhindered views of the North end of the lake from some of the highest points on the TRT.

View from the Tahoe Rim Trail

Water was hard to come by in this section as there is a reliable spring near Mt. Tamarack and no more reliable water until Mt. Rose Campground. With that being said, the water was turned off at Mt. Rose Campground when we arrived for quality testing. The camp host was very kind and offered us a water jug and his last open campsite, we gladly accepted and paid him our $20.

Section 7: Tahoe Meadows to Spooner Summit

Tahoe Rime Trail Backpacking

This is a generally mellow section of the trail with the exception of the climb up Herlan Peak and the close by Marlette Peak Campground. We filled up water near Tahoe Meadows and filled up again at the campground. The manual pump is a bit tricky to operate with one person and the water is supposedly high in aluminum, and it leaves an orangish residue. We drank it without treating it and had no ill-effects. The campground had a vault toilet, fire rings, and bear box. Ironically, a flat tent site was difficult to locate in the campground. We couldn’t complain, it’s FREE.

Camping at Marlette Peak

The views to the South of Marlette Lake were astounding and some of the best of the TRT. Once you reach the top, you begin the descent toward Spooner Lake, the next reliable water source. This section of trail is extremely popular with mountain bikers and bikes are only allowed on this section during even days of the week. We unfortunately hit and even day when we came through and spent much of the day getting off of the trail for over two hundred cyclists.

Marlette Lake

Section 8: Spooner Summit to Kingsbury South

Prepare for tough climbs and little water in this section of the TRT. The climb from Spooner to Genoa Peak is not for the faint of heart, but the views from “The Bench” are worth it. There are plenty of places to the East of the ridge near South Camp and Genoa Peaks for pitching a tent or hammock.

Sunset from the Bench

Once off of the ridge, you descend toward Kingsbury and can see Heavenly Ski Resort in the distance. You make it to the highway only to climb back up the side of the resort to the Kingsbury South Trailhead.

*Note: Heavenly Ski Resort no longer allows overnight parking for TRT thru-hikers for claimed insurance reasons. We parked there for the duration of our hike and notified the resort of our plans and itinerary only after we were on-trail and unable to remove the vehicle, your mileage may vary.


We are not ultra-light hikers by any stretch of the imagination and we like to have some comforts on the trail such as hot food and a tent. Below is the breakdown of each of our packs:

Osprey EXOS Backpack

Zach’s Pack

Osprey Exos 58 Pack

Marmot Sawtooth 30°sleeping bag

Thermarest Foam Sleeping Pad

Thermarest Backpacking Pillow

Polyester Sleeping Bag Liner

GSI Dualist Cookset

MSR Pocket Rocket Stove

MSR Fuel

Sporks (2)

1 L Nalgene Bottle

(2) 2.5 L Platypus Bottles

Steripen Classic Water Purifier

MSR Water Hand Pump

Rain Jacket

Hiking Convertible Pants

Running Shorts

(3) Underwear

(3) socks

Hiking Shirt

Long Sleeve Shirt

Short Sleeve Shirt

Pocket Knife

Flexible Solar Panel

7200 mah Battery

Cell Phone

GPS watch


Credit Cards, Cash, and Bus Key

Baseball Cap

Osprey Atmos Backpacking Pack

Rachael’s Pack

Osprey Atmos 65

Thermarest Air Sleeping Pad

Kelty 20°Sleeping Bag

Sea to Summit Extreme Insulated Bag Liner

Mountainsmith Morrison 2 Tent

Campmas Stakes

Steripen Adventure Water Purifier

1 L Nalgene Bottle

(2) 2.5 L Platypus Bottles

Rain Jacket


Hiking Shorts

Comfy Shorts

Long Sleeve Shirt

(2) Short Sleeve Shirts


Tank Top

(2) Sports Bras

(3) Socks

(4) Underwear

Beanie Hat

Baseball Cap

Gear Adjustments:

In hindsight, we should have left several things at home. First, the hand-pump water filter was almost 100% unneeded. We could have made it without it and not sacrificed a lot of convenience. We also could have left behind the Steripens. Although they are effective, they are heavy and dependent on batteries and technology. We will take a Sawyer Mini next time instead.

Home for Two Weeks on TRT

Second, we are now on the lookout for a lighter tent. Although the Mountainsmith has been very reliable and is well-made, it will soon be retired to car-camping duty and a lighter tent will replace it. We are considering several different options from Six Moon Designs, only time and money will dictate what we go with.

