This hike in the South Lake Tahoe Area was an opportunity to do a relatively short hike on the Tahoe Rim Trail as a detour on my way from the San Francisco Bay Area to Truckee. The drive up was quite warm, with Sacramento area temperatures reaching 100 degrees by mid-to-late morning, and barely 10 degrees cooler as I approached Echo Summit on US-50. My first glimpse of Lake Tahoe was a big surprise: normally a brilliant blue, there seemed to be haze floating over the lake, dulling the blue to a grey color. Only after I got onto the trail where I could “feel” the weather did I realize that the haze was associated with impending afternoon localized thunderstorm activity. This activity stayed far enough away that I went ahead with my hike plan, though I remained vigilant about conditions and ready to return to my car quickly if conditions changed.
The somewhat unusual weather also meant that some of the views looked different from usual: a nice circumstance for the photographer in me.
My plan was to hike from the Kingsbury North trailhead to the Tahoe Rim Trail and go south on a relatively new section to a connector/vista trail to Castle Rock. To add to the hike, instead of going further south on the TRT I decided to see if I could explore the first part of the future eastern part of a Daggett Loop Trail, since this would be closer to my car in case of a hasty exit. In the GPS track the yellow track is the route to Castle Rock and the white track is the exploration of the future Daggett Loop Trail. The route is within the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.
Since this trailhead is reasonably high, and since this was a relatively short hike, the elevation gain and loss was moderate. This can be a good choice for a first hike at Tahoe elevation. Also, the TRT is very well designed with moderate grade, and this section is not very technical to hike.
The connector trail used to be the main Rim Trail toward Spooner Summit before a bypass trail was constructed to connect the Kingsbury North and South trailheads. The trail climbs gently, gaining about 150 feet in the half mile before the well-marked junction with the TRT. Shortly before reaching the junction there are a couple of places with views of the south end of Lake Tahoe. Across the lake Pyramid Peak and Mt Tallac highlight the skyline. The weather conditions made this view quite unusual, with the sky an eerie color beneath the darker clouds.
The trail continues generally south. Along the way it passes some interesting rock formations.
The uncertain weather was an important background focus of this hike, and the clouds made the sky look unusual and interesting.
I found quite a few wildflowers along the trail. Here is a beautiful thistle-like flower, probably Anderson’s thistle.
I believe this colorful flower is a scarlet gilia.
The trail to Castle Rock goes to the base of the rock formation. From there an ambitious hiker can scramble to the top, though I did not even try, due at least in part to the weather conditions. There was intermittent faint (i.e., far away) thunder rumbling in the sky, and I certainly did not want to be on top of a large rock formation! The lake view from the base was quite pretty through the trees.
As I started to return to the main TRT trail I found it a bit challenging to trail-find. In fact, I went a little bit off-trail a couple of times. I could tell quickly when I wasn’t on the trail I’d just hiked, though, and the breadcrumb track on my GPS helped me figure out how to get back on trail promptly. I was only about 45 minutes from the trailhead, but I wanted to get closer to my car in case the weather changed suddenly – which it can do in the mountains. During the last part of my return trip I had some nice views of the higher Carson Range peaks to the south, beyond and to the east of Heavenly’s Monument Peak. This skyline should include some of the peak trio of Freel Peak, Job’s Sister, and Job’s Peak, where I hiked last summer.
Once I reached the trailhead and decided that the weather seemed to be stable, I decided to explore the first part of the Daggett Loop, which is not yet complete and open. In fact, there is a sign at the trailhead indicating that the trail only goes about ¼ mile and does not yet connect to the rest of the local trail system. The circumstances made this a perfect short addition to my hike.
About 0.2 mile from the trailhead I could see Castle Rock almost as a silhouette against Mt Tallac. It was a wonderful perspective relative to the first part of my hike.
A few minutes later I came upon the basis for the trailhead sign. Indeed, this part of the trail is under construction. I can only imagine what is involved to strategically reposition rocks so that a trail will be safe to use for years to come.
I returned to the trailhead and resolved to come back when the next section of the Daggett Loop Trail is complete. It’s going to be spectacular!