Chickadee Ridge (Tahoe Rim Trail) and Ophir Creek Trail

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This hike started from Tahoe Meadows, near the Mt Rose Summit on NV-431, and included a short section of the Tahoe Rim Trail up to Chickadee Ridge and the upper portion of the Ophir Creek Trail, down to a little past Price Lake Dam.  There were great views of Lake Tahoe, the Washoe Valley, the “slide” side of Slide Mountain, and numerous wildflowers and several bird species.  The entire hike was within the Humboldt Toiyabe National Forest in Nevada.

GPS track

GPS track

The first part of the hike followed the Tahoe Rim Trail across Tahoe Meadows and up to Chickadee Ridge, seen here across the meadow.

image of Chickadee Ridge across Tahoe Meadows

Chickadee Ridge across Tahoe Meadows

There were several types of wildflower in the meadow, including cut-leaf daisies.

photo of cut-leaf daisy in Tahoe Meadows

Cut-leaf daisy in Tahoe Meadows

After crossing the meadow the trail enters a forested area and climbs gently up to Chickadee Ridge.

picture of Tahoe Rim Trail

Tahoe Rim Trail

Along Chickadee Ridge there are wonderful views of Lake Tahoe, along the East shore all the way to the South Lake area.  I believe the prominent shore feature is Deadman Point.

image of Lake Tahoe view from Chickadee Ridge

Lake Tahoe view from Chickadee Ridge

After exploring Chickadee Ridge and enjoying the lake views from a vista point, I returned about halfway to the trailhead, to a junction where the Ophir Creek Trail takes off to the East and literally down the steep East side of the Carson Range.

Elevation profile

Elevation profile

Before leaving the Tahoe Meadows area completely, however, I was treated to several more types of wildflower, including these distinctive ranger’s buttons, also known as swamp whitehead.  The small white flower balls reminded me of satellites tethered to a central structure.

photo of ranger’s buttons

Ranger’s buttons

Another pretty wildflower, which I have been unable to identify, was being visited by a bee.  (Update: it is fireweed; see comment.)

picture of wildflower visited by a bee

Wildflower visited by a bee

The lower and main Tahoe Meadow areas were great for birding.  I saw and/or heard several species, only a few of which I could identify.  Of course there were quite a few mountain chickadees.  I also saw juncos, perhaps Oregon Juncos, with distinctive white feathers at the outside edges of their tails.  There were numerous white-crowned sparrows, and one small sparrow-size bird that I noticed jumping vertically several inches from the ground where it was too hidden in the grasses for identification.  Surprisingly, I also saw what looked like a house wren, which I usually associate with an urban setting.

Once the trail began the descent, it was steep.  A sign advised of a 1250-foot elevation drop in 2 miles.  The actual distance was only 1.7 miles, for an average grade of 14%.  Mountain bikes are not recommended on the Ophir Creek Trail, for good reason!  Along the way there were numerous views of the Washoe Valley floor far below, emphasizing the steep eastern slope of the Carson Range.

image of Washoe Valley from the Ophir Creek Trail

Washoe Valley from the Ophir Creek Trail

Perhaps it should not be surprising that some of the decomposed granite mountainsides are unstable, between seismic activity and water-related events (e.g. snowmelt).  This is the southeast side of Slide Mountain, where the most recent major slide took place in 1983, almost instantly obliterating a small lake and sliding all the way down to the Washoe Valley floor.

photo of Slide Mountain

Slide Mountain

The trail crosses a few small tributary creeks that flow into Ophir Creek.  This small creek tumbled down the steep hillside in tiny waterfalls.

picture of creek tumbling down the hillside toward Ophir Creek

Creek tumbling down the hillside toward Ophir Creek

When the trail reaches Price Lake Dam, at the bottom of the 1250-foot descent, it turns south and becomes almost flat for ¼ mile or so before continuing downward.  (It is still about 2000 feet to the trailhead at Davis Creek Park.)  Because the hillside is so steep, some trees that initially grew perpendicular to the soil surface had to make a distinct bend to achieve vertical growth.

image of some trees that made a directional adjustment toward vertical growth

Some trees made a directional adjustment toward vertical growth

I continued past the flat area to a junction with Little Valley Road, about 4.2 miles from the trailhead (6.5 miles on the elevation profile), where I turned around.  I also explored a little to the north of the steep part of the trail, to see if I could find Upper Price Lake, but I was unsuccessful.  During this exploration I noticed that the sky was getting greyer, and to the east it looked like there might be some rain in the valley.

photo of rain streaking a cloud over the Washoe Valley

Rain streaking a cloud over the Washoe Valley

About 20 minutes after I started climbing back up the hill I was “treated” to a bit of low, rumbling thunder, reminiscent of another hike a couple of weeks earlier.   And 15 minutes later I was putting on a jacket to fend off some light rain, which fortunately lasted less than 15 minutes.  The wildflowers I saw after that were decorated with raindrops.

picture of mule’s ears after the rain

Mule’s ears after the rain

I had not hiked the Ophir Creek Trail before, so it was interesting to experience the scenery, flora, and bird fauna.  I hope to hike up to the Price Dam area from the lower trailhead some other time.

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This entry was posted in Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, Nevada, North Tahoe, Tahoe Rim Trail and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Chickadee Ridge (Tahoe Rim Trail) and Ophir Creek Trail

  1. Michael Perine says:

    The wildflower is Chamerion angustifolium, commonly known as fireweed.

  2. Gail says:

    Is this a good place to snowshoe in winter?

    • trailhiker says:

      Yes, I think the part across Tahoe Meadows out to Chickadee Ridge could be a great place to snowshoe. It’s important to look for signage, though, indicating where it’s ok to snowshoe and where it’s not. The meadow ecosystem is quite delicate, and snowshoeing is not permitted off the designated trails.

  3. rayhopper says:

    Check out the images on Google for “chickadee ridge”. You’ll see lots of photos of people in snowshoes feeding seeds to the chickadees who eat out of your hand. If you hold real still for long enough. My life partner Adele used to do that.

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