Camp Kitchen on TRT

The third gear adjustment that we would have made would be the addition of a small aluminum windscreen for the MSR Pocket Rocket. The winds on the TRT could be downright impressive and a windscreen was much needed and worth the added weight.

Echo Lake in Desolation Wilderness

Thru hiking the Tahoe Rim Trail was an extremely rewarding experience. We got to see one of the most beautiful and largest lakes in the United States from ALL sides! The trail was not so long that you have to dedicate a ton of time to it and the terrain is accommodating enough that the most beginner hikers can hike the entire trail. For me (Zach) this trail really lit a fire in me to begin planning a larger through hike in the future. I have begun researching thru hikes on the Appalachian Trail (AT) or the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in the future. For Rachael, this hike seemed to solidify her extreme enjoyment of 6-8 day backpacking trips. She loves camping and being in the woods, but thru hiking is not for her. That is the real beauty of the TRT, it presents an opportunity for everyone to enjoy the beauty of the Lake Tahoe Basin in their own way.

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How to Enjoy Lake Tahoe on a Budget

We have all seen the images or videos of the picturesque scene with the bikini-clad paddleboarder gliding across the iconic crystal-clear water of Lake Tahoe and it looks like she is the only person on the lake. This is NOT REAL. Being one of the prettiest and largest freshwater lakes (that also happens to be surrounded by an immense tourism infrastructure from the winter season) makes Tahoe a destination for thousands as soon as the snow melts. This means that most everything will be expensive; however, we found a way to actually cut our weekly expenses in Tahoe and still enjoy most everything that the area had to offer.

Camp or Boondock to Save on Lodging

The Tahoe Basin is one of the most popular destinations for outdoor recreation in California and Nevada. That being said, during the summer, all of the beaches and campgrounds are extremely full. Even Forest Service Campgrounds with no water service will cost you $20 or more. We chose to park for FREE!

 Everyone knows you are trying to park for FREE. Business owners that cater to the needs of millionaire tourists year-round know when you circle their empty parking lot that you are looking for free parking, keep that in mind when trying to park in Tahoe.

As with anywhere, keep your eyes open for stores, shops, and trailheads that will be empty or low-traffic in the evening. Don’t hang out all day and don’t be obnoxious. Avoid locations that have signage prohibiting overnight parking.  We spoke with several shop employees that recommended spots all over the lake to park for free.



It’s Lake Tahoe, there is so much to do outside you can’t actually do it all without living there all summer. We’ve outlined a few of the activities that we did while in the basin and that we would recommend to travelers in the area.


SUP, Paddle, or Swim

There are a lot of day-use ($$) beaches to put in your paddleboard or kayak or to swim in Lake Tahoe, but there are also some free beaches to enjoy the water.


Thomas F. Regan Memorial Beach

South Lake Tahoe, CA

GPS: 38.944427, -119.985645

Regan was a great place to park for the day and enjoy the view, have lunch, and take a swim. The parking was more than adequate and flush toilets and water were available for FREE. There was a playground and a sand-beach for swimming.


Commons Beach

Tahoe City, CA

GPS: 39.170372, -120.140866

We spent the afternoon on Commons Beach while taking a low-mile day on the Tahoe Rim Trail while we re-supplied for the rest of our hike. Thursdays at the beach boast a Farmer’s Market (talk about good luck, we walked in to TC on Thursday; more on that later in the article). The beach is beautiful and didn’t seem very crowded. There was water and flush toilets on site with kayak rentals available on the beach.



Kiva Beach

South Lake Tahoe, CA

GPS: 38.939583, -120.047892

Kiva Beach was a recommendation from a nice Forest Service Tech named Jennifer that we met while hiking the Tahoe Rim Trail. This beach is not as well signed as others in the area and requires a walk down a short trail from the Visitor’s Center. The walk is well worth it as this beach is pristine. This hard to find beach should be at the top of your list in Tahoe.


Hike the Tahoe Rim Trail (in sections or all at once)

The Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) is a 170-mile scenic trail that circumnavigates Lake Tahoe, mostly on the rim above the lake. This trail system can be broken down into day hikes or tackled all at once for a 10-14-day adventure.

Tahoe Rim Trail

We chose to thru-hike the rim trail all at once, starting at Kingsbury South Trailhead and re-supplying at Tahoe City, CA. Rachael and I finished the trail in 13-days and could have easily cut it to eleven or twelve. For tips and more information on thru-hiking the Tahoe Rim Trail, check out our post with tips and things that we wish we had known before we set off.

