This was a group hike with about 30 hikers, including 4 leaders/helpers, and 3 dogs. It was a point-to-point hike, with shuttle, on the new section of the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) between the Kingsbury South and Kingsbury North trail heads. This section is literally brand new, since it has been fully open to hikers only since earlier this summer. It replaces a short section of the original trail at each end and does a fantastic job of skirting several miles of housing with a beautiful trail that mostly passes through the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. You get the feeling of being out in the wilderness, even though the housing is relatively nearby. Earlier in the summer I had hiked a portion of the new section and was looking forward to seeing the rest.
The day of the hike was a perfect Fall day, cool in the morning but with warm temperatures mid-day and into the afternoon. Barely 30 hours prior there had been some light overnight rain, and this put the walking surface in perfect condition for our relatively large group.
I got to the meeting point by driving south on NV-28 and US-50 along the East side of Lake Tahoe. Just as I approached the Spooner Lake entrance to Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park I noticed a meadow area with ground fog fed by ground moisture and overnight frost on the grass and brush, with the morning sun encouraging burn-off. In the picture all of the white feathery stuff is frost.
The starting point for the hike was the new connector trail, which is about 0.6 miles long and replaces a similar portion of the original TRT. It still starts near the bottom of the Stagecoach lift, winding more gently up the hillside and even crossing under the new Heavenly Valley monorail. After the 0.6 mile there is a junction with the TRT segment that goes south to Star Lake, Armstrong Pass, and Big Meadow. The new trail then proceeds west before turning north.
The signage for the new trail is, of course, brand new. It does an excellent job of clarifying junctions and identifying several vista points. One of the new sign posts for a vista point is about 1.3 miles from the trail head. The vista itself is back over the ski area – in my opinion less interesting than other vista points – but I think the opportunity to have this particular marker may have been irresistible to the trail designers!
The trail continues through the forest, gradually dropping about 750 feet in elevation before crossing Kingsbury Grade Rd (NV-207) just west of Daggett Pass. Shortly after the vista point is a junction with another brand new trail, a connector trail that passes through a portion of the Van Sickle Bi-State Park and ends close to Stateline, NV.
Along the way there is another signed spur trail to a vista point. This is a worthwhile short detour, as there is an initial view of Lake Tahoe. Closer to the Kingsbury Grade Rd crossing the trail is a bit closer to houses, though the feeling is still that of being out in the woods. Suddenly we encountered a black cat which, upon being approached by one of the dogs, assumed the stereotypical “Halloween cat” pose with arched back and raised tail. I’d never seen any cat do that, and I was startled by how quickly the pose was struck – and then abandoned when the dog’s owner called it away. By the time I could get my camera out, the cat had run up the hillside to observe our group from a safe distance.
The road crossing at Kingsbury Grade Rd is very well signed, but needs to be done carefully as there is no crosswalk and traffic can be busy. It took our group a few minutes to cross safely, a few at a time. The crossing is about 4.2 miles from the trail head, including the detour to the vista point mentioned above. About a quarter mile later we saw our first aspens, and the colors were beautiful.
The trail goes past several aspen groves. In this area there is another well-marked junction. What looks like a spur trail is signed “Daggett Loop.” It crosses N. Benjamin Dr. and connects to another new section of trail, currently under construction, that will loop north to the original Kingsbury North trail head.
About 1 mile past the Kingsbury Grade Rd crossing we took a lunch break at a trailside vista point overlooking Lake Tahoe.
The lake view was unobstructed because the vista point was on several large rocks overlooking a steep hillside. During the break an unexpected adventure started when one of the dogs got curious to see what was over the edge of one of the rocks – and suddenly slipped, rolled over the edge, and fell about 25 feet. She wasn’t able to stand up and walk on her own, but waited patiently and quietly for help. After the hike leader checked her out and determined that she could be picked up and carried, several hikers took turns carrying her back up to the trail and then continuing. Serendipitously a car had been left at a bailout location only about a half mile further, so this was the quickest way to get her out. In addition, fortuitously I had a cravat (triangular bandage) in my day pack which could be fashioned into a sling to assist with the carrying. At 25 pounds or so, she was an armful – but very cooperative. Fortunately she was not badly injured: just bumps and bruises needing several days of rest.
The dog, her owner, and a few other hikers departed where the trail briefly is very close to a street, Maryanne Dr. About 1.4 miles further, about 7.1 miles from the trail head, is the junction of the new section with the original TRT. Basically you continue straight to go to The Bench and Spooner Summit or turn right to go along a connector trail – originally part of the TRT – 0.5 mile to the Kingsbury North Trail head. About halfway along the connector trail we had a pretty view to the south and were a little surprised to see white tops on the highest peaks, including Job’s Peak, Job’s Sister, and Freel Peak, where I’d hiked three weeks earlier. Evidently the recent overnight light rain had been snow 3000 feet higher!
After completing the rest of the hike I took the long way back to Truckee, via South Lake Tahoe. (I wanted to stop in at the only tire shop in the entire Lake Tahoe area that was open Saturday afternoons, in order to get my tire pressure sensor light checked out. Fortunately I just needed a little more air due to colder temperatures.) On my way up the West shore of Lake Tahoe on CA-89, Emerald Bay was peacefully stunning in the late afternoon light, with a few motor boats creating interesting wakes on the water surface.
The new section of the Tahoe Rim Trail in the Daggett Pass area is beautiful. I look forward to returning to the area to hike the Van Sickle connector trail and the rest of the Daggett Loop.