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Escape the Crowds on the Tahoe Rim Trail

By Cathy Philipp - August 2nd, 2000

Like the Backbone Trail through the Santa Monica Mountains, the Tahoe Rim Trail around scenic Lake Tahoe is a volunteer effort to link an existing patchwork of hiking, biking and equestrian trails into a comprehensive trail system.

Beginning in 1984, more than 60 miles of this proposed 150 mile ridgeline trail through the Sierra Nevada Mountains have been completed along with the construction of two major trailhead staging areas.

High above the lake's rugged north western shore, the Tahoe Meadows portion of the Tahoe Rim Trail provides an excellent family hiking venue with several easy nature trails. This trailhead also provides the only whole-access mountain trail in the High Sierras.

Situated in the western shadow of towering Mount Rose, the Meadow is just a few miles from civilization. Happily making these trails much less crowded than those at lake level.

Trip Planner

Directions: Tahoe Meadows Trailhead is located along Highway 431 about 7 1/2 miles east of Incline Village at Lake Tahoe and 30 miles west of Reno, Nevada.

What you'll need: Be sure to wear sturdy shoes or hiking boots. Bring sunscreen, a hat or visor and at least one quart of water per hiker as there are no facilities along this multi-use trail.

Distance and degree of difficulty: This easy family hike on the Ophir Creek Trail is a 3 mile round trip with a 200 foot gain/loss in elevation along the trail. The hike begins at an elevation of 8,600 feet above sea level. At this elevation, mountain sickness can pose a problem to those who are not used to the altitude. Mountain, or elevation sickness is the result of the decreased oxygen in the air at high altitudes. The symptoms of this are: shortness of breath, headaches and nausea as well as general weakness in adults or crankiness in children. This condition can be unpredictable affecting the fit as often as the unfit. To reduce the likelihood of this happening, acclimatize your family to the altitude for a day or two before striking out on an adventure in the high mountains. If the above symptoms occur while you are hiking, your party should descend to lower elevations immediately.

Step by step:
1. The Ophir Creek Trail starts about 3/4 miles west of the Tahoe Meadows Trailhead near a small pull-out on the south side of Highway 431. The trail follows a dirt service road into an open forest of lodgepole pines. At first heading east, then curving south the route gains slightly in elevation. After an easy half mile walk from the highway, the trail comes a small wildflower meadow. A short spur trail to the right skirts the meadow but for today's hike continue straight ahead.
2. The trail crosses a seasonal stream before heading slightly uphill and back into the forest. Another mile of walking brings you to a trail junction. To the right, the Ophir Creek Trail continues down the mountain about 10 more miles to Highway 395 through Washoe Valley. For this short hike take the trail to the left and in a few hundred yards you will be in a shady picnic area near a large group of boulders. After enjoying the mountain views and playing on the rock formations, return to the trailhead the way that you came.

Optional: This trail also makes an excellent beginning mountain bike ride.

What you'll see: Ophir Creek Trail makes a spectacular wildflower walk from late June through August. Watch for tiny "picket pins" or ground squirrels that inhabit the clearings along the trail. These charming little critters can be seen as they stand up-right near their burrows in constant surveillance for predators. As it makes its way down the mountain, this trail passes several small lakes. Hikers looking for a serious workout will find them about 3 miles below the turn around spot for this fam


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