Dick’s Pass Backpacking

Mountain Biking

As accessible as most of the trails in Tahoe are, it is no wonder that mountain bikers flock to this area to ride some of the smoothest single-track in the country. From extreme downhill, to cross-country, to bikepacking, Tahoe has something for EVERYONE. Below is a list of recommended rides in the Tahoe Basin:

Zach’s Pick in Tahoe

Tahoe Twirl Bikepacking Route

 Big shock that the guy that enjoyed the 170-mile hike around the rim would suggest riding around the lake on your mountain bike, but sure enough, my favorite ride in Tahoe is essentially riding the entire lake in 4-5 days.

Although most of the TRT is open to cyclists, some sections such as Desolation and Mt. Rose Wilderness are bike-free, so the route linked above starts in Reno, NV, takes you through the heart of Lake Tahoe, and back to Reno a week later. There are plenty of re-supply points and places to stop for food, coffee, and a dip in the lake, which makes this route very appealing for a beginner or seasoned bikepacker.


We met a group of guys at Tahoe Meadows that had just started this route and happened to run into them a few days later while we were camping outside of Reno (conveniently on the same route) and they had the same smiles on their faces 4 days later as they did on the second day of their trip.


Toad’s Wild Ride

We hiked up and past this trail on our way around the lake and it is knarly. It offers plenty of rugged downhill, berms, jumps, and obstacles for the most experienced riders. We advise renting a full-suspension, long travel bike for this trail as the old hardtail probably won’t make it out alive.

Enjoy the ride up the Forest Service road leading to Armstrong Pass and let it rip on Toad’s all the way back to lake-level.


The Flume Trail


The Flume Trail is as iconic of a mountain bike trail as you can find. With very little climbing and beautiful white sand single-track, it’s no wonder that thousands of mountain bikers flock to this trail every summer.

Get to the trailhead early and expect to see a bunch of riders, hikers, and potentially some equestrians as this trail is extremely popular.


Food, Groceries, and Amenities


We spent a total of about 15 days in Tahoe and 13 of them were on the Tahoe Rim Trail where we made our own food every breakfast, lunch, and dinner. That being said, on our days before and after our hike and on our half-day in Tahoe City, we found Lake Tahoe to be incredibly Gluten Free Friendly.

Groceries were simple in South Lake Tahoe with a Safeway that had everything that we hadn’t picked up in Carson City, NV a few days prior. Speaking of, Carson is a great location to fill up on cheap gas, restock your groceries and supplies, and enjoy the dry heat before heading into the Tahoe Basin.  We found gas in Nevada to be over $1/gal cheaper than buying in California.


Rachael’s Pick in Tahoe

As mentioned above, there is an excellent Farmer’s Market in Tahoe City on Thursdays that had a ton of fresh produce, gluten free pastries, fine wines and cheeses, and even live music. We highly recommend scheduling your time in TC to include the Common’s Beach Farmer’s Market. We picked up some gluten free goodies from Sugar Pine Cakery and pick up some raw white cheddar from Spring Hill Cheese, the cheese was unreal!


A quality of life indicator that we look for in our travels and observations of potential new homes is the abundance and quality of the outdoor stores in the area. Despite a moderate addiction to Amazon and REI (we are working on cutting back…) we would really prefer to live in a place that has a decent and affordable outdoor store for when our gear breaks or we feel the urge to upgrade. On day one of our 13-day trek, the shoulder strap on my cheap, 6-year old pack broke, snapped right off at the seam. We rigged it up and got into Tahoe City on a bum strap and shoulder from the maldistributed weight.


The folks at Alpenglow Sports saved the day! Not only did they carry Osprey packs, the brand that I have been eyeing for years, but they also had a knowledgeable sales person that had hiked most of the TRT and knew exactly what type of pack to suggest. She helped me pick out a really solid pack at the price point that we were comfortable paying. They even let me try it on, load it down with weight, and walk around the store with it to make sure it fit just right. Did I mention that we hadn’t showered in 7 days?

*A bonus perk of Alpenglow Sports is that if you are thru-hiking they will let you ship a resupply box to their PO Box and they will hold it for you until you hike into town, FOR FREE! Talk about great customer service!



This is an area that we really don’t get to comment on too often, because we live in our bus and don’t stay in hotels or even campgrounds very often. However, after wearing the same clothes for 13 days with no shower, we decided to splurge on a $50 hotel room in Reno, NV. Accommodations in Tahoe, even during the week, were over $100/night and we simply can’t afford that. The Harrah’s Casino in downtown Reno was cheap, clean, and a great value! We spent a full day relaxing, cleaning and sorting gear, and stuffing our face at the two-for-one buffet. For the money, you really can’t beat a casino hotel after a thru-hike!